Dos Santos Smells Title Shot


Junior dos Santos (left) file photo: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com

Junior dos Santos can see the prize in front of him, even with Roy Nelson standing in his way.

Dos Santos will face the former International Fight League champion and “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner in a featured heavyweight matchup at UFC 117 “Silva vs. Sonnen” on Saturday at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. The victor will become the top contender for the UFC heavyweight crown, according to UFC President Dana White.

“The goal of great fighters is to be number one in their division,” dos Santos said. “I’m no different. I want to be number one. I take my career very seriously. I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity for me, and I want to take advantage and grab it with my teeth and fingernails. I won’t let this chance pass.”

Nelson, 34 has won back-to-back fights since he debuted in the UFC in December. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, the portly Las Vegan needed just 39 seconds to put away the 6-foot-11 Stefan Struve at UFC Fight Night 21 in March. Nelson has been finished only once -- by former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski -- in 19 professional appearances.

“He’s a guy who earned his spot,” dos Santos said. “He’s a very dangerous fighter. He’s developing his skills and has heavy hands. He’s had good results. I’m very focused, and I intend to use everything I’ve trained to do. I’ll give it my best. I’m sure I can achieve another positive result.”

Dos Santos will ride a six-fight winning streak into the bout. The 25-year-old last appeared in March, when he stopped Gabriel Gonzaga on first-round punches at UFC on Versus 1 in Broomfield, Colo. Victories against 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, the world-ranked Fabricio Werdum and Dutch knockout artist Gilbert Yvel anchor his resume. Dos Santos has finished all five of his opponents, four of them inside one round, since he made his Octagon debut in October 2008. He spent his training camp preparing for Nelson in Salvador, Brazil.

“I’ve been living in Salvador for seven years and do almost all my training there,” dos Santos said. “I discovered the sport there, so it’s a very special place for me. The people support me there, and that’s something that motivates me a lot. I hope it stays that way so I can soon bring the belt back there. I want to repay them for all they’ve given me.”

The Nelson-Dos Santos winner figures to meet the man who emerges from the UFC 121 showdown between champion Brock Lesnar and unbeaten challenger Cain Velasquez.

“Velasquez has proven he’s very dangerous and deserves to be there,” dos Santos said. “Lesnar is regarded as the number one heavyweight in the world and must also be respected. I don’t choose my opponents, so whoever wins, I’ll be happy to fight him in my quest for the belt.”

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