The first battle between Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos was one of the most grueling affairs you’ll ever see. The heavyweight went toe-to-toe for 25 minutes at UFC on FOX 13 in Phoenix, with dos Santos, the former champion, using every bit of his veteran guile to gut out a unanimous decision.
Miocic came out of the bout a winner in his own way, though. While Dos Santos had long been accustomed to the biggest fights, this was Miocic’s first major test on network television.
The lesson the affable Clevelander drew from the fight was that he belonged on the biggest stage. And he’s never lost since, winning four straight fights via finish en route to winning the UFC heavyweight title.
“The lesson I learned, not even really a lesson as much as, just knowing that I belong,” Miocic said at a Thursday media teleconference promoting his UFC 211 rematch with dos Santos. “I belong, that I can hang anyone. I went five rounds with a former champ, a guy who has been a knockout artist and I went five rounds with him, I know I belong. I know that I’m not going anywhere, and look at where I’m at now.”
Dos Santos, for his part, believes that he fairly earned his unanimous decision win in their 2014 bout. But he walked away from the matchup with a healthy level of respect for his opponent.
“That was a really tough fight, you know?” dos Santos said. “Stipe Miocic, he has really heavy hands, you know? He’s got really good boxing skills, it was a tough fight for both of us I think, and for sure we learned a lot from each other from that fight. So, now I think we can be more prepared for each other.”
Dos Santos and Miocic are two of the more laid-back and respectful fighters in the sport, which is going to come as a disappointment to those who have come to expect over-the-top, profanity-laced hype as part of the event buildup. But both believe this time around, the fight isn’t going the distance.
JDS, for his part, sees a victory within two rounds.
“I’m a very confident guy I like to be positive,” dos Santos said. “So in my dreams the way I see things going in the fight I can see myself beating him before the end of second round.”
Miocic isn’t going to put a timetable on his victory, but suffice to say, he sees the fight ending with a victory south of 25 minutes.
“We both know that someone’s getting KO’d,” Miocic said, later adding “I’m walking out with the belt still, so, it’s going to happen. I’m not going to predict what round, but I’m walking out with the belt.”