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UFC 160 Aftermath: Junior dos Santos’ big gamble pays off

Junior dos Santos could have played it safe. The former UFC heavyweight champion was well on his way to a 30-27 decision victory over Mark Hunt last night in the co-main event of UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. It would have been easy for the champion to … well, not exactly coast through the closing moments of the fight, since even a fatigued Hunt is still capable of a home-run punch in the blink of an eye. But dos Santos could have stayed cautious and sealed his chance at a trilogy fight with Cain Velasquez by running out the clock. Instead, dos Santos went for broke, finishing Hunt in the fight’s final minute with the clubhouse leader for knockout of the year. A featherweight delivering a spinning heel kick is one thing. A 6-foot-4, 239-pound man who’s already had knee surgery is something entirely different. I trained [the kick] a lot in my gym, all the time, dos Santos said. I train kicks in the gym, but I train everything: Wrestling, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai. I never felt very confident to do that during a fight. Normally, my hands work. Tonight, I saw the moment to throw the kick, and I did, and it brought me to victory. The emphatic finish adds a level of heat to the Velasquez-dos Santos trilogy bout in a way a decision victory wouldn’t have. As the third round unfolded, Twitter was already beginning to fill with comments that dos Santos looked slow and not quite his old self. Maybe that would get a decision against Hunt, but it wouldn’t cut the mustard against a cardio freak like Velasquez. That line of commentary was stopped dead in its tracks when dos Santos put Hunt to sleep. The knockout was the perfect finish to precisely the type of performance dos Santos needed to show in his first fight back after the brutal beating he took from Velasquez back at UFC 155. Some fighters become gun shy and never recover after the shellacking dos Santos took. Instead, dos Santos took everything Hunt could dish out, and then finished one of the toughest tough guys in a sport full of them. The knockout served as a reminder of the power dos Santos displayed in win over Velasquez in their first meeting, the one in which he took the title. Sure, Velasquez made adjustments and won the second fight in convincing fashion, but dos Santos’ resilience in brushing off the loss is proof he’s ready to up the ante. With Velasquez following JDS’ victory with a swift finish of Antonio Silva, all the ingredients are in place for a blockbuster. Junior dos Santos proved himself big time tonight, UFC president Dana White said. I wondered what would happen if he stood in front of Mark Hunt and took those big shots. I actually thought Junior would come out and shoot and take this thing to the ground right away. Much respect to Junior dos Santos. He stood in the pocket, he stood in there and exchanged big punches. He has an unbelievable chin and unbelievable power. … Cain has an awesome chin. And in that second fight, I didn’t think Cain would stand up with Junior, and he did and hurt him with punches. This is what I’m talking about. When you talk about a trilogy between two heavyweights, this is a trilogy. UFC 160 quotes My way of thinking is that the same that applies to athletes who are penalized when they do something wrong or illegal, should also apply to referees when they do something wrong. They, too, should be penalized. — Antonio Silva, reacting to what he believed was a bad stoppage. I love the idea of penalizing referees. That would be awesome. That’s the best Idea I’ve heard in a long time. — White’s response to Silva. The ref came in [before the fight] and he told me that anything to the ear was all good, so that’s what I tried to do. — Velasquez, on whether any of the punches in his finishing flurry against Bigfoot were illegal. An ugly wrestling clinic. — White’s take on Khabib Nurmagodemov’s unanimous-decision win over Abel Trujillo. Nurmagodemov’s 21 takedowns set a UFC single-fight record, besting Sean Sherk’s record of 16, which was done over five rounds. Stock up: T.J. Grant Last month, I was pretty vocal in saying that I wasn’t a fan of the notion T.J. Grant deserved to be in position for a title shot if he won against Gray Maynard. Unlike some of my media brethren, who do 180-degree turns without bothering to acknowledge their previous stance, I have no problem admitting I was wrong, wrong, wrong about Grant. How can I deny Grant after a performance like that against a fighter as tough as Maynard? Maynard showed Grant no respect in the way he came right at Grant. And boy, did he make Maynard pay for that approach. The first-round finish marked five straight wins for Grant, utilizing a style that just might be able to push Benson Henderson out of his comfort zone. When push comes to shove, I’m still ranking Gilbert Melendez No. 2 at lightweight, because I think he won his fight with Henderson last month. But it would be foolish not to acknowledge Grant is as worthy as anyone for a title shot. Stock do…

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