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Adam Roberts 21st Dec 2009 - 19:12

UFC 108: Junior Dos Santos Vs Gilbert Yvel – heavyweight bout

Dos Santos 1/3, Yvel 9/4.

In Brock Lesnar’s enforced absence from the UFC, due to diverticulitis and complications arising from glandular fever, a queue has formed in the heavyweight division.

Banging on the door are Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, “Minotauro” Nogueira, and Cain Velazquez; a few steps back stands “Cigano” Junior Dos Santos.

Those in front should be checking over their shoulders. Dos Santos amassed a record of 6-1 in Brazil prior to entering the UFC as a young fighter, now aged only 25, and was immediately matched up with Fabricio Werdum, possibly as a springboard for Werdum to launch a title challenge.

In the course of 81 seconds Dos Santos put that notion to bed as he detonated an uppercut flush on Werdum’s chin, leaving him in no state to debate his future title chances. 6’4” Dos Santos was rewarded with a fight against Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve, a very promising 21 year old, and answered with an even faster TKO, after just 58 seconds.

This impertinence saw “Cigano” thrown in against Pride 2006 Openweight Grand Prix champion Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, his nickname arising from his position as a) a Croatian, and b) an anti-terrorism police officer.

American audiences struggling with “Filipovic” were undoubtedly grateful for this alliterative non de plume; however it didn’t appear that Dos Santos allowed Cro Cop’s reputation to go before him. Dos Santos’ own record of 18-0 in kickboxing clearly adding to his confidence, a third round verbal submission due to strikes confirmed his status as a severely underrated heavyweight.

In this fight, following the withdrawal due to injury of Gabriel Gonzaga, the UFC have given Dos Santos the opportunity to further state his title credentials in matching him up with his most experienced opponent to date. Gilbert Yvel, a Pride veteran making his UFC debut, has fought a who’s-who of the MMA world. However, not all of his fights can be fondly remembered.

He fights here on a one-off licence awarded by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, on the basis of good behaviour since 2004. Prior to that, he has seen disqualifications for offences such as eye-gouging, Tyson-esque biting of his opponent, and most recently, attacking the referee. I can’t be alone in hoping Dos Santos beats Yvel, the question is, which is the value bet?

At 9/4, is there sense in backing the veteran Yvel? His most recent victories have seen wins over Pedro Rizzo, and several lower league opponents. He has undoubted knockout ability, having dropped his opponent to the canvas on no less than 31 occasions, using his Muay Thai and specialising in a crowd-pleasing flying knee strike. He has been fighting professionally in MMA since February 1997.

However, in his last outing he was comprehensively dealt with by Josh Barnett, who spent the majority of the fight mounted and raining down blows on Yvel, exploiting Gilbert’s lack of ground game.

The Dutchman is no mug, fighting out of the Vos Gym, but I feel his best days – and hopefully also his worst days – are behind him. I pick Dos Santos to finish this in the first or second, via punches, knees, and anything else he wishes to inflict on the 33 year old. A Brown belt in BJJ, “Cigano” enters the Octagon at 9-1, with 7 KO victories and 2 via submission, as Brazilian heavyweight kickboxing champion, and with the support and tuition of Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers.

I can’t look beyond him for this fight, and hope his next opponent is one of the “big four” ahead of him in the title chase.


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