A new UFC-tinged motion picture will hit the big screen in 2011 and feature rampaging Brazilian heavyweight contender Junior Dos Santos. The movie, tentatively named Junior Dos Santos vs. The World, boasts the following premise -- aforementioned UFC slugger must defeat a series of ex-champions and fellow contenders in order to eventually win the object of his desires. Epic in scope and running time, the film carries an 18 certificate on account of bloody violence and concussive knockouts and 'Cigano', the protagonist, is torn between building experience in a series of sterling battles and demanding what is rightfully his. Armed only with patience and a debilitating right fist, Dos Santos rips through all those in his path and yet, as the final act approaches, his prize mysteriously eludes him.
With six big UFC wins to his name, the 12-1 Dos Santos is not only one of the hottest heavyweight commodities in mixed martial arts, he is also one of the most consistently successful scrappers in the sport. Rather than feast on a steady stream of no-hopers and hobbits, Dos Santos crashed into the UFC in October 2008 with a first-round knockout of Fabricio Werdum and then proceeded to claim the scalps of PRIDE legend Mirko Cro Cop, dangerous veteran Roy Nelson and rangy prospect Stefan Struve, as well as seasoned campaigners Gabriel Gonzaga and Gilbert Yvel. Most were put to the sword within the very first round and, Nelson aside, Dos Santos has yet to hear the final bell or klaxon.
Dos Santos hasn't just cleaned out the bottom and middle segments of the UFC's heavyweight top ten, he's also done it more impressively than anybody else. Few in the heavyweight division generate the excitement and tension Dos Santos does when stepping into the Octagon and unleashing lefts and rights from inside the pocket of his opponent. Reckless, hard-hitting and unbeaten in his UFC career to date, Dos Santos appears to be the archetypal heavyweight title challenger. You couldn't design or draw one any better.
Yet, as we enter 2011, Dos Santos is still without a title shot. An unfortunate injury to UFC heavyweight king Cain Velasquez has rendered the belt unobtainable for the time being and Dos Santos must instead kill time in a potentially damaging date with former champion Brock Lesnar later this year. The pair will first meet as coaches on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV series, before eventually settling any inevitable dispute inside the Octagon. Lesnar seeks the win that will put him back into contention for his old belt, while Dos Santos looks to claim the seventh straight UFC win of his career and continue his two-year march towards the heavyweight throne.
By the time Velasquez heals up and Dos Santos gets his chance, there's little doubt the big Brazilian will have sufficiently earned it. Should he beat Lesnar in the manner with which he has stomped the rest of the division, Dos Santos may well be considered the best uncrowned fighter in the sport. As far as track records go, few can match the form Dos Santos has shown since so emphatically announcing his arrival on the big stage with an uppercut to the point of Werdum's chin.
Dos Santos is the most deserving title contender in mixed martial arts right now and only the lunchbox-sized fists of Brock Lesnar can stop him from claiming what he's long deserved. It's been a long and arduous slog for the 26-year-old, but the closing credits appear in sight.
Here are four other hot-streaking and long-suffering UFC contenders on the brink of finally securing elusive title shots:
George Sotiropoulos, Lightweight, (14-2): The Australian lightweight contender boasts some of the best ground control in the entire sport and has impressed everybody with his versatility and work ethic of late. Not only that, the 33-year-old has also been racking up victories like nobody's business.
Since showcasing his skills in one-sided demolitions of George Roop and Jason Dent, the Geelong-native has seamlessly skipped to the next level and dominated contenders Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Lauzon with similar ease. The Aussie has yet to be out-grappled in his UFC career to date and also shows improved striking ability with each and every showing.
Seemingly getting better from fight to fight, Sotiropoulos could be something of an immovable force by the time he's offered an overdue shot at the UFC lightweight title. One has to squint hard for a weakness in Sotiropoulos' game and he's clearly more than comfortable at the level at which he's recently been winning.
He next meets striker Dennis Siver at UFC 127 (February 27) in his homeland and, while the German veteran will pose stand-up puzzles George has yet to encounter or solve, a victory will do little to push his stock any higher than where it currently is. It's fair to say Sotiropoulos is already the most deserving and gifted lightweight contender in the UFC and, for the time being, future fights of the non-title variety are doing either one of two things - throwing potential banana skins his way or merely furthering the development of a top talent. If we're dealing with the latter, then the lightweight division needs to watch out.
Yushin Okami, Middleweight, (26-5): Before Junior Dos Santos there was Yushin Okami. The Japan star's immunity to a UFC title shot has long been a running joke in mixed martial arts circles and something that has seemed to irk fans more than it has peeved the mild-mannered fighter in question. Despite only losing two of his twelve UFC bouts, Okami is still without any kind of title shot to his name. Defeats to Rich Franklin and Chael Sonnen ended two separate unbeaten runs, but, in the eyes of many, did little to squash Okami's sizeable reputation.
Since joining the UFC in August 2006, Okami has beaten the likes of Nate Marquardt, Mark Munoz, Mike Swick and Alan Belcher amongst many others. More importantly, though, since losing to Sonnen in October '09, the relentless Okami has pieced together three straight wins and defeated Marquardt and Munoz in his two most recent outings.
As well as acquiring lengthy unbeaten streaks, Okami is also beating the right kind of foes. He's picked off Marquardt and Munoz with ease and now, with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva seemingly always in need of competition, could be on his way to the title shot that has long evaded him. In an added twist, Okami also claims a career victory over champion Silva back in 2006, when the unorthodox Brazilian was disqualified for an illegal kick. So, in addition to being deserving statistically, Okami also has the story and revenge factor to turn 'The Spider's head.
Jon Fitch, Welterweight, (23-3, 1 NC): Here we go again, some may be muttering to themselves right about now. It's true, Jon Fitch has already once unsuccessfully climbed to the summit. He was emphatically beaten up by UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in August 2008 and showed little of the required elements needed to one day dethrone the all-conquering French-Canadian.
However, since flopping on his biggest night, the hard-working American has rebounded in typically robust fashion, stringing together five straight wins and once again separating himself from the rest of the chasing pack. He has seen off the threat of fellow contenders Thiago Alves and Paulo Thiago and also scored wins over Ben Saunders, Mike Pierce and Akihiro Gono.
Despite losing to the consensus number one in his division, Fitch has now clearly established himself as the second best 170-pound fighter in the world. Some fans take umbrage with the way in which Fitch racks up victories, but nobody can question his track record or skill-set. St-Pierre aside, no UFC welterweight has managed to figure a way around the well-versed talents of Fitch. Whether you find the American boring or efficient on the eyes, Fitch is an incredibly tough proposition for anyone not known as GSP. He is Rich Franklin to St-Pierre's Anderson Silva and, as the pot of challengers empties, deserves a second shot.
Carlos Condit, Welterweight, (26-5): One fresh welterweight contender on the charge is American all-rounder Carlos Condit, a former WEC champion and current UFC standout. The 26-year-old fighter lost a close decision to Martin Kampmann on his UFC debut in April 2009, but has since rebounded with three impressive victories on the spin. He conquered Jake Ellenberger in a gruelling three-round affair in 2009, before exposing chinks in the armour of Rory MacDonald and Dan Hardy. Condit was a narrow underdog against both MacDonald and Hardy, yet managed to upset the odds and end the hopes of two favoured international contenders.
His one-punch knockout of Hardy in England last October truly earmarked Condit as one to watch in the welterweight division and, should he overcome the considerable threat of Chris Lytle at UFC 127 (February 27), a title tilt could soon be on the horizon. Also, unlike some of his welterweight peers, Condit seems prepared and eager to face all-comers, regardless of what camp they fight out of or how many handshakes and hugs they've exchanged over the years. A fighter's fighter, Condit appears to more than fit the mould of potential UFC title challenger.