Oh, it’s on.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship announced that its first live event in Phoenix, on Saturday, December 13 at U.S. Airways Center will be headlined by a pivotal heavyweight clash between former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and fourth-ranked Stipe Miocic. The event will also feature at least five competitors with Arizona ties.
In the co-main event, fiery lightweight Nate Diaz (18-9, fighting out of Stockton, California) makes his highly-anticipated return against third-ranked Rafael Dos Anjos (22-7, fighting out of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). After a near 13-month hiatus, Diaz looks to reestablish himself as a top contender in the 155 pound division. Beating Dos Anjos will be no easy feat, as the Brazilian standout boasts a two-fight win streak that includes a stunning first-round knockout of former lightweight champion Benson Henderson.
The Phoenix card will also feature former title challenger and longtime UFC veteran (No. 12) Gabriel Gonzaga (16-8, fighting out of Ludlow, Massachusetts) taking on surging former NFL player Matt Mitrione (8-3, fighting out of Indianapolis, Indiana). In addition, former Arizona State University NCAA Division I wrestler John Moraga (15-3, fighting out of Phoenix, Arizona) meets fourth-ranked contender Jussier Formiga (17-3, fighting out of Natal, Brazil) in the flyweight division.
Additional bouts include:
* Phoenix native Joe Riggs (28-9, fighting out of Glendale, Arizona) returns to the UFC after eight years against veteran Ben Saunders (17-6-2, fighting out of Orlando, Florida) in a welterweight bout.
*Former WEC lightweight champion Jamie Varner (21-10-1, 2NC, fighting out of Scottsdale, Arizona) meets “The Ultimate Fighter” season 15 contestant Drew Dober (14-6, fighting out of Omaha, Nebraska).
*“The Ultimate Fighter” season 3 finalist Ed Herman (22-9, 1 NC, fighting out of Fort Collins, Colorado) faces rising middleweight star Derek Brunson (11-3, fighting out of Wilmington, North Carolina).
* In the lightweight division, Joe Ellenberger (15-1, fighting out of Omaha, Nebraska) takes on UFC newcomer Bryan Barberena (9-2, fighting out of Glendale, Arizona).
* Plus, Anthony Birchak (11-1, fighting out of Tucson, Arizona) and Ian Entwistle (8-2, fighting out of Phhuket, Thailand.) will square off in a bantamweight bout. One of the best heavyweights in UFC history, No. 2 contender Dos Santos (16-3, fighting out of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil) returns to the Octagon for the first time since the final
fight in his trilogy of bouts with current champion Cain Velasquez. Miocic (12-1, fighting out of Cleveland, Ohio), with consecutive wins over top contenders Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga and, most recently, Fabio Maldonado, is one of the hottest names in the division, and he hopes to keep his momentum going by taking the next step toward a shot
at the heavyweight title.
So how do these two heavyweights stack up? We put them in a head-to-head match. Even
on paper, it’s totally explosive.
Junior Dos Santos
NICKNAME: Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos
WEIGHT CLASS: Heavyweight
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6’4”, 238 pounds
BIRTHPLACE: Santa Catarina, Brazil
FIGHTING OUT OF: Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
LANGUAGES SPOKEN: Portuguese
STYLE: Boxing, Jiu-Jitsu
STRENGTHS: Boxing, strength, KO power
TRAINING: “In the mornings, I train boxing, train Muay Thai, wrestling—I alternate
them. I come back home, have lunch and rest a bit, then I go to my second practice of the
day in the afternoon. Afternoon sessions are either jiu-jitsu or strength and conditioning.”
PROFESSIONAL MMA RECORD: 16-2
Q&A with Dos Santos:
When and why did you start training for fighting? I started with Jiu-Jitsu in 2005.
Afterwards I met Dorea, who introduced me to boxing.
What ranks and titles have you held? Former UFC heavyweight champion, Bahia State
Jiu-Jitsu Champion, Bahia State Submission Champion
Do you have any heroes? Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? It’s the biggest organization, and it’s a
dream that quickly became true.
Specific accomplishments in pro competition? TKO at MTL.
Ranks in any martial arts styles: Black belt in Jiu-Jitsu.
Favorite grappling technique: On my back.
Favorite Striking technique: Clean strikes .
WEIGHT CLASS: Heavyweight
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6’4”, 240 pounds
BIRTHPLACE: Euclid, Ohio
FIGHTING OUT OF: Independence, Ohio
LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English
STYLE: Wrestler, Boxer
TRAINER: Strongstyle Fight Team
TRAINING: “Twice a day, Monday through Friday, and once on Saturday.”
PROFESSIONAL MMA RECORD: 11-1
Q&A with Miocic:
When and why did you start training for fighting? 2005. I was helping a guy train for
a fight and never left the gym.
What ranks and titles have you held? NAFFS Heavyweight Champion.
Do you have any heroes? Mirko Cro Cop.
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? [It’s] a great accomplishment, but I
still have to prove myself.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? Communications/
Marketing from Cleveland State University.
What was your job before you started fighting? Bartender. Now I’m a
Specific accomplishments in amateur competition? Golden Gloves Champ.
Favorite grappling technique: Shoot fighting.
Favorite Striking technique: Boxing and Muay Thai.
UFC Fight Night, U.S. Airways Center, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 800.745.3000, ticketmaster.com, $40-$200