Junior dos Santos is one step closer to an MMA heavyweight title fight…
In a fight featuring two former UFC heavyweight champions, the 39-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and professional wrestler opened up bad cuts near both of Fabricio Werdum‘s eyes en route to a split-decision win (28-29, 30-27, 30-27) in the main event of Jorge Masvidal‘s Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA on Friday night in Jacksonville, Florida.
The cut on Werdum’s left eyelid was bleeding badly by the third round. Dos Santos rocked Werdum briefly late in the first round. Other than that, he didn’t hit Werdum extremely hard. But without gloves, it was enough to do facial damage.
Dos Santos picked up the first victory of his career in any combat sport since 2019. Dos Santos and Werdum fought in 2008 in UFC, with Dos Santos winning by first-round TKO. The win over Werdum on Friday set up a future matchup between Dos Santos and another UFC veteran, Roy Nelson, for the Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA heavyweight title.
“They were the bump in my career that I needed this day,” Dos Santos said of Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA. “I’m thankful for this whole thing.”
Dos Santos (22-10) had lost five straight coming in. Most recently, in his first bout since being released from UFC, he lost by TKO to Yorgan De Castro in May 2022 because of a shoulder injury.
A Brazilian-born fighter who trains out of American Top Team in Florida, Dos Santos held the UFC heavyweight title in 2011 and 2012 and still owns the record for longest winning streak in division history (9).
Werdum (24-10-1) had not fought since a no-contest against Renan Ferreira in May 2021 under the PFL banner. The Brazilian-born fighter, who lives and trains in California, beat Alexander Gustafsson in his final UFC fight three years ago.
Werdum, 46, held the UFC heavyweight title from 2014 to 2016 and is considered one of the best submission artists in the history of heavyweight MMA.