In October 2008, Junior Dos Santos made his UFC debut as a heavy underdog against fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum at UFC 90 at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
One minute and 20 seconds into the first round, Dos Santos knocked out the top-ranked Werdum with a right uppercut.
Dos Santos’ upset victory nearly 10 years ago was top of mind this week as the 34-year-old prepares for his heavyweight main event against UFC newcomer Blagoy Ivanov at UFC Fight Night 133 on Saturday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
“I don’t want to underestimate this guy. Our division is very tough,” Dos Santos said. “All it takes is one punch.”
Less than 50 single-seat tickets were still available for Saturday’s event as of Thursday afternoon. The main card will be broadcast live on FS1 beginning at 8 p.m., and a portion of the undercard airs on UFC Fight Pass starting at 4:30 p.m.
Dos Santos (18-5 overall, 12-4 UFC) is fighting for the first time in more than a year after serving a six-month suspension for a doping violation that was later attributed to a tainted supplement. The former champion is hoping to reassert himself as a heavyweight contender, but to do that he must first get past Ivanov (16-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), whose personal history alone makes him a dangerous opponent.
During a bar fight in his native Bulgaria in 2012, Ivanov was stabbed under the left armpit, piercing both his heart and a lung, according to mmafighting.com writer Chuck Mindenhall. He spent 86 days in a medically induced coma, dropping from 250 pounds to 160.
“I come back more stronger and I think I am mentally more stronger now,” Ivanov said. “Some of the doctors, they say, ‘You can’t fight again.’ But the first thing when I woke up in my mind was I will come back.”
Ivanov, a former World Series of Fighting champion and winner of the 2008 Combat Sambo World Championships, enters the Octagon on a five-fight winning streak.
“I’m expecting a very tough fight. This guy was stabbed in the heart, no doubt he’s a tough guy,” Dos Santos said. “He’s a really good fighter. He’s got a lot of heart, so I am expecting a very tough fight ... but I’m ready for that. I’m waiting for something very aggressive on his part, because it’s his debut.”
Ivanov said he doesn’t expect the fight to last the scheduled five rounds, calling it a “clash of Titans” and predicting “somebody will get knocked out.”
Dos Santos predicted the same.
“At some point — maybe in the second round — I’m going to knock him out,” Dos Santos said. “I’m a boxing guy. I love boxing. That’s my main art. I really believe I can knock anyone out in the world with my hands.”
UFC BOISE FIGHT CARD
FS1 MAIN CARD (Begins at 8 p.m.)
Junior Dos Santos vs. Blagoy Ivanov, five-round heavyweight bout
Sage Northcutt vs. Zak Ottow, welterweights
Dennis Bermudez vs. Rick Glenn, featherweights
Randy Brown vs. Niko Price, welterweights
Myles Jury vs. Chad Mendes, featherweights
Cat Zingano vs. Marion Reneau, women’s bantamweights
FS1 PRELIMS (6 p.m.)
Eddie Wineland vs. Alejandro Perez, bantamweights
Darren Elkins vs. Alexander Volkanovski, featherweights
Justin Scoggins vs. Said Nurmagomedov, flyweights
Kurt Holobaugh vs. Raoni Barcelos, featherweights
UFC FIGHT PASS EARLY PRELIMS (4:30 p.m.)
Liz Carmouche vs. Jennifer Maia, women’s flyweights
Mark De La Rosa vs. Elias Garcia, flyweights
Jessica Aguilar vs. Jodie Esquibel, women’s strawweights