For the first time in more than four years, Junior dos Santos is back in the win column.
The former UFC heavyweight champion snapped a five-fight losing streak by bloodying and battering fellow ex-champ Fabricio Werdum en route to a split decision win in his bare-knuckle MMA debut on Friday in the main event of Gamebred Bareknuckle 5.
“That was my first time [fighting bare-knuckle MMA] and I loved it, that was amazing,” an elated dos Santos said. “I feel good. Feeling a little sore but I think that’s OK. I’m fighting someone who was really well-prepared. Everybody knows the legend that he is.”
Dos Santos led the dance from the opening ball, peppering Werdum with a steady diet of jabs, looping hooks, and lows kicks, then slicing Werdum open and knocking him down with a big right hand late in opening round. Werdum survived and stayed in the fight by shooting for unsuccessful takedowns, however his left eye was a bloody mess by the third round. At times, it even appeared as if his eyelid was close to ripping off. In the end, two judges scored the contest 30-27 for dos Santos, while the lone dissenter baffingly saw it 29-28 for Werdum.
“You guys want me to go to the ground with that guy? No way,” dos Santos said. “It’s jabs and crosses and hooks, that’s my thing. And the more I do, the more comfortable I feel.”
Full fight video replay of the bout can be watched above.
Dos Santos, 39, and Werdum, 46, previously collided in 2008, with dos Santos defeating Werdum via first-round knockout in the former’s memorable octagon debut at UFC 90.
Prior to Friday, dos Santos (22-10) had been sidelined since a shoulder injury against Yorgan De Castro spoiled his sole appearance in the Eagle FC cage. Werdum (24-10-1, 1 NC), likewise, last competed in a 2021 no-contest against Renan Ferreira in his lone PFL appearance.
Gamebred Bareknuckle 5 took place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.
- Junior dos Santos def. Fabricio Werdum via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27)
- Joel Bauman def. Maki Pitolo via TKO (punches) at 2:36 of Round 2
- Joshua Weems def. Irwin Rivera via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Ago Huskic def. Brandon Davis via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Anthony Njokuani def. Brandon Jenkins via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Joey Ruquet def. Joe Penafiel via TKO (strikes) at 3:01 of Round 2
- Jhonasky Sojo def. Tyler Hill via TKO (punches) at 4:52 of Round 1
- Reggie Northrup def. Cody Herbert via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
- Shahzaib Rind def. Carlos Guerra via TKO (punches) at 2:40 of Round 1
- Juan Alvarez def. Christopher Wingate via submission (heel hook) at 0:13 of Round 1