Whilst UFC 131 was dealt a major blow with the withdrawal of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar from the main event, it has done a pretty good job of re-tuning to give us something almost as exciting.
Shane Carwin was originally meant to fight on the under-card of UFC 131, but has found himself in the main event, with four weeks notice to take on Junior Dos Santos.
Opportunity in combat sports in sometimes all in the timing, and Carwin has found himself in the right place at the right time. Having already been in training, he was the simple choice to fill Lesnars shoes… and he fills them well.
Shane Carwin is a knockout artist, who was within a matter of seconds of adding Brock Lesnar to his list at UFC 116.
Lesnar admitted in his book “Death Clutch” that he purposely left his guard open, as he felt Carwin was gassing himself out trying to finish the fight. Lesnar’s game plan proved spot on as he barely survived to the end of the round, before pouncing on a tired Carwin in Round 2.
Before the fight with Lesnar, Carwin had never been outside the first round in 12 fights. That says something quite devastating as to what the man is capable of. But eventually the lack of rounds in the octagon caught up to him.
But the fighter who arrives at UFC 131 is a very different story.
Carwin admits he addressed many aspects of his life following the Lesnar fight, in particular his lack of conditioning, diet and nutrition. As a result, Carwin comes to this weekend’s fight some 25 pounds lighter, and, he says, as a five-round fighter.
Carwin is fighting for the first time since the Lesnar fight, and is coming off a long break where he had both back and neck surgery, ailments he says he had carried for the best part of the last three years.
With those behind him, Carwin could be anything.
He has knocked out some big names, including Frank Mir and Gabriel Gonzaga and may yet add Junior Dos Santos to that list.
With a plethora of heavyweights on the scene, Carwin could have very nearly become irrelevant, but opportunity has knocked and he is now one fight from a title shot.
The man in his way though is equally as devastating with his fists.
Junior Dos Santos is undefeated in the UFC and the list of names he has bulldozed on his way through would make anyone stand up and take notice.
Fabrice Werdum, Marco Filopovic, Stefan Struve, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson have all fallen at the feet of Dos Santos.
For a fighter that doesn’t have the greatest command of English, who is respectful and not outspoken, and some have said not marketable, to garner the attention and admiration of the UFC brass has come in only one way – devastating victory after victory.
Junior Dos Santos had already secured a UFC heavyweight shot at Cain Velasquez after defeating Roy Nelson in a number one contenders match. However, injury to Velasquez threw a spanner in the works, and the UFC have decided to make Dos Santos earn the title one more time.
Originally the target was Lesnar, but due a re-occurrence of his Diverticulitis, Carwin is now in his sights.
Carwin is probably a harder fight in my opinion that Lesnar. Lesnar is more agile and athletic for a big man, but Carwin striking is so much better than Lesnar. If he can match his striking with an engine that goes the distance, then Dos Santos may just be cursing his damn luck come Sunday.
Dos Santos, has already said he is going to test Carwin’s cardio. Dos Santos believes you can’t improve cardio in the gym. It has to come in the cage, under match conditions.
In a fight with Dos Santos and Lesnar, I would put my money on Dos Santos. Lesnar is still very raw, and Velasquez highlighted this immensely in their fight.
Carwin has more experience and will prove tougher for Dos Santos than Lesnar , but Dos Santos like Velasquez is redefining the heavyweight division. Both guys have the power to end fights, but they are extremely mobile and have multiple skills they can use in the octagon.
UFC heavyweights are no longer those with the hardest heads and hardest fists, but are like Velasquez and Dos Santos, who are the complete package.
Having blown up so miserably after one round against Lesnar, it is hard to see Carwin turning around his cardio problems in one fight. Dos Santos can fight smart, at a distance and take the fight to the later rounds.
There is a saying in the fight world that you take a fighter to “deep water and see if he can swim”, and if he can’t you “drown him”.
This is exactly what Dos Santos will do to Carwin… and finally Dos Santos will get the title shot he deserves.
Well, with some better luck.
Other fights on the card see Kenny Florian taking on Diego Nunes in his first fight at Featherweight. Having not been getting the fights he wanted at 155, and sensing a logjam in the title picture, Florian dropped down a division once the featherweights (previously of the WEC), were introduced into the UFC, with a view of attaining a title shot quicker by being the most known figure in a division not familiar with the UFC audience.
That decision brings him face to face with Diego Nunes in what will be a tough fight. Nunes has knockout power, with his first 11 professional fights, all but one ending in the first round. Strangely though Nunes hasn’t been able to transfer his knockout power into the WEC/UFC, with all his fights under the Zuffa umbrella going the distance.
Florian who is coming off knee surgery, knows the importance of a win. A loss will catastrophic, considering Florian is not getting any younger, and he is not seen as an elite name, given he has lost every time he has stepped to the highest level, losing to Gray Maynard, BJ Penn and Sean Sherk.
I have to say, I am not Florians biggest of fans, but it’s not the only reason I’m tipping Nunes in an upset.
Nunes has only one defeat to his name. He is younger, and more familiar with the weight, whilst Florian is debuting at the 145-pound limit.
A close fight, but one I see Florian losing in an upset. Look forward to seeing more of him soon on MMA Live.
Other fights on the card include:
Jon Olav Einemo versus Dave Herman. Unfortunately this fight, Einemo will go in a very heavy favourite. Originally scheduled to face Shane Carwin, Lesnar’s withdrawal threw Carwin to the main event and the UFC in a mad scramble to find an opponent, and one willing to take the fight on four weeks’ notice.
To his credit, Dave Herman has taken the challenge, but you feel the odds are too much stacked against him.
Einemo is a former, Abu Dhabi Champion, which is one of the most prestigious Jiu-Jitsu tournaments around the world. He is the only man to defeat Rodger Gracie, in this competition.
He hasn’t exactly got much of an MMA record, but what record he does have shows his first five fights, all ending in his favour via 1st round knockout.
Dave Herman has a decent record at 22-2, he has only been to a decision once in his career, but processes no real names or high quality opponents on his record. A bit of a journey man who has fought in many promotions, he will find that the UFC is a completely different kettle of fish.
Although he is much more experienced inside the cage, I just think Einemo has the upper hand due to the late scheduling change due to Carwin entering the main event.
Demain Maia takes on Mark Munoz, which could be sleeper for fight of the night. Maia should be a name familiar with most UFC fans, though he has been in patchy form in recent times. Some good wins followed have been blighted a little with a crushing defeat to Nate Marquardt and then that debacle that was his fight against Anderson Silva in Abu Dhabi.
I expect Maia to win, but Munoz will be no pushover, who is capable if not top class, having fallen to the likes of Matt Hamill and Yushin Okami.
Both men are not in the title picture, but neither was Shane Carwin a month ago.