The next challenger for UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will be decided at UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin. Heavyweight sluggers Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos will top one of the most lackluster UFC cards in recent memory.
The hype may not the same, but fans still have two of the hardest hitting heavyweights in the UFC going toe to toe on Saturday night. I think JDS vs. Carwin as a co-headliner with another main-event would do blockbuster business. Yet with five UFC shows in a six week period, two free, Carwin vs. JDS alone isn’t likely to inspire many Saturday night UFC parties or last minute buys.
The irony here is that there is much bigger potential for fireworks with the new main-event as opposed to the old headliner. Instead of a wrestler vs. striker fight, you have striker vs. striker in the hardest hitting division in MMA. Chances are pretty good that fans will see someone knocked out in the UFC 131 main-event so in terms of excitement, this may actually be a more exciting fight. I just don’t see it lasting too long.
Both fighters are coming off of disappointing fights. Junior Dos Santos is coming off a win, but it certainly wasn’t the showcase you’d want before a heavyweight title opportunity. JDS took a unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson at UFC 117. However, there were more questions than answers that came out of that fight. JDS’ inability to put Nelson away and his cardio in the third round left a lot of MMA fans wondering if JDS was more hype than fight.
Shane Carwin on the other hand is coming off of his first MMA career loss. Carwin tapped out to Brock Lesnar in the second round of one of the most memorable fights of 2010 at UFC 116. Carwin rocked Lesnar in Round 1 and tired himself out with endless strikes, none that put Lesnar away. Lesnar came out in the second round and capitalized on a tired Carwin with his superior wrestling skills. Brock Lesnar is certainly not known for his submissions which made the loss even more devastating for Carwin.
If this fight is the striking battle that most predict, I actually like Carwin. JDS has TKO or KO wins over some pretty good strikers in the heavyweight division. Carwin has seven knockout victories, but look closer at his fights. He rocked Lesnar and probably would have won with another referee. He knocked out Frank Mir who is one of the most skilled fighters in the division. JDS couldn’t put Roy Nelson or Mirko Cro Cop away (he did beat Cro Cop but he didn’t knock him out). I think Carwin just has the heavier hands and in a straight up striking fight, Carwin takes it.
That’s right, I said it. I think Carwin takes it in a stand up war. I am a little surprised that Carwin is such a heavy underdog coming into the fight. Yes he lost to Lesnar in his last fight, but he tired out. He also had an impressive run of wins coming into the fight with Lesnar. Two years ago Shane Carwin was the future of the heavyweight division and with one loss all of the sudden he can’t beat JDS? I don’t get it. To me, the JDS vs. Nelson fight taught me a lot about Dos Santos and until he beats a skilled striker I’ll take Carwin every time in a stand up battle.
I am not naive enough to ignore Carwin’s recent change of physique. Carwin has changed his diet and is coming into this fighter a lot lighter than he has in past fights. He is also 35. There is definitely a question mark regarding Carwin’s punching power at his age and lighter weight.
The reality is that this one probably isn’t going to be the stand up battle that everyone thinks it is. JDS has superior submission skills on the ground and would be a fool to stand and trade with Carwin. I think this fight goes something like the Nelson vs. Mir fight but with a finish. Carwin isn’t terrible on the ground and has two submission wins, but they weren’t against guys like JDS. I like JDS with a second round submission in this one. However, I think Carwin turns the lights out on JDS fairly quickly if these guys stay on their feet.
In the semi-main event Kenny Florian makes his debut at featherweight. Putting this fight as the semi with Brock Lesnar on top is one thing. Putting a guy who was overrated in one division into a new weight class and calling it a semi-main event on a show headlined by Carwin vs. Dos Santos is another story.
I am sure Kenny Florian is a nice guy but if I wouldn’t complain if I never had to watch him fight again. Florian is one of the most overrated fighters in the UFC, marketed because of his The Ultimate Fighter fame and his personality. Outside of the ring, Florian is a great representative of the MMA community and the UFC. I can see why the UFC would want to promote him as one of their stars. In the octagon, Kenny Florian is a fighter who is struggling to keep up with the next generation of UFC stars.
This is a really interesting fight and a gutsy debut for Florian. Striking is certainly not Florian’s strong suit. Taking a fight with an accomplished kick boxer like Diego Nunes is a very curious decision for Florian. Hey, maybe he didn’t read the entire contract and thought he was fighting Diego Sanchez? Regardless, this is a big fight for Ken Flo.
Nunes also has a lot of pressure going into this fight. Some MMA critics believe that there is a big disparity in talent between the guys in the UFC and the WEC as evident in the Clay Guida vs. Anthony Pettis fight. If Nunes can’t hang with Florian, that chatter may start getting louder and the honeymoon may be over for the WEC fighters. Nunes’ UFC debut against fellow WEC alumni Mike Brown was nothing special and he’ll need a heck of a lot more to put Florian away.
Florian’s cardio could take a big hit depending upon how much weight he winds up cutting by the weigh-ins. Florian may also struggle with the speed of Nunes and the featherweight division. The action is a lot faster here than the lightweight division. I would not be surprised to see Nunes try and overwhelm Florian early with quick strikes. It wouldn’t be typical, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
I think Nunes takes a dull decision in this one. Neither guy is known for having exciting fights which makes this is an odd match for Joe Silva to make. Florian could surprise me, but I think the weight cut will be a major issue here. This is a huge fight for Florian. A loss here would really hurt his marketability going forward, while a win may be enough to get him a title shot against Jose Aldo. However, until Florian wins a big fight, I’ll continue to pick against him. I am going with Nunes via unanimous decision in a very forgettable fight.
Full UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin card
Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman
Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz
Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha
Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards
Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Chris Weidman
Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Igor Pokrajac
Nick Ring vs. James Head
Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young
Joey Beltran vs. Aaron Rosa
Michihiro Omigawa vs. Darren Elkins