Junior Dos Santos defeated Shane Carwin at UFC 131 Saturday night and remains the number one contender in the UFC heavyweight division. The win earned JDS a title shot against Cain Velasquez for the the UFC heavyweight championship.
Dos Santos bloodied and battered Carwin for three rounds. The fight started with both men feeling each other for the first minute or so. Carwin was the first to really make his move and charged Dos Santos. However, JDS was too quick and mobile for Carwin to connect. Dos Santos picked Carwin apart with jabs and combos for most of the round and came real close to finishing at the end of the round.
Carwin rebounded in round two and hung around for the rest of the fight but did very little damage. This was hardly the slugfest that people expected going into the fight. Both men fought a cautious fight knowing full well that a battle of fists was a 50/50 proposition. At one point the doctor came in to inspect Carwin’s cuts (a piece of skin was dangling off of his bloody face) in the third round but allowed the fight to continue. Dos Santos cruised for the remainder of the fight, even getting two takedowns on Carwin in the final minutes. Dos Santos takes a unanimous decision over Carwin for his seventh win in the UFC.
The win gives Dos Santos the unequivocal status as number one contender in the division. Dos Santos’ victory gives MMA fans and clear cut look at the top of the largest division in the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter 13 coach will now sit back and wait for champion Cain Velasquez to get medical clearance and return to training.
Junior Dos Santos’ rise to the top of the division certainly hasn’t been easy. Junior Dos Santos was guaranteed a title shot last August when he defeated Roy Nelson at UFC 117. JDS waited for the Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez winner which saw Velasquez defeat Lesnar at UFC 121. Unfortunately for Dos Santos, Velasquez came out of the fight with a torn rotator cuff which will sideline the champ for a year.
Dos Santos had two choices. He could either wait out Velasquez guaranteeing his title shot or risk it all fight during Velasquez’s lengthy layoff. To his credit, JDS opted to fight rather than remain idle and it wasn’t as if JDS took an easy opponent. JDS signed to fight former champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 131. A loss could have pushed back his title shot for a year if not indefinitely. The fight was a gutsy move and one that could have seen his dreams go up in smoke.
Once again JDS was dealt yet another curveball. Lesnar pulled out of the fight a month before the scheduled bout due to injury/illness. The easy answer for Dos Santos would have been to remain idle and wait for his scheduled fight with Velasquez. Instead, he took a fight with Shane Carwin on less than a month’s notice. Say what you will about JDS, but he is one gutsy fighter.
As we saw at UFC 131 it all panned out for Dos Santos. Dos Santos dominated Carwin and racked up his 12th MMA career win, 7th in the UFC. Dos Santos will now wait out Cain Velasquez for a title opportunity that he probably should have had a couple of months ago. Several members of the MMA media speculate that the fight will take place at UFC 136, although nothing is a given until Velasquez is medically cleared to start training.
From a business standpoint, Junior Dos Santos is a brilliant man. By appearing for a full season on The Ultimate Fighter and fighting in a high profile heavyweight bout, JDS has greatly raised his awareness among casual MMA fans. While hardcore MMA fans got excited about a Dos Santos vs. Velasquez fight, it could have been a little difficult selling it to the casual MMA audience. Now Dos Santos has a story and is a recognizable face thanks to some brilliant marketing that certainly didn’t come without risk.
Unfortunately once you take JDS out of the equation, the rest of the UFC heavyweight division is fairly stale. Frank Mir would arguably be the next contender in line and after Dana White told us how boring Mir was at UFC 130, I don’t know who would get real excited about seeing Mir challenge for the title. Once you get past Mir, you have parity in the division until Brock Lesnar returns. I am not saying that Brock is going to beat either JDS or Velasquez, but he certainly makes the division a lot more appealing.
There is also the Alistair Overeem factor. Overeem is the Strikeforce heavyweight champion and arguably the best striker among all MMA heavyweights. Overeem is currently locked up in the Grand Prix tournament, but with Dana White anything is possible. I would be stunned if Alistair Overeem is not fighting in the UFC sometime within the next twelve months.
Junior Dos Santos opened up as a -125 favorite against Cain Velasquez who opens at -105. That is a shocker to me. Cain is coming off of three straight KO wins, his most recent being a one round demolition of Brock Lesnar. Taking nothing away from JDS’ win over Carwin, he still didn’t finish him. Not only did he not finish Carwin, but he didn’t finish Roy Nelson in his previous fight. Dos Santos inability to finish two guys he dominated in his previous two fights is a big concern to me, especially against a guy who is a proven finisher. I would expect this line to even out quite a bit over the next few months. I think the lines are more a reflection of immediate excitement over seeing what Dos Santos did to Carwin, than an objective view of the championship fight. If the lines stick, this would be two fights in a row where Velasquez would fight as the underdog.
In other UFC 131 notes…Kenny Florian was successful in his featherweight debut. Florian bested Diego Nunes via unanimous decision at UFC 131. Florian was booed heavily after coming out at weigh-ins with a Boston Bruins jersey on. Florian looked great in his debut and fought at a heck of a pace considering the drastic weight cut. The win likely puts Florian at the front of the line to challenge champion Jose Aldo.
Full UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin results…
Junior Dos Santos defeated Shane Carwin
Kenny Florian defeated Diego Nunes
Mark Munoz defeated Demian Maia
Dave Herman defeated Jon Olav Einemo
Donald Cerrone defeated Vagner Rocha
Sam Stout defeated Yves Edwards
Chris Weidman defeated Jesse Bongfeldt
Krzysztof Soszynski defeated Mike Massenzio
Nick Ring defeated James Head
Dustin Poirier defeated Jason Young
Joey Beltran defeated Aaron Rosa
Darren Elkins defeated Michihiro Omigawa
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