Shane Carwin has seen the second round only once in his career. | Photo: J. Sherwood/Sherdog
Following Friday’s preliminary picks, Sherdog.com staff put their reputations on the line with bold predictions of the UFC 131 main card, which airs tonight at 6 p.m. ET on Facebook, Spike TV (8 p.m. ET) and pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET).
Shane Carwin vs. Junior dos Santos
Tomasz Marciniak: Even if he lost some pounds, I don’t expect Carwin’s face-melting power to disappear. I also don’t expect his standup technique to become significantly better. While Dos Santos is by no means unhittable, his advantage in striking speed and technique will be extremely difficult to deal with for Carwin. I’m banking on “Cigano” to stop Carwin’s takedowns, or at least to get up quick from under the Coloradan, and blitz him in the standup for a TKO stoppage late in the first or early in the second round.
Brian Knapp: This is the one guy in the heavyweight division against whom Carwin cannot risk a standup fight. My guess is he trusts in his power a little too much and tries to test himself against Dos Santos, the heavyweight division’s premier boxer. Both men have proven hittable, so no matter which way it turns, this one does not get out of the first round. I foresee Dos Santos landing heavy combinations, dropping Carwin at some point and finishing it with strikes on the ground.
Jordan Breen: I still have worries about Dos Santos’ defense; he pasted Roy Nelson from pillar-to-post, yet still got hit with several clean, hard shots late in that fight. Carwin is not an opponent that one can afford to let too many punches slip through. However, as we saw in the Gabriel Gonzaga fight, Carwin is hardly unhittable himself. The most likely outcome is that hook-heavy combination punching of “Cigano” allows him to set up the power shot that puts Carwin on the mat for good. However, the bout is a more dangerous outing than the slated Brock Lesnar showdown, as Carwin has two-fisted knockout power and can potentially capitalize on Dos Santos’ boxing defense in a way Lesnar could not.
Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
Guilherme Pinheiro: Nunes has the tough task of welcoming Florian to the featherweight division. To raise the stakes even more, there is a possible title shot up for grabs. Nunes is very capable of beating Florian but only if he manages to get “The Ultimate Fighter” finalist to the ground and hold him there. Still, Florian is a very dangerous fighter on the ground and also holds a clear advantage in the striking department. That is his key for the victory. While Nunes has hinted in some of his latest interviews that he has been focusing his training on improving his wrestling skills, I still don’t think he is going to be able to make Florian fight on his terms. I see Florian dictating the pace standing up while controlling the distance and picking Nunes apart with his muay Thai on the way to a decision victory and a future clash with featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo.
Lutfi Sariahmed: I’m fascinated by this bout, and it’s all because of Florian. He was stuck at lightweight without a potential title shot in sight after the Gray Maynard loss, so he moved to 145. It’s a really smart move because the featherweight division is far from established. What Florian may lack in specific skills he can more than make up for in experience. We look at Aldo like he’s untouchable and Nunes like he’s at least a very dangerous prospect, but we thought the same thing about Miguel Torres during his bantamweight title run; and Brian Bowles, too. That’s not a slight against any of those fighters. It’s just the state of the lighter weights. Florian will get past Nunes, and, boring decision or not, he will be fast-tracked to a featherweight title shot.
Rob King: Florian certainly isn’t wading into the featherweight division; he’s jumping in head first. Florian will have the height and reach advantage, but I don’t see that being too much of a factor in this fight. I’m expecting a grappling battle. Florian has only been submitted once before in his career, but I think Nunes will surprise a few people and submit “KenFlo” late.
John Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman
Tony Loiseleur: This fight will be interesting to see, if only because I don’t know which of the two fighters has the bigger liability. Both are extremely talented, but as Einemo has been in and out of action for years at a time to take care of serious medical conditions, I’m curious how he’ll look. He is, after all, making his Octagon debut after nearly a five-year layoff. Herman, on the other hand, has potential to be a great heavyweight but has curious lapses in the ring, whether due to not training or not taking his opponent seriously. Still, I’ll side with Herman here since he’s at least seen consistent action, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Einemo somehow capitalizes on one of those curious lapses of his and beats him.
Freddie DeFreitas: Fifty-five months away from active competition is a mountainous obstacle to overcome. While Einemo has been active on the grappling circuits over the years, it’s a far cry from the level of competition within the UFC. There will be no UFC jitters for Herman in his debut, as he knocks out Einemo inside of two rounds.
Tristen Critchfield: Einemo initially looked to be something of a tune-up fight for Shane Carwin before the powerful heavyweight jumped back into deep water with the division’s elite. Brock Lesnar’s illness dictated that Carwin move to the main event, but Einemo’s plan should remain the same against Herman: get the fight to the ground. He’s a decorated grappler, but his last MMA win against James Thompson in 2006 doesn’t inspire confidence. Herman sports a gaudy record, although many of his signature wins came against past-their-prime opponents. His striking is fairly dynamic, and if he can avoid any serious errors, he should be able to take care of Einemo on the feet and earn a KO or TKO.
Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz
Todd Martin: I think the key to this fight will be Munoz’s power. Maia’s technical striking has improved a lot, but he hasn’t shown the ability to put people away standing. If it stays standing, Munoz will have time to find an opening and catch Maia with a fight-changing blow. Maia’s best shot is getting Munoz on his back, because Munoz's ground and pound is vicious. However, Munoz is going to be more careful than usual to avoid letting that happen, knowing Maia’s game. Munoz is the likely winner.
Marciniak: Maia’s chances of winning hinge on him not being caught on the feet by Munoz. The Brazilan’s standup is rudimentary, but he’s a careful and patient fighter when striking. Munoz, on the contrary, is improving but still likes to throw wild punches with abandon. Should he rush in as usual, I think Maia will change levels and attempt to tie him up on the ground. Furthermore, Munoz himself said he’s not afraid of taking the fight there, which I would consider foolish, as he leaves as many holes for Maia to scramble out of during the takedown as did Mario Miranda. It’s a bit of a gamble considering Maia’s weak standup and Munoz’s power, but I like the Brazilian to get a victory by positionally dominating the American on the ground.
Breen: For my money, the most intriguing fight on the card, even if it doesn’t scream barnburner. Munoz is a physically larger opponent with superior wrestling. However, Chael Sonnen fits that bill, as well, and Maia lateral dropped him on his head. Neither is known for his striking, yet Munoz managed to outstrike Aaron Simpson, while Maia outstruck the super-tough Dan Miller. Apart from Munoz landing crushing shots to end the fight, I think we’re going to have a tricky, sticky grappling match in the clinch and in the guard, but Munoz should land heavier shots standing and on top en route to a decision.
Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha
Knapp: Cerrone has more ways to win, as Rocha is a little too one-dimensional for my taste. I anticipate Cerrone marking up the newcomer on the feet with knees, punches and leg kicks en route to a late stoppage or unanimous decision.
Sariahmed: Unless Rocha’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu is just out of this world training under Pablo Popovitch, it’s hard for me to see his UFC debut going well. Cerrone’s BJJ game isn’t something to sleep on, either, and that brings me to what will happen in the standup. Cerrone is much longer and has a significantly stronger arsenal in the striking department. Rocha needs to attack Cerrone first to be successful, but even if he does, I think Cerrone will do a good job on the counter. I like Cerrone, decisively.
King: Rocha may be able to throw up a submission and get lucky, but don’t count on it. Cerrone has been around the block a few times and should be able to defend anything the Brazilian throws at him. Look for Cerone to lock up a submission late or take a comfortable decision.
Jordan Breen 75-29
Tomasz Marciniak 75-29
Brian Knapp 73-31
Guilherme Pinheiro 69-35
Todd Martin 68-36
Tony Loiseleur 68-36
Rob King 66-38
Lutfi Sariahmed 66-38
Tristen Critchfield 67-37
Freddie DeFreitas 65-39