UFC 131 Preview: The Main Card

Dos Santos vs. Carwin

By Jason Probst Jun 8, 2011
Shane Carwin (above) has brutal knockout power in both hands. | Photo: Sherdog.com

Brock Lesnar’s departure from UFC 131 due to health problems left the door open for heavy-handed Shane Carwin to step in against Junior dos Santos in a high-octane main event on Saturday at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

As far as substitutions for big fights go, Carwin is about as great a fill-in as you can get, and with a heavyweight title shot likely awarded the winner, one can bet both guys will be chomping at the bit to make a statement and get a crack at Cain Velasquez when the champion returns to action this fall. Dos Santos-Carwin is almost sure to end in violent, concussive fashion, so do not go to the fridge once it starts.

The rest of the main card is ripe with meaningful storylines. Kenny Florian debuts at featherweight -- his fourth weight class in the UFC -- and takes on dark horse contender Diego Nunes. Plus, middleweights Demian Maia and Mark Munoz collide in a stylistic clash likely to produce excitement. Plenty of other intriguing bouts fill out the UFC 131 lineup.

Here is a closer look, with previews and picks.

Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin

The Matchup: With Lesnar out due to a second bout with diverticulitis, Dos Santos gets Carwin, a slower version of Lesnar with a hell of a lot more striking prowess. Dos Santos’ ability to box effectively in MMA makes him the best standup heavyweight in the game, but Carwin has the tools to neutralize him.

Carwin has a great straight right hand and can hurt anyone with anything he lands. Dos Santos is more fluid and varied in his combinations, particularly when he mixes up punches from angles; he explodes quickly, with excellent follow-through.

These two heavyweights punch through the target and do serious damage. Dos Santos has not been taken down and kept on the mat in six UFC bouts, showing great hips and athleticism in his escapes. One advantage Carwin will have compared to Lesnar is that he can present a serious threat to Dos Santos on the feet, a fact which could open up chances to clinch or attempt takedowns. Both men have 12-1 ledgers. Combined, they have seen just three bouts go past the opening round.

If Dos Santos has a signature performance, it is his three-round clinical domination of Roy Nelson, during which he stuffed takedowns with ease and hit the granite-chinned former International Fight League champion with an impressive display of combinations.

Carwin’s hands are not as quick as those of his opponent, but he can be effective by unloading straight punches in between Dos Santos’ explosions. If Carwin can get Dos Santos into a clinch, he would be wise to push him against the cage, where he can unload numbing uppercuts, as he did in blitzing Frank Mir at UFC 111.

Dos Santos has an excellent uppercut, too, and uses good angles to step in and unload. His guard remains an unknown since nobody has kept him on the mat, but one has to figure it is good enough, given he trains alongside the Nogueira brothers. However, more important than submissions are his ability to scramble and get back to his feet. Carwin is too strong and dangerous to survive for long if Dos Santos cannot get up from the bottom.

Like many high-level heavyweight fights, this one will probably come down to who can land the big one first. Dos Santos has highly evolved boxing technique and should definitely outland Carwin in an extended standup battle. With that said, Carwin’s option to stand or wrestle makes him dangerous here. At some point, if he cannot score a huge, one-shot blow to swing the momentum his way, he is going to have to make it ugly to win, be it by clinching against the cage or taking down Dos Santos.

There will be a stiff toll to do it but Carwin will have enough to keep Dos Santos honest on the feet and eventually make his 25-pound weight advantage come into play. If he does not cut off the cage and allows Dos Santos to use angles stepping in to strike, he will get caught and taken out. Carwin’s jab is underrated, and if he can effectively shoot it effectively, it could go a long way in keeping Dos Santos’ punches from landing with authority.

The Pick: This should be a rollicking fight with both guys hurt at different points, but Carwin is rough, tough and powerful enough to pull it out. He will emerge victorious via second-round stoppage.

Continue Reading » Next Fight: Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
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