Mir (13-4) will be fighting for his second interim title in as many years and is coming off a convincing defeat of Cheick Kongo at UFC 107 in December.
Carwin (11-0) will be entering the octagon for the first time in over a year since defeating Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 96 in March of 2009.
To be out of action that long is difficult for any athlete. Some may succumb to a lack of familiarity, but, according to Carwin, this is not the case.
The undefeated heavyweight has kept his engine well oiled since his last fight and looks for a great performance coming into this weekend.
“You know, I feel great," said Carwin about going into UFC 111. “I’m well prepared and my body feels good. You know, I’m just ready to fight. It’s been a little while.”
The former Division II NCAA champion has been training as regular since his last fight.
When asked if he thinks ring rust will play a factor in his upcoming tangle with Mir, the Colorado resident was quick to downplay the idea.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Carwin. “I’ve gone through...three or four camps for all the fights I was supposed to have. Inside of the octagon is where I feel comfortable, so I don’t think ring rust will be a big deal.”
The heavyweight picture is at its most interesting point it’s been at in years. Carwin and Mir are currently at the top of the list of candidates to fight the champion, Brock Lesnar. Depending on how things pan out at UFC 111, Carwin can set himself up for a bout with the champ this summer.
First step to getting to Lesnar, however, is a tough one.
Frank Mir is no slouch, especially on the ground. His jiu-jitsu is some of the best in all of the heavyweight division, UFC or otherwise.
Preparing for that kind of battle takes sparring with the best of training partners, which is what Shane Carwin believes he has at his gym.
“In our camp up here in Colorado at Grudge [Training Center]...there is world class jiu-jitsu guys that I train with everyday,” said Carwin.
Having jiu-jitsu practitioners of that level helps Carwin to build on what is, without a doubt, a growing arsenal for fighting.
“Improve in all areas of the game...that’s what I really tend to focus on.”
When thinking about Shane Carwin’s UFC 111 opponent, one could go a number of routes.
Some hate him and some love him, but Shane Carwin tends to look at Frank Mir in a more respectful manner.
When asked of what he thinks of his UFC 111 advisory, Carwin said: “You know, Frank’s come a long ways and I think he’s evolved with the game. Like you said, his ground game is excellent...I know he’s working on his strength and conditioning now, as well.
"I expect to fight the best Frank Mir that you’ve seen and that’s...the way I want it to be. I want to fight the best Frank and it’s exciting for me to step up in there to fight...a legend of the sport and two-time UFC champ.”
Humble words from the heavyweight contender. As much as Mir plays the role of instigator through wordplay, the talk doesn’t really affect Carwin, nor does it skew his opinion of his opponent.
“I don’t really know him as a person so...if you’re referring to the trash talk that he does, I find that stuff pretty comical at times,” said Carwin. “Brock does it a lot and...there’s a few others, too. I’m like any other fan; sometimes I think that stuff is kind of funny and sometimes I think it’s kind of dumb.”
Frank Mir may have recently let a few too many words out to hype up his feud with Brock Lesnar. Openly stating that he hopes the champion would die from injuries in the octagon set off a backlash that was echoed throughout the MMA universe.
Carwin heard the remarks Mir made about Lesnar but doesn’t appear to think it’s an example of Mir’s character.
“I just think, in today’s day and age, some people are just oversensitive and I think his comments are probably taken out of context,” said Carwin. “I’m sure deep down, he really didn’t want to kill him or anything. I think he’s just thinking as a competitor and that’s it.”
Before Carwin was scheduled to compete against Mir for the interim strap, the UFC had already given him an opportunity to fight Lesnar for the official title at UFC 106. Later, the fight was postponed for a later show then, ultimately, cancelled.
For most, getting a title shot and then having it pulled out from under them, at no fault of their own, can crush hopes and dreams.
The chance of obtaining UFC gold came close enough to Shane Carwin, he could taste it, but, no sense in crying over spilled milk, right?
“We both had to move on,” said Carwin about he and Lesnar. “That’s just the way life goes sometimes. It’s an honor still to fight Frank, and you know, if I take care of business in this fight I get Brock again.”
The winner of this fight is all but guaranteed a shot at the heavyweight crown.
“Just from the comments that I’ve heard Dana say, you know, whoever the winner is and comes out healthy will fight Brock, otherwise it’ll be Cain if they can’t fight immediately,” said Carwin.
Others have made their bids to get a chance at fighting Brock Lesnar for the UFC’s heaviest belt. Both Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are on runaway trains towards title contention with recent victories in convincing fashion.
Carwin sees both of these talented prospects running with him.
“Cain’s right up there among the top,” said Carwin. “He’s deserving of a title shot too, as far as I’m concerned. Another one that’s probably deserving is dos Santos. I think the heavyweight division in the UFC is probably the one most exciting division now.”
Like dos Santos did at UFC on Versus 1, Carwin put away Gabriel Gonzaga in his last fight.
The win gave some perspective to Carwin and showed him he is “able to compete with the top level guys.”
It was an experience like none other for Carwin.
“There probably hasn‘t been another feeling like that in my competitive life as far as sports,” said the UFC 111 participant.
While Carwin is, without a doubt, focused on his UFC 111 bout with Mir, one cannot help but ask if the urge to punch Lesnar square in the face lingers within him.
“I think it’s a destiny that we meet,” said Carwin. “We were both national champions in wrestling around the same time and…he throws it in my face a lot about being...Division II national champ and he’s Division I. I just think time is coming to meet in the cage.”
Lesnar talks aside, Carwin is set to give Mir a hell of a fight on Saturday night. A beast of a man and phenomenal physical specimen at 6’4” and 250 pounds, Carwin mentions that, apart from his size, it’s his cerebral functions that make a difference for him.
“Just being mentally tough,” said Carwin about his edge. “I’m a tough son of a bitch for anybody to get in there with. You’re gonna have to knock me out or break something or choke me out for me to give up...that’s just the way I’ve always competed in sports.”
Shane Carwin will need all the mental toughness he can muster this weekend. The mental edge combined with his enormous size, hulking strength, devastating hands and world class wrestling makes a great recipe to serve up some hurt for Frank Mir.
The question for Carwin is how he sees this fight ending between he and his UFC 111 opponent. As simple as can be, Grudge Training Center stand out sees himself finishing Frank Mir “by knockout.”
There will be drama at the Jersey Shore, but it won’t involve anyone named “The Situation” or “Snookie.”
UFC 111 takes place Saturday, March 27, 2010, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Main card begins at 10pm ET and 7pm PT.