The stakes are high this Saturday as Shane Carwin faces Frank Mir for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship at UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy . Carwin finds himself stepping into the Octagon for the first time in over a year, when he knocked out top heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga in a little over a minute at UFC 96: Jackson vs. Jardine . Carwin recently admitted in an interview with FightLine.com that he was anxious to get back in the cage and hopes to keep his undefeated record in tact.
"I love competing so this is really what it is all about," said Carwin. "I have been working hard for this fight, I can't wait to get in the Octagon."
Carwin was originally slated to face UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar for the title last November until Lesnar fell ill due to a bout with diverticulitis. When it seemed like Lesnar's illness may be career-ending, Carwin was offered a bout with Cain Velasquez for the interim heavyweight championship—a bout which also fell through. Carwin spent the better part of the last six months preparing for Lesnar and Velasquez before finally receiving the fight with Mir. He noted that his camp had to make changes for each opponent.
"They are all somewhat different style-wise, so each change presented an adjustment we needed to make," Carwin stated. "I am confident in what my coaches have planned for this fight."
Like Carwin, who has knocked out all of his opponents in the first round, Mir has a propensity for ending fights early. Of Mir's 17 career bouts, only two have made it to the judge's scorecards. Carwin knows that Mir is a dangerous opponent, but still feels he will have his hand raised on Saturday night.
"He is a dangerous ground fighter who has begun to evolve as a striker," he noted. "He has experience, heart, and a complete game. I have to fight my fight, push my game plan, and the night will work out well for me.
"I think we are both intelligent and hungry fighters. That will create an interesting dynamic."
Mir had recently came under fire for stating that he wished he would kill Lesnar in the Octagon, comments he later apologized for. Carwin believes that while he hadn't listened to Mir's comments, he felt that Mir just got carried away.
"I can't imagine any fighter wanting to kill our opponents," said Carwin. "We do want to beat them and sometimes we just get emotional and our words reflect that."
If Carwin is able to walk away from the Octagon victorious this Saturday night, he will in all likelihood face Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Championship this summer, a bout he was supposed to have last November. Carwin had sent Lesnar his best wishes during Lesnar's illness, but has not spoke to the champion since he announced his return.
"We do not have a way of contacting one another," he explained. He then joked, "I friend requested him on Facebook, but he is still listed as 'Pending'."
Carwin noted that he would not likely train any differently than when he was first preparing for Lesnar last fall.
"We would just get back into the groove again. He presents problems with his speed, take-downs and power. He is a mirror image of me size-wise and essentially, who ever lands the first power shot likely wins that fight. Brock has the real UFC belt, the one that matters, and that will be the focus after we get past Mir."
While Lesnar is the heavyweight champion, Carwin admitted to believing that the best heavyweight in the world is someone who isn't in the UFC right now—Fedor Emelianenko.
"Fedor is on top of the food chain for sure," Carwin admitted. When asked how he felt he would fare with Fedor, he responded, "Right now, [I'd have] a puncher's chance."
UFC 111: St-Pierre vs. Hardy takes place on March 27, 2010 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.