UFC 131: In Shane Carwin, Junior Dos Santos Has a Tougher Battle Ahead of Him
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I would love to see a rematch between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. I don’t think Lesnar got lucky when he defeated Carwin, but in a way I do think he pulled a rabbit out of a hat. He survived a brutal first round beating that showed a less than stellar stand-up game, and recovered in between rounds to take advantage of Carwin’s lack of cardio, and sink in an arm triangle that nobody outside of Lesnar’s team saw coming.
Well played by Brock, no doubt, but if Carwin had to do it over again I’m willing to bet he’s learned his lesson about exhausting all your energy trying to finish an opponent, and would take greater care to prevent the submission. With all that in mind, Lesnar’s replacement by Carwin against Junior dos Santos next month at UFC 131 presents a more difficult task for the Brazilian fighter.
Dos Santos’ ability to beat Lesnar depended on his being able to stuff Brock’s takedowns, and utilizing far superior boxing to send Lesnar spiraling back down the heavyweight ladder. Given the history of both fighters, it certainly doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that. Dos Santos arguably has the best boxing in the heavyweight division, and has showcased his heavy hands en route to taking out five of the six opponents he’s faced in the UFC.
The sixth, Roy Nelson, somehow survived being dos Santos’ heavy bag for three rounds before losing a decision. Dos Santos’ only career loss came via arm bar in a Brazilian promotion before he came to the big leagues back in November of 2007. While I’m sure his ground game has improved since then, dos Santos has made no secret of his desire to stand and bang with anyone put in front of him, and thus far it’s worked to near perfection.
In Carwin, dos Santos must now deal with a fighter with equal if not more power resting in his hands. Additionally, as a former Division II wrestling champion, Shane Carwin surely isn’t uncomfortable going to the ground, though I’m not sure that dos Santos could say the same for himself. In short, dos Santos is now facing a more well rounded fighter in Carwin, and it’s setting up a better fight for the fans.
From purely the stand-up perspective in the head-to-head battle, the hand speed belongs to dos Santos, while the punching power belongs to Carwin. This arises not simply from the trail of destruction each one has left in the UFC, but how they’ve blazed those trails. Dos Santos burst on to the scene with an enormous upset of Fabricio Werdum, in which he used a devastating upper-cut to end the fight, and has since utilized sharp boxing to outpoint the likes of Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga, and the aforementioned Roy Nelson.
With each fight, dos Santos has displayed his brilliant hand speed as his most trusted tool. Like a good boxer should, he’ll attack with a flurry of punches and jump back out of range of his opponents reach before he has a chance to counter. For a textbook example of this, go back and watch his fight against Stefan Struve at UFC 95. He hit Struve with seven shots before backing out, taking a quick break and pouncing back in with an overhand right that was the beginning of the end for Struve. This all occurred in a matter of four seconds. That kind of speed is an anomaly in MMA.
Carwin, meanwhile, has used the bricks he possess on the end of each arm to crush Christian Wellisch, Gonzaga, and Frank Mir to name a few. Even more impressive, each of those three fights displayed Carwin’s power in a different manner. In his UFC debut, Carwin threw a right cross that dropped Wellisch in the first round, sending his mouth guard flying across the Octagon. Against Gonzaga, Carwin fought threw an early broken nose, and was on his heels backing up when he threw a short jab that ended Gonzaga’s night.
The ability to throw that knock out punch while retreating is something few fighters can do, and something MMA fans haven’t really seen since the glory days of Chuck Liddell. Finally, against Mir, Carwin completely out-muscled him, pinning him against the cage and eventually using short, powerful dirty boxing that Mir was forced to crumble under.
It was only the fight against Wellisch that Carwin had the luxury of a full wind-up. In the other two examples, he made the best of a small window to throw the punches necessary to end the fight. Again, few fighters possess that kind of power. For Carwin it’s his most prized asset.
Both Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin possess phenomenal hands, and each has the skills to end a fight in the blink of an eye. While dos Santos unfortunately has a tougher opponent on the horizon than the one he was originally scheduled to face, the fans get treated to a fight with greater potential. Regardless of the outcome, the ringside doctors need to be sure they have the smelling salts handy. Someone might need to be woken up.
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