After seven consecutive wins to begin his Ultimate Fighting Championship career, Junior dos Santos finally has his chance.
After an impressive decision win over Shane Carwin at UFC 131, dos Santos will face Cain Velasquez in the not-too-distant future for the heavyweight championship.
He has beaten some of the best on his way to the title shot, including Fabricio Werdum, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and now Carwin.
The victory for dos Santos (13-1, 7-0 UFC) was nothing short of impressive, as he dominated Carwin (12-2, 4-2 UFC) from start to finish. Though Carwin seemed to have improved his cardio, he was no match for dos Santos, who began to wear Carwin down at the end of Round 1.
After a relatively tepid beginning, Carwin attempted a single leg takedown at the 3:05 mark of the first round, but dos Santos got back up quickly. It may have been the first sign for Carwin that things were not going to go his way on the night.
By the end of the first round, dos Santos was landing some jabs, taking Carwin down at the 4:15 mark. The round ended with dos Santos pounding Carwin, a result reminiscent of Carwin’s pounding of fellow heavyweight Frank Mir at UFC 111, which gave Carwin the interim heavyweight belt.
This time around, Carwin was on the receiving end of the beatdown from the now 13-1 dos Santos. Referee Herb Dean had an opportunity to stop the fight as a bloodied Carwin took the beatdown from dos Santos, but give Dean credit for letting the fight continue. UFC President Dana White also praised Dean for allowing the fight to carry on.
Dos Santos began Round 2 with a rare head kick in the early stage of the round, something we have not seen from the boxing expert much in his UFC lifetime. Indeed, the kicks are something that White said dos Santos will have to work on.
"You know what I think?" said White, at the postfight news conference. "I think he's going to have to get a lot more well-rounded. He said he's going to work on his boxing. Dude, you better start working on your kicks and your punches.”
Despite being heavily bruised, Carwin was still showing signs of strong cardio through the midway mark of the second round. It even seemed as if Carwin had gained some momentum around the 2:55 mark of the round, with Carwin hunting dos Santos admirably. His corner screamed “Back him up, Shane!” as they urged the Division II wrestling champion to continue his hunting of dos Santos.
However, dos Santos was simply too much. He landed some late body shots on Carwin and took Round 2 by controlling the early and late parts of the round.
Despite an early takedown in Round 3, Carwin was unable to do much with dos Santos down. Dos Santos had worked himself loose within 20 seconds of being taken down by Carwin. It was a pivotal storyline of the fight; Carwin was able to take dos Santos down a few times, but unable to do anything once he had him down.
Dos Santos continued to pound Carwin with a steady left hook, with many punches landing in the 2:45 to 3:00 mark of the third round. Dos Santos perfectly executed two takedowns in the final minute of the round, giving him the third round. It was the most competitive round of the fight, but dos Santos was able to take it.
It was clearly a frustrating fight for Carwin, who, despite having good cardio and a decent game plan, was outworked by the Brazilian’s boxing. When all was said and done, dos Santos had the heavy striking advantage, 104-22. Carwin was unable to land a single body shot in the fight, which hampered his ability to wear down dos Santos at all.
The stage is now set for a dos Santos-Velasquez title match, which could happen in October at UFC 136 in Houston. The absence of Brock Lesnar gave Carwin an opportunity, but he was unable to come up with the victory and has now lost his last two fights. Despite that fact, White has many kind words for Carwin.
Dos Santos will have plenty to work on for his fight with Velasquez. He will be facing somebody with equal, if not better cardio than Carwin.
For now though, a 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 scoring gives dos Santos his first chance at the heavyweight title. Will he be able to take the next step in his young career, much like Jon Jones has done in his short time in the UFC?
Don’t look now, but the future of the UFC is growing up before our very eyes, as dos Santos has begun what could be an illustrious career inside the Octagon.
Sources: ESPN.com, FightMetric