Shane Carwin comes across as a great guy when you see him in interviews or read his interactions with fans online. Any man who can lay claim to being an engineer and a former UFC interim heavyweight champion at the same time deserves respect, but the way Carwin carries himself makes it even easier to appreciate.
He’s also put on some exceptional heavyweight fights in recent years, providing fans with violent stoppages, vicious beatdowns and gutsy showings.
That’s why it’s hard to say this: He’s done as a title contender in the heavyweight division.
Unfortunately, Carwin is in the process of a surgery that will keep him out of action until mid-2012, scrapping a rumoured Dec. 30 tilt with top-five big man Fabricio Werdum. It’s the second time this year the hulking Coloradoan will go under the knife and the second time he’s been knocked down a rung on the heavyweight ladder as a result.
The reality is that at 36 years old, Carwin didn’t have a lot of mileage left in the first place. He’ll be 37 by the time he returns to the cage, and he won't be particularly close to gold given that he’ll have had three fights in three years—two of them losses.
It’s tough to have to say that about someone who could win fights on bulk and wrestling ability but has elected to go out and entertain people with carnage instead. He battered Brock Lesnar to within an inch of his life, put on an epic display of heart in a loss to Junior Dos Santos and has thunderous wins over Frank Mir, Gabriel Gonzaga and Christian Wellisch in the UFC. His highlight reel is impressive, and he’s gained fans as a result.
However, the sport is not designed for men of Carwin’s age and medical history to succeed. For every Anderson Silva or Randy Couture, there are a hundred guys who held on a little too long and kept coming back only to worsen injuries or lessen their quality of life down the line. And that’s not only talking about repeated knockout losses, of which Carwin has never suffered even one. That’s talking about wear-and-tear injuries like the neck, back, knees and hips.
Realistically, Carwin has nothing left to prove in the sport. He started late—almost 31 years old when he won his first pro fight—and tore to the top of the UFC in only a few short years. He could get out now and go back to helping teammates train for fights while spending his days in the office using his head as something other than a target for giant men to swing at.
Don’t expect him to pack it in yet, though, as he’s long said he fights for the love of competition. He’ll be back next summer, perhaps against Werdum or another highly ranked heavyweight that will guarantee an interesting matchup. However, with the clock ticking and his history of health problems, don’t expect a win or even a few wins to come easy or to get him back into the title picture.
Those days are behind him.