A battle of top-five heavyweights is on tap tonight when Junior dos Santos meets Shane Carwin in the main event of UFC 131, live from Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Here is a look at four burning questions surrounding tonight's event.
1) Which fighter will rebound better from their long layoff — Carwin or dos Santos?
Along with having the same exact record (12-1) both fighters have been on extended layoffs since their last bouts. Carwin hasn't seen action in 11 months since his submission loss to Brock Lesnar at UFC 116 and dos Santos has been out 10 months since his unanimous decision win over Roy Nelson at UFC 117. Not all layoffs are created equal, however. Carwin has undergone serious back surgery and will go into the cage lighter than he has for any of his UFC fights minus his debut. The combination of surgery and weighing less is going to impact Carwin's performance much more than dos Santos, who was only off for so long because Cain Velasquez got hurt. Dos Santos has been able to be active the entire time and that is going to play to his advantage in this fight.
2) Can Kenny Florian make an impact at featherweight?
I think so. The first cut is always going to be the hardest, and if Florian can perform well in this fight, he'll be off and running. UFC president Dana White said yesterday on ESPN2 that if Florian beats Diego Nunes, he'll likely be in line for the next shot at Jose Aldo's UFC featherweight title. So the stakes are high for Florian here. If he isn't adversely hurt by the weight cut, Florian has the skills, both striking and on the ground, to be a serious contender in the division. If he gets past the 16-1 Nunes, he is going to give Aldo a bigger challenge than anyone has thus far.
This is a true pick'em fight for me. A total coin flip. Although I'm picking Munoz to win a decision, I do actually believe Maia's jiu-jitsu is going to play a bigger factor than Munoz's ground-and-pound. I think in the moments the fight is on the ground (which I don't think will be more than a few minutes total), Maia is going to neutralize Munoz by being extremely active from the bottom. He is going to have Munoz on the defensive which means Munoz won't be able to unleash as many of those hellacious shots as he possibly could have. I can analyze this one all I want, but I'm very interested to see how these two men approach this fight. Should be a heck of a chess match out there.
4) Which undercard fight has the most to gain? Most to lose?
The undercard fighter with the most to gain is most certainly Dustin Poirier. With the featherweight division not having a real clear line of contenders, an impressive win by Poirier gets him "in the mix" much faster than anyone else. Coming off a dominant win over Josh Grispi in January, Poirier draws Jason Young, who is making his UFC debut. A big win means Poirier could face someone like a Mark Hominick in his next bout.
The undercard fighter with the most to lose is Krzysztof Soszynski. He faces Mike Massenzio, who is going up a weight class to fight him on four days notice and weighed in at 201 pounds. If Soszynski loses this fight, it'll be a big blemish for him considering the circumstances. Massenzio truly has nothing to lose in this fight and that makes him dangerous. Soszynski is going to have to have a big performance here.