If there is one defining image of UFC 131 it is the battered faced of Shane Carwin. The former title challenger took a brutal beating at the hands of Junior dos Santos, managing to last the full three rounds, but at a steep price. Now, after back to back loses, we have to ask ourselves where Shane Carwin stands. Was this his last chance at Heavyweight glory?
With this loss, Carwin falls pretty far out of the UFC Heavyweight title picture. His record still stands at a solid 12-2, but both of those loses come to men now above him in the Heavyweight ranks. For him to get back towards the belt, he would need both dos Santos and Brock Lesnar to suffer notable loses, as well as earn some big wins himself. That's a somewhat lengthy road, and I don't think he has the time to make it back.
Shane Carwin is 36 years old. We've always known that time was something of a factor for him as he came to MMA a bit later in life than most. Last night, for the first time, he looked every bit the 36 year old, and by the end of the night, he could have passed for 46. Although he seemed to improve the cardio issues that plagued him against Lesnar, dos Santos made him look out of his element. Carwin came across as slow, plodding, and just as a beaten man. Worse, dos Santos seemed to take all the air out of Carwin's aura. With superior defense and a massive speed advantage, dos Santos managed to avoid the majority of Carwin's shots. When Shane did land the big punch, it seemingly did not affect dos Santos. That punching power was Carwin's calling card, and it failed him. We also saw dos Santos effectively nullify Carwin's impressive wrestling, avoiding takedowns, escaping the few bad situations he was put in, and taking an exhausted Carwin down himself. By taking away the punching and wrestling, dos Santos showed exactly how to defeat Carwin - it's one of those loses that can form a blueprint for other fighters to follow, and can mean big problems for a man's career.
So where does Carwin go now? Has he suddenly joined the ranks of fighters like CroCop and Noguiera whose purpose seems to be to give the young guys climbing the ladder a boost? Is he a new Gonzaga - a permanent gatekeeper to the division's upper levels? His next fight will be very telling, both in terms of opponent and outcome. If he is paired with a returning Lesnar, or rematched with Frank Mir, it shows he still has a role at the top of the division. If he wins one of those fights, he could even pull off a 3rd run towards the belt. But if he draws someone like Travis Browne or Matt Mitrione and fails to finish them in spectacular fashion, then we have likely seen the end of Shane Carwin as a contender.