In Shane's preparation for his UFC 131 heavyweight fight against Junior Dos Santos fans will get to see a side of Shane that they haven't seen before, a smaller side. Previous to his bout with Brock Lesnar endurance was never really that much of an issue for Carwin; he had finished all of his opponents within the first round and did so in spectacular fashion time and time again. Fans presumed that one day Shane's cardio would come into play but no one delved into topic too deeply simply because we had never been given a reason to question it. His performances had been nothing but impressive and as long as a fighter achieves that we assume the best.
In the buildup for Carwin vs Lesnar many experts that regularly break down upcoming fights and provide analysis had brought up the gray area of Carwin's game, but it was never used as a reason that he would lose, more so just an open possibility. 'If' he would tire, 'if' he couldn't go past the first—they were simply 'ifs' and nothing more.
When the fight eventually came around we saw the same Carwin that we all knew and loved for one round; the Carwin that would come out with his fists cocked back ready to lay his opponent out with a Thor-like punch that would make your face hurt just seeing it on television. For virtually five entire minutes Carwin was able to transform his fists into meat grinders courtesy of Brock Lesnar's face.
Making it out of the first round, a seemingly beaten Brock was able to completely turn the fight into his favor and submit an exhausted Shane Carwin via arm triangle choke. The question was finally answered, Carwin's motor wasn't running on diesel. Carwin after the fight was unwilling to put the blame of his performance on the one area of his game that people had wondered about. He further explained his perspective of what happened in a blog post on his site www.share-carwin.com:
The game plan last night was to be patient and let the fight come to you. When I had him in trouble the ref keep saying he was going to stop it and then towards the end of the 1st my body began to seize up. In between rounds I could not move my legs and had what felt like a whole body cramp. My cardio was fine but my body was not. What can you do? You have to stand up and face your opponent.
Heading into the second I knew I need to finish the fight or I was going to be in trouble. Much like the Champion he is I am sure Brock was thinking the same thing. I had zero take down defense as my legs were dead to me and the rest is as they say history.
Whether or not Carwin wanted to admit to himself that cardio more than likely was a huge factor in his performance and not an adrenaline dump, he's placed his stamina and eating habits as two of his primary focuses for his preparation for Dos Santos. Although Carwin has shed some weight his camp claims that none of the weight lost has been muscle mass. If this true this can be looked at as nothing but a positive note for Shane Carwin.
Some will argue that a trimmer Shane Carwin is a less imposing Shane Carwin, but my question is, when has Shane Carwin ever relied on his physical size to win a fight? Since Carwin made his UFC debut at UFC 84 on May 24th, 2008 he's faced five opponents and he's only be able to take one of his opponents down. And the guy that be took down was this guy:
Call me crazy but an overweight British heavyweight who only had one fight in the UFC on one of their UK cards doesn't exactly scream 'elite wrestler' to me. This isn't a knock on Carwin's wrestling abilities at all. It's only to point out that he's never needed a size advantage to be able to overpower his opponents to the mat to pick up the win.
Because of this, shedding a few pounds and focusing on endurance was the best move that Shane Carwin could have possibly made. While he has the power to knock any fighter out on any given night, putting all of your eggs in the 'first round knockout' basket isn't the smartest move to make. By shedding some of his weight he's allowing himself to last longer in a fight. Some fighters have been able to cope with carrying around extra baggage, but regardless, less weight means a less load to carry which means...extra endurance.
As far as punching power is concerned ask any fan of the sweet science what's the last thing to leave a fighter and they'll tell you it's his punch. The ability to deliver a punch isn't something that you can gain by lifting weights, it's something that you're born with. Mike Tyson delved into this topic once in an interview:
Punches have so many diverse looks. You look at a guy that's just a 100 pounds and they could kill you, and you look at a guy that's a 250 pound monster and he can't hurt you at all. Look at a guy like Tommy Hearns; Tommy Hearns at a 160 pounds could knock out a heavyweight. He just punches tremendous. There's never been a man at his weight that punches as hard as Tommy Hearns.
This couldn't be a more true statement. Even if Carwin were to lose some of his muscle mass his punching power would still be just as effective as it was before he made the decision to drop weight. People tend to think that physical strength is directly related to punching power when in fact the relationship between the two is virtually non-existent.
When looking at Carwin's opponent, Junior Dos Santos, it would seem that in order for a man such as Carwin to beat him he would have to be prepared to go the entire distance of the fight. Dos Santos is not only a man that's never been knocked out, he's never even been rocked in a fight. The questions that loomed around about Carwin's gas tank prior to Brock are the same types of questions that surround Dos Santos's chin. Can he take a punch? No one really knows.
Carwin has made all of the right decisions in preparation for this weekend's fight. If Carwin's new game-plan holds up for him the way he's planned it to then it's going to be a long night for Junior Dos Santos. Perhaps we should be looking more closely at how Junior can beat the new Carwin and not the other way around.
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