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UFC 131 Fight Card: Shane Carwin vs. Junior dos Santos Preview

Shane Carwin vs. Junior dos Santos. <strong>Photos by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images</strong>
Shane Carwin vs. Junior dos Santos. Photos by Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

In the main event of the evening at UFC 131 on Saturday night, Brazilian striker Junior dos Santos (12-1) will square off against former UFC heavyweight title contender Shane Carwin (12-1) in a bout that will likely determine the next challenger to current champion Cain Velasquez's crown. The bout was originally billed as a showdown between Brock Lesnar and Junior dos Santos, but Lesnar was forced to withdraw from the bout due to a reemergence of diverticulitis. Carwin accepted the bout on May 12th, giving him roughly four weeks to prepare.

The bout was originally a classic striker vs. wrestler match-up, but Carwin isn't a vaunted wrestler with a laundry list of credentials like Lesnar. He's much more of a power striker who has the ability to put down opponents with a subtle extension of his arm. He possesses a pressuring clinch game that features flurries of straight right hands that cut through opponents' defenses like a knife through butter.

Dos Santos is the more polished striker in this affair, utilizing quick footwork and a variety of combinations from distance to batter opponents on the feet. The bout with Roy Nelson was the perfect example of what dos Santos can do to his opponent if he isn't pressured by attempted takedowns. Solid straight punch combinations that mix in overhands and uppercuts are dos Santos' bread and butter in a fight, and Carwin will have a hard time trying to wade through those strikes if dos Santos can circle away from Carwin's rushes.

Carwin's lessened weight could be advantageous for his conditioning concerns that showed up during the second round of his title bout with Brock Lesnar in July. All of that muscle absorbs a tremendous amount of oxygen, and the decrease in that muscle mass may have been a step to fighting what Carwin called lactic acidosis following the loss. Carwin will, however, still hold a twenty-five pound weight advantage, which should come in handy if he can find a way to bring dos Santos to the ground.

Who will land the big blow first? That's the most relevant question. Carwin packs more stopping power in his punches, but dos Santos' footwork should allow him to evade Carwin's attacks and counter from the outside. When Carwin's booming overhands fail him, he'll work for takedowns, hoping he can take advantage of his size. Unfortunately, dos Santos has the athletic ability to make it difficult for him.

The only concern for dos Santos is a gameplan involving an immediate rush for takedowns by Carwin. If dos Santos can weather the storm, he should be able to put away Carwin by the second round. If he finds himself on his back, Carwin's overwhelming power could stop this fight inside the first round. I'm more prone to believing dos Santos will be able to avoid that area of the fight, maintain distance, and batter Carwin on the outside. I'll take him via TKO in round 2


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