Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Just over a year ago, hulking heavyweight prospect Shane Carwin was the scariest (expletive) on earth. Over a five year span, the full-time engineer had compiled a perfect 12-0 record en route to earning a big money match-up against then-division kingpin, Brock Lesnar.
Carwin would take center stage at UFC 116 after claiming the Interim heavyweight strap, which came at the expense of Frank Mir's ability to chew solid foods. His frightening stoppage over the former 265-pound deity continued a streak of violent finishes that on paper, read like a work of fiction.
12 straight wins. 12 straight finishes. There wasn't a fighter to date that was able to survive more than three and a half minutes against the 5XL fist bumps.
When the opposing goliaths eventually did hook 'em up on July 3, 2010, it seemed like just another day at the water plant for the Greg Jackson disciple. Lesnar wilted under the powerful paws of the beefy bumrush, and seemed seconds away from a technical knockout stoppage.
Then something happened.
After five straight minutes of cruel and unusual punishment, Carwin answered the bell for round two, the first time he was ever asked to do so in his entire career. Instead of picking up where he'd left off, he found himself in a state of suspended animation, as his muscular frame betrayed him after years of steadfast obedience.
In the end, he did what he had done his entire career. He was aggressive. Only this time, it cost him the fight -- and his shot at unifying the division titles.
Perhaps the cautionary approach in his next fight, a knee-jerk reaction in a number one contender's bout against brain-scrambling Brazilian Junior dos Santos, allowed "Cigano" to get the upper hand at UFC 131. And by "upper hand," I mean the kind of beating that gets most men 15-to-life in the state penitentiary.
Was Carwin embroiled in a Catch-22?
Too aggressive left him frozen beneath an eight-sided carbonite chamber. Not aggressive enough saw his blood sprayed across the canvas a la Jurgen Von Anhalt.
But what if, just maybe, his loss to Lesnar was more about gameplanning and less about agression? In a recent conversation with MMAmania.com, Carwin talked about his pending return, both to the UFC and to the strategy that got him there in the first place.
"Maybe at the end of the year, maybe the beginning of next year, we'll see what the UFC has lined up for me. I'm not in camp right now, but I'm working on the things I need to be working on to stay competitive. It's really up to the UFC, I'm taking it fight-by-fight. The division is full of talent and now we have the guys from Strikeforce coming over. Josh Barnett is a top heavyweight, you know there's actually a bunch of top heavyweights over there, just look at Daniel Cormier. Overall I think I've just got to go back to being a little more aggressive as a fighter. As long as I stay passionate about who as I am a fighter, as long as I still love it, then things will be fine."
Climbing out of an 0-2 hole at the tender age of 35 leaves no margin for error.
Fortunately the Coloradoan has enough highlight reel footage to make him a marketable contender -- as long as he continues to win. Another loss, at any level, would be disastrous for what is arguably his final run at the top.
Will he get there?
One thing is for certain, I don't envy any fighter tasked with the responsibility of stopping him. Just who that prospective opponent might be, at least for now, remains a mystery.
But that shouldn't let us, as fight fans, play matchmaker for his 2012 fight campaign. Let's hear your best guess in the comments section below.
Shane Carwin's next fight should be against ...