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Junior Dos Santos was supposed to fight Brock Lesnar.
He was supposed to face a former champion for the opportunity to challenge for the title himself. He spent several weeks in the brisk Las Vegas winter, coaching a collection of young mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters hoping to be the next Forrest Griffin or Rashad Evans, while Lesnar did the same with a second group of men.
They built up the anticipation for their bout throughout The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 season as they headed toward the UFC 131 main event to decide who would be the first challenger for division champion Cain Velasquez.
Unfortunately for both men, the fight never materialized. Lesnar was stricken with a second bout of diverticulitis and had to undergo major surgery to correct the issue.
With only one month left before the event in Vancouver, the Brazilian was suddenly left without an opponent. Fortunately there was another heavyweight slated to fight that same evening, another heavyweight who briefly flirted with UFC championship gold.
That man was Shane Carwin. And after surgery and a long layoff himself following his title bout with Lesnar at UFC 116, "The Engineer" was eager to get back "in the mix."
Who "Cigano" faced inside the Octagon that night in Vancouver didn't matter. He wanted to make a statement. And tonight (Nov. 12, 2011) he aims to make a similar decree when he faces Velasquez at UFC on Fox for the heavyweight title. That statement? The belt is coming home to Brazil.
Follow me after the jump as we take another look at the beating he gave Carwin in Canada earlier this year:
Less than a minute in, the American lunges in for a single-leg takedown that "Cigano" defends beautifully. They clinch against the fence, throwing short punches and knees to soften each other up. They break and a boxing match begins to ensue.
Carwin may have power, but his technique simply doesn't match that of his opponent. "Cigano" trains day in and day out with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, himself a trainee of the vaunted Cuban Olympic boxing team. The Brazilian has a striking acumen as accomplished as any heavyweight in the fight game.
Two minutes left in the round and a second takedown attempt from Carwin fails to put the Brazilian on his back. Returning to their feet, "Cigano" begins to utilize his jab, a testament to the excellent technique he possesses. Carwin can't seem to slip the quick, snapping punches to get inside and dos Santos makes him pay for it.
With less than 60 seconds remaining in the opening stanza, "Cigano" steps on the gas and begins to pick his opponent apart. Devastating combinations are unloaded and each punch finds its mark perfectly. One strike connects with Carwin's chin with enough force to drop the American to the mat.
When he finally gets back to his feet 30 seconds later, he no longer resembles a mixed martial artist. He looks more like a murder victim in the latest "Saw" movie. Because for half a minute, dos Santos battered Carwin on the mat, swinging his huge and powerful fists repeatedly and connecting with "The Engineer's" face each and every time.
Sitting in his corner before the second round, he's a bloody, mangled mess with a huge laceration under his left eye and what appears to be a broken nose.
While Carwin made the remaining 10 minutes a somewhat spirited affair, what followed next seemed to be a glorified sparring session for the Brazilian. He continued to land strikes at will -- jabs to the skull, kicks to the leg, or punishing hooks to the body.
A stiff hook from the American was the only significant offense during the second stanza while he was forced to absorb more damage including a devastating head kick and another laceration, this one under his right eye.
In the third and final round, "The Engineer" immediately shoots in for a takedown and momentarily gets his opponent down. The Brazilian avoids any damage during the grappling reprieve and by the time they're back to their feet, the feeling is -- both in Vancouver and at home -- the fight is dos Santos' to lose.
He continues his stand up dominance through the end of the bout and has his hand raised in the end. Carwin was a man who just a year prior was challenging for the heavyweight title and "Cigano" made him look like an amateur inside the Octagon.
Dos Santos brutalized the American for 15 minutes straight, while never being in any real danger. Now this man -- undefeated in the UFC -- faces Cain Velasquez -- himself undefeated throughout his career.
UFC boss Dana White has said tonight is the biggest fight in the promotion's history and would have picked Velasquez and dos Santos no matter what.
With performances like this one, who could argue?