Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just tied a ribbon around its latest pay-per-view (PPV) extravaganza TONIGHT (Sat., June 11, 2011) from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
UFC 131 featured a re-worked main event between former interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin, filling in for an injured Brock Lesnar, attempting to eliminate The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13 coach Junior dos Santos from the division title chase.
Dos Santos boxed him up early and often, painting his face crimson with a devastating jab that set up a near finish at the end of round one. "Cigano" had Carwin hurt real bad, trapping him against the fence and unloading with a flurry of shots that had the referee almost stepping in to stop it.
Fortunately, he let it continue -- It was eerily similar to Lesnar-Carwin ... just without the improbable come-from-behind victory.
Carwin, bloody and beaten, was able to go the entire distance despite enduring the ass-kicking of a lifetime. He showed tremendous heart and determination to survive the first round, let alone 10 additional minutes with the Brazilian bruiser.
Dos Santos, now with seven wins inside the Octagon, finally gets his chance to challenge for a world title. He'll take on UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez later on this year -- better late than never.
In the co main event of the evening, former two-time lightweight title challenger Kenny Florian made his debut in the featherweight division against dynamic striker, Diego Nunes. On the line for Florian was the possibility of a 145-pound title shot in the near future, adding to the pressure to turn in a winning performance.
He didn't wilt.
Despite two knockdowns -- one in the first round and the other at the very end of the final frame -- Florian pushed the pace for 15 minutes and took his much younger counterpart into deep water. Cardio and fatigue was not and issue for Florian. Nunes winged wild punches and threw a bevy of flashy, spinning strikes, but none of them on their own were able to stop "Ken Flo."
Florian, who went on to earn a unanimous decision win, looked sharp, energized and ready to make a championship run in the lighter division. Whether or not he's rewarded with an immediate chance to fight division kingpin -- and Nunes training partner -- Jose Also, remains to be seen.
But why delay the inevitable -- Florian, 35, isn't getting any younger.
For the most part, it turned out to be a slugfest.
Maia clipped Munoz in the opening moments of the fight with a grazing left hook that had the "Filipino Wrecking Machine" doing the "stanky leg." He would survive and roar back, but that more or less set the tone for the remainder of the fight.
There were moments that highlighted their various strengths -- Maia attempted several submissions and Munoz secured numerous takedowns. However, it appeared that they canceled each other out and the fight would ultimately be won in the stand up.
That honor would go to Munoz, who apparently did enough in the eyes of the judges to earn a hard-fought (and important) unanimous decision over a former number one division contender. It also marked his third straight victory, which more than likely gets him another top opponent in his next appearance.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Dos Santos and Carwin weren't the only big boys on tonight's card.
Jon Olav Einemo, 6'6," and Dave Herman, 6'4," both making their Octagon debuts, went toe-to-toe for nearly two full rounds, exchanging heavy shots that would paralyze most mortals. It was only a matter of time before one of them fell.
And it eventually came three minutes into the second stanza.
"Pee Wee" landed a flush knee on the chin of the "Viking" and followed it up with a blistering left hook, sending the Norwegian jiu-jitsu specialist crashing to the canvas. Herman, who appeared to be in some trouble himself just prior to the finish, followed it up with fight-ending ground and pound.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
This back-and-forth fight was far from technical, but it was sure fun to watch. Both men were visibly gassed with one round remaining, indicating that they'll need to improve their cardio programs moving forward.
It will be real interesting to see if Herman can capitalize on his performance and make some noise in a suddenly thin UFC heavyweight division.
Donald Cerrone returned to the Octagon for just the second time, taking on Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Vagner Rocha to kickoff the main card PPV action. Cerrone, no stranger to "Fight of the Night" performances, came into the 155-pound bout concerned about the dangerous ground fame of his Pablo Popovitch-trained opponent.
And it showed.
"Cowboy" avoided Rocha's takedowns at all costs, stuffing nearly all of his attempts and keeping his distance throughout the entire fight. At times it looked like they were playing a game of keep away. Cerrone, however, was able to punish him terribly with painful leg kicks, which had Rocha wincing in pain and limping after 15 minutes of abuse.
Rocha essentially had only one way to win this fight -- with a submission -- and had no answers whatsoever for the kickboxing of Cerrone, who went on to win a lopsided unanimous decision. Cerrone admitted in his post-fight remarks that he fought "not to lose" because he didn't want to get caught in a submission.
We'll let him slide this time -- he delivers the goods more often than not.
That's enough from us -- now it's your turn to discuss "Dos Santos vs. Carwin" in the comments section below. Sound off, Maniacs.
For complete UFC 131 results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.