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In this edition of "Hey man, nice shot," we look at a common element which has propelled both UFC 131 headliners, Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos, from prospects to contenders.
Carwin used Brazilian giant Gabriel Gonzaga for exposure at UFC 96: "Jackson vs. Jardine" back on March 7, 2009, in the co-main event slot. Dos Santos also destroyed "Napao" just over a year later at UFC on Versus 2: "Vera vs. Jones" in March 2010.
Different year, same results.
I guess these heavyweight kings would like to outshine the NCAA March Madness tournament the way they make fireworks that time of year. But will their number one contender showdown on June 11 in Vancouver to earn a right to face UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez outshine the NBA and NHL finals?
Let's take a jump and look at the carnage.
UFC 96 "Jackson vs. Jardine" featured a heavyweight co-main event of Shane Carwin (10-0) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (10-3). The fight was set to see if "The Engineer" was a pretender or a contender and if the Brazilian was going to make one more run at the UFC heavyweight title.
Gonzaga was coming off back-to-back wins that were preceded by consecutive losses which included losing to UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture. The effects of losing his shot at the UFC title -- even when he was favored -- came out when he suffered a technical knockout loss to Fabricio Werdum. "Napao" would rebound with two straight wins over lesser competition in Justin McCully and Josh Hendricks.
Carwin was undefeated with brutal stoppages of Neil Wain and Christian Wellisch and looking to jump into the shark infested waters of the heavyweight top five. An older prospect wasn't getting any younger and with his explosive power he knew he needed to win in devastating fashion.
The crowd was anticipating a knockout as both fighters were known for packing heavy hands. As expected, the bout did not last long but it first appeared that Carwin was going to be exposed as a "pretender" as he ate three unanswered rights that rocked the future interim heavyweight champion.
Gonzaga stunned him and it looked like it may have been a few inches from being over. It was. Gonzaga was gonzo when his heavy-handed foe lit up the Brazilian with a beautiful straight right which gave him all the ammo needed to be considered a contender.
UFC on Versus 2: "Vera vs. Jones" was a coming out party for both Junior Dos Santos and now current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Two young prospects wanting to prove their worth in front of a rabid television audience with some viewers wanting to bare witness to at least one being "exposed."
The night proved to be a very exciting one as both "Cigano" and "Bones" would go on to win their respective fights in devastating fashion.
Dos Santos was facing fellow countrymen Gabriel Gonzaga in the co-main event. Junior was a very impressive 10-1 and on a roll with wins over Gilbert Yvel, Mirko Filipovic, Stefan Struve and Fabricio Werdum.
Gonzaga was coming off a win over the lesser known Chris Tuchscherer and a loss to Shane Carwin at UFC 96. Joe Silva was perhaps making Gonzaga his new gatekeeper or his tool to legitimize the next crop of heavyweight contenders.
Both Dos Santos and Gonzaga are heavily skilled, heavy handed and the main "x-factor" was the ground skills of Gonzaga versus the unseen ground game of Dos Santos. When you think about it, both Dos Santos and Gonzaga may very well be the best Brazilian heavyweights since Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
The feeling out process was a little longer then Gonzaga and Carwin's at UFC 96 but either way the fight did not hit the ground.
At 3:53 of the very first round, the only thing that hit the mat was Gabriel Gonzaga's knocked out body. Gonzaga steers himself towards Dos Santos to throw a left body kick. He uses his hands to create defense but adds torque/motion to his power. Junior stays calm as he knows that Gonzaga will drop his left hand. Junior then stays calm and tight, eats the kick and tosses a beautiful left hook to knock Gonzaga down. The end is all but done as Dos Santos rains down some extra bombs upon Gonzaga until the referee calls mercy.
So, Maniacs' who do you think showed more or was better in the match-up against this common foe? Carwin or Dos Santos?