UFC 146: After ‘dark times,’ stronger Shane del Rosario ready to reintroduce himself to MMA world

Shane del Rosario returns to action this weekend (May 26, 2012) at UFC 146 after a year-long layoff following a car accident that resulted in a back injury on April 14, 2011.

Once hailed as one of the top Heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) prospects in the sport, Shane del Rosario has been out of action since Feb. 2011 when he defeated Lavar Johnson at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Silva," which was an alternate match for the promotion's Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament.

On quite a roll, del Rosario -- who is undefeated (11-0) -- was on his way to meet newly crowned Strikeforce Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier, also undefeated (7-0 at the time), in a battle of top prospects at Strikeforce: "Overeem vs Werdum." However, on April 14, 2011, del Rosario was involved in a car accident in which a drunk driver rear-ended the vehicle in which he was riding, causing multiple severe back injuries that placed him on the shelf for an extended period of time.

Facing an uphill battle, "No Limits" looked to prove he warrants his nickname by defying the odds, enduring tough rehab and getting back to doing what he does best: Dominate the fight business.

After a year of grueling rehabilitation, fighting off the anxiety after not healing fast enough and facing "dark times," del Rosario is ready to get back into the swing of things and return to MMA action. This time, however, the scenery will be much different and the stakes will be significantly higher.

The former Strikeforce contender and kickboxing champion will now call the Octagon home as he makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut as he takes on Croatian striker Stipe Miocic this weekend (May 26, 2012) at UFC 146 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Appearing on "The MMA Hour," del Rosario recounted the accident that has kept him sidelined for the past year and talked about the grueling road to recovery leading up to his fight against Stipe, whom he says he had never heard of, but now knows will be a very tough fight.

See for yourself:

"It was last year of April 2011. I was driving home and I was in a car accident. I suffered several herniated disks and bulging disks. It just took me out for a long time. I had never really been injured before and it was the first time that I really couldn't do anything for a long time. The first six months I didn't train at all and it was very tough and anybody that is going through a back injury knows. It's taken a while but it seems like it's come full circle and I'm ready to fight May 26 and it's my biggest fight of my career and it's the UFC so I'm nothing but excited and thrilled to be there. I always thought I was going to keep going but I didn't really realize how long it was going to take. Once it hit three months, I didn't get better at all. So yeah, I started to wonder and get some anxiety over the issue. Then six months hit, it got even worse. But I just kept going and kept working and just doing all of my physical therapy and it was definitely some dark times. I'm lucky, it help me put things into perspective. I feel a lot better. It really sucked that I was in a car accident I didn't want and it was an injury that was pretty serious. But I worked through it and it's made me a stronger fighter because it's made me a stronger person."

First up on his comeback trail is Miocic, who replaced the injured Gabriel Gonzaga, and who is also undefeated in his young MMA career (2-0 in the UFC).

"The Stipe fight might be a harder fight (than Gabriel Gonzaga) in the fact that he is a younger fighter, he is undefeated, and he is trying to make a name for himself just like me and he is hungry. He is going to come out ready to fight. One thing I noticed about Stipe is that he is much more athletic than Gonzaga. So I think we are going to have a fast paced battle in this fight and I'm hoping that we can win "Fight of the Night." I actually didn't know anything about him. They called. We just kind of looked really quick on our phones of any videos we could see or anything. It's my first fight in the UFC so I don't have much bargaining power. So, I was just happy to be here and I'm ready to fight. I just said yes and moved on from there."

It truly has been a tough road back for del Rosario and it won't get an easier when he steps into the cage against Miocic, who has proven he is tough as nails and can take the fight anywhere with his Golden Gloves and NCAA Division-1 wrestling credentials.

In a battle that pits two young undefeated Heavyweights with enormous potential on a card that features some of the best big men on the planet, expect both men to come out ready prove they belong amongst the land of giants. Only one can remain undefeated and the other will take the dreaded step back in their career.

But who will prevail? Opinions, please.

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