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UFC 131 predictions, preview and analysis

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Nostradumbass

UFC 131: "Dos Santos vs. Carwin" is all set to go down tomorrow night (June 11, 2011) live from the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 9 p.m. ET (with Facebook and Spike TV "Prelim" fights beginning at 6:30 and 8:00 p.m. ET, respectively).

Two of the UFC's most powerful punchers -- Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin -- are going to drop bombs on Saturday night and see who explodes first. The winner is expected to challenge for the division title later this year and if this thing ends the way most of us are predicting, Cain Velasquez is in big trouble regardless of the outcome.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The UFC 131 headliners aren't the only combatants chasing gold, as Mark Munoz wants to prove the middleweight division has in fact not been cleaned out by 185-pound deity Anderson Silva. Will defeating Demian Maia accomplish that goal?

And what would a win over Diego Nunes accomplish for Kenny Florian?

There will certainly be a lot to talk about on Sunday morning. I've also included the current betting lines for each fight so you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each competitor.

Now, enough with the formalities ... let's get cracking:

King of Predictions

265 lbs.: Junior "Cigano" dos Santos (12-1) vs. Shane "The Engineer" Carwin (12-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I don't think I'm going to shock anyone by saying this one's going to end by knockout. Yes, Shane Carwin was an exceptional collegiate wrestler but there's really no reason to be shooting on people when you can hit as hard as he does. So of course the big question coming into this title eliminator bout is who lands first?

To be quite honest, I don't think it matters.

Carwin is winning this fight and he's winning it in brutal fashion. That's not to suggest that Junior dos Santos isn't as talented or doesn't have the better striking, he may very well have the upper hand. The problem in this fight is that I've seen opponents absorb punches from "Cigano" and keep on trucking.

I have yet to see anyone take a shot from "The Engineer" and live to tell about it.

I know the counter-argument to that is Brock Lesnar, but let's not pretend that the Duke of Diverticulitis was able to valiantly fight his way through the onslaught. He was curled up in the fetal position while his attacker pounded on flailing knees and arms. To that end, I think the only person in the UFC heavyweight division that can beat Carwin is himself.

And is losing 20 pounds of excess fat and muscle going to rob him of his power? I say thee nay. I dare even predict he'll be faster and less likely to transform into Rosie the Robot when the clock passes the five minute mark. If there is a negative to this fight it's his injury layoff, but I'm not sure he has the type of style that would be affected by cage rust. He throws bombs. They land. They detonate. People fall down.

What's unfortunate is I believe Junior dos Santos can beat Cain Velasquez and would probably be UFC heavyweight champion if he didn't share a division with Carwin. But alas, he does. I expect the Brazilian to come out on Saturday night, stick to the gameplan and do all the right things. It just won't be enough.

Mark your calender Mr. Velasquez, "The Engineer" is coming for you.

Betting lines (as of June 10): Junior dos Santos (-175) vs. Shane Carwin (+145)

Prediction: Carwin via knockout

145 lbs.: Kenny "KenFlo" Florian (13-5) vs. Diego "The Gun" Nunes (16-1)

Nostradumbass predicts:  I really wish I was making this prediction after the UFC 131 weigh in event and not before. Kenny Florian is making his featherweight debut but has opted against a practice cut. That doesn't leave me with that warm, fuzzy feeling when you consider how thin he was as a lightweight. Take a look at the UFC 101 weigh in pics here and then subtract yet another ten pounds.

I know "KenFlo" is telling the media he feels great and it's not a problem, but c'mon, what do you expect him to say? "Holy shit ... I'm in trouble ..." He could sail in at 146 without incident but to me it's about more than just hitting your mark. Does he look dried out? Was he able to rehydrate adequately? How did his body react to the first trip to featherweight?

I ask these questions because they directly impact the outcome of this fight. If the Bostonian cruises through the weigh ins with no adverse side effects, I think he's a lock. He's got great hands, great jiu-jitsu and is one of the most cerebral attackers in all of mixed martial arts.

However, if he's not 100-percent, Nunes can easily steal this one.

"The Gun" is a bona fide talent and training alongside reigning division champion Jose Aldo is a nice feather in his cap. I am concerned that his last six fights have gone to a decision, including two splits and a loss to LC Davis. He wasn't exactly tearing through the division and when you consider the level of talent Florian has faced, the Brazilian really does have an uphill battle on fight night.

This one comes down to Florian. He knows his body better than any of us and I don't think he's arrogant enough to just roll the dice with this kind of move. If he's healthy and alert, this should be his fight to lose. I don't think he does.

Betting lines (as of June 10): Kenny Florian (-300) vs. Diego Nunes (+250)

Prediction: Florian via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Mark "The Philippine Wrecking Machine" Munoz (10-2) vs. Demian Maia (14-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Am I the only one who thinks Mark Munoz is getting a little too big for his britches? He is without question one of the middleweight division's top contenders, but when you start talking about submitting a guy like Demian Maia, that's when I ask for the check and don't leave a tip.

I don't want to turn this into an anti-Munoz crusade because it isn't, but I also want to keep things in perspective. Pasting CB Dollaway isn't a one-way ticket to Champsville, nor is pounding out Kendall Grove or out-wrestling Aaron Simpson. I'm concerned that he's not respecting Maia enough heading into this fight and that could be um, bad.

But in his defense, the Brazilian hasn't exactly been terrorizing the division as of late.

Maia started his UFC career by submitting his first five opponents. His last five would all go to the scorecards with the exception of the Nate Marquardt fight, where he executed a "Great" suicide flip. Unfortunately it wasn't a breakdancing competition.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Because we haven't seen the kind of grappling Maia is capable of in over two years, I think fans (and maybe even Munoz) have started to forget what kind of credentials he brings to the cage. I won't bore you by listing them but let's just say they give cold sweats to anyone not named Marcelo Garcia.

But will we see Maia the boxer on Saturday night?

I hope not, because if we do, there's a good chance he gets crushed. "The Philippine Wrecking Machine" has crazy power and can finish anyone in the division. But it wouldn't surprise me to see him plant his foe, recklessly rush in for the kill and end up getting triangled a la Fedor vs. Werdum.

Betting lines (as of June 10): Mark Munoz (-115) vs. Demian Maia (-115)

Prediction: Maia via submission

265 lbs: Dave "Pee Wee" Herman (20-2) vs. Jon Olav Einemo (6-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Dave's a loner Dottie, a rebel. Jon Olav Einemo got a second lease on life (or at the very least his mixed martial arts career) when power-punching poindexter Shane Carwin got yanked to replace Brock Lesnar's intestines in the main event.

It's pretty amazing what Dave Herman has accomplished in MMA considering he jumped into the sport with the attitude of "Eh, I'll just figure it out as I go along," but he's done rather well for himself and compiled an impressive 20-2 record in the process.

Unfortunately his resume reads like the credits to Jean Claude Van Damme's last direct-to-torrent karate flick: You recognize most of the names but can't seem to remember where you saw them in action. And when your last opponent is (still) referred to as "that guy who kissed Heath Herring" you know you're in trouble.

That makes this fight even more dangerous for "Pee-Wee."

If he comes in and smashes the jiu-jitsu wizard, it's going to be viewed as a meaningless win over a guy whose last fight was during the MySpace era. If he loses, it's just the opposite. You've now become the jump-off point for Einemo's resurrection.

I expect Herman to make the most of this opportunity and play it safe. He's not going to be winning any bonuses for tomorrow night's performance but this is about job security. Look for him to keep it upright and drag the 30-something grappler into deep water. Heck, with his layoff, Herman could probably drown him in a sidewalk puddle outside the arena but I'll give Einemo the benefit of the doubt.

Herman by stand-and-bland.

Betting lines (as of June 10): Dave Herman (-200) vs. Jon Olav Einemo (+160)

Prediction: Herman via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone (14-3) vs. Vagner Rocha (6-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Donald Cerrone has become the Gunny Highway of the lightweight division with his perpetual tirade towards anyone who looks at him funny. I suppose it worked for Chael Sonnen but I always got the feeling he was winking at us behind the scenes.

"Cowboy" is just flat-out malicious.

The good news is he can back it up. I thought his pair of losses to Ben Henderson demystified him a bit, but Cerrone did what any great fighter would do: He came back with a vengeance, avenging his loss to Jamie Varner before destroying Chris Horodecki and Paul Kelly.

Like any competitor under the Greg Jackson umbrella, he continues to improve and I don't expect him to be in much danger against Vagner Rocha. I know the Brazilian trains under Pablo Popovitch, but that doesn't mean he is Pablo Popovitch.

I also have concerns about his performance on the big stage. His UFC debut is against one of the division's better fighters and while I won't go crazy over last year's loss to Brent Bergmark under the Strikeforce banner, it is a concern.

I predict Cerrone will come out and follow the Jackson blueprint which will be fairly simple: beat Rocha up on the feet and stay out of guard.

Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Betting lines (as of June 10): Donald Cerrone (-500) vs. Vagner Rocha (+300)

Prediction: Cerrone via unanimous decision

That's a wrap, folks.

Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of UFC 131: "Dos Santos vs. Carwin."

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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