It was a bout billed as an extremely even heavyweight showdown.
Instead, Junior dos Santos proved he was the only elite fighter in the cage last night (June 4, 2011) in the main event of UFC 131.
From start to finish, "Cigano" controlled the action of the three round number one contender bout. The entire story could be told on challenger Shane Carwin's face.
How did the Brazilian boxer overcome Carwin's advantages in wrestling, size, strength and power?
The answer can be found after the jump.
Dos Santos set the early tone for the fight when, just 30 seconds into the match, stuffing a takedown attempt from a Shane Carwin who still had 100 percent of his energy and was likely still feeling a flood of adrenaline. The Brazilian showed strong hips and wisely kept his head pinned behind Carwin's to avoid any of those uppercuts that massacred Frank Mir at UFC 111.
After shrugging off Carwin's clinch attempt, dos Santos began to go to work. Respecting "The Engineer's" power, dos Santos used a gameplan of in-and-out attacks, mainly diving in for a quick jab or an occasional overhand right and quickly escaping before his 254-pound foe could react. As his confidence grew, "Cigano" began staying in the pocket and snapping Carwin's head back with his powerful lead left jab.
The Black House fighter staggered his American foe with a huge right cross and he jumped all over Carwin with a ton of ground and pound when he fell alongside the fence. He hurt the turtling former interim champion, but when Carwin put his arm up to his head to protect himself, a frustrated dos Santos repeatedly allowed his punches to bounce off Shane's mammoth biceps rather than pick his spots and land flush blows to the head.
Miraculously, Carwin got back to his feet, but his nose was broken badly and he had several lacerations on his face.
Dos Santos played it safe for much of the remainder of the match as Carwin's gas tank held firm and allowed him to go the full 15 minutes. By the time the fat lady sang, dos Santos was awarded a dominant unanimous decision.
The story of this bout was dos Santos' speed and technique over Carwin's power. It appeared at times like dos Santos was twice as fast as his lumbering foe and he was able to utilize his boxing and avoid nearly all of Carwin's big shots. This fight looked eerily similar to B.J. Penn vs. Frankie Edgar 2, except dos Santos was nearly able to finish the fight with his punches and he was the one stalking Carwin.
So what's next for Shane Carwin?
The former interim UFC champion has now lost two high profile main event fights in a row. He'll likely be given a bout against another top level UFC heavyweight who's lost two in a row. The most obvious choice would be Roy Nelson, who he was originally supposed to fight at UFC 125, but there's also the possibility that Carwin could fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira if "Big Nog" loses to Brendan Schaub at UFC 134 in August.
At 36 years old, Carwin is probably as good as he's going to get. He showed last night that, while he's got the power to knock out about 90 percent of the UFC heavyweight division, he had no answer for a fighter with superior speed and striking technique to go along with sufficient takedown defense.
For Junior dos Santos, his dream of fighting for the title has finally come true. It took seven consecutive victories in the Octagon against some of the best heavyweights the UFC had to offer, but he'll get his shot against UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez later this year.
"Cigano" showcased solid takedown defense and the ability to get back to his feet quickly, which is a good sign, but he'll definitely have his hands full with the champ whenever he's ready to compete. Junior will definitely need to step up his cardio if he wants to keep up with Cain's relentless pace for a potential five round war.
So Maniacs, were you impressed by Carwin's heart last night? Did dos Santos show you enough for you to believe he'll have a chance against Velasquez in a few months?