Sat Jun 11 11:51pm EDT
There's no further debate needed about who gets the first shot at UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Junior dos Santos picked apart Shane Carwin, broke his nose and left the behemoth looking like he was hit by a truck. The Brazilian rolled to a unanimous decision victory, 30-26, 30-27, 30-27, in the main event at UFC 131 in Vancouver.
Dos Santos gets a shot at Velasquez., who's been sidelined since last October recovering from shoulder surgery. The champ has talked about returning in the fall with an eye on the UFC event scheduled for Houston in October.
Saturday night belonged to dos Santos though as the Brazilian handled Carwin at nearly every turn.
"My quickness and agility were the differences tonight. I had a longer reach and heavy hands. Shane was a great opponent, but tonight I proved that I'm ready for the title shot," dos Santos said.
One has to wonder if Velasquez can even successfully defend the title one time with how good dos Santos looked. Dos Santos (13-1, 7-0 UFC) gets better with each fight. Carwin tried to use his wrestling to slow him down but had no success. On the feet, JDS used a quick jab to set up overhand rights and left hooks. He also mixed in some great body shots.
This was a long journey for Dos Santos, who hasn't fought since last August. After his win at UFC 117 over Roy Nelson, JDS was expected to get the first shot at Velasquez. Then the champ went down with the shoulder injury and dos Santos was slotted into the UFC's reality show "The Ultimate Fighter" to coach against Brock Lesnar. The coaches were scheduled to square off at UFC 131.
Earlier this year, the heavyweight contenders spent six weeks in Las Vegas taping the reality show. Last month, Dos Santos found out that Lesnar was backing out of the fight due to complications with his diverticulitis. Lesnar had surgery to remove 12 inches of his colon and is hoping to return at the start of 2012. When he comes back, the division is going to be stacked at the top.
In this clash of big men, Carwin (12-2, 4-2 UFC) almost appeared hopeless after the first round. Moving in and out of the pocket, Dos Santos was too fast for the 255-pound monster. JDS outstruck Carwin 88-20.
With 50 seconds left in the first, JDS caught Carwin with a 1-2 that floored him. Carwin fell to his knees and tried to cover up, but the onslaught from dos Santos was relentless. Somewhere in the hailstorm of punches, Carwin had his nose broken. Referee Herb Dean showed patience by allowing Carwin to fight on. He survived, but when he rose to his feet, the nose was flattened, his left eye was bruised and there was blood all over his face.
Dos Santos' confidence grew as the fight went along. The pummeling continued in the second and third rounds. He landed most of his jabs and held his hands low. Carwin tried to throw back, but too often he was left punching at the air.
In the third, Carwin, a former NCAA Div. II wrestling champ, finally scored a takedown, but he couldn't keep JDS on the ground. It had to break his spirit when dos Santos got back to his feet in less than 15 seconds. In the final two minutes, Dos Santos even landed two huge takedowns of his own to put an exclamation point on the victory.
Carwin admitted that after a year off to recover from back surgery and work on his conditioning, his game had slipped.
"I gotta get my timing back when it comes to boxing. It was a really tough fight to come back to. Junior is a (freakin') tough dude and he was strong. I've got some holes to fix in my wrestling in order to get back to where I need to be," Carwin said.
JDS' wrestling in the final round may have been a subtle message to the champ. Velasquez is an outstanding wrestler, but if he can't get dos Santos off his feet, he's in for a helluva battle.
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