COLUMBUS, Ohio – Shane Carwin might be the only athlete these days who can say he tested positive and it is a good thing.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship's powerful heavyweight contender, who vaulted himself among the elite of the sport with a dramatic first-round knockout of Gabriel Gonzaga on Saturday at UFC 96 at Nationwide Arena, had his DNA tested recently to compile an athletic profile.
Of nearly 500 athletes, including 50 Olympians, tested by Canadian company Warrior Roots, Carwin was one of the three highest-scoring for explosiveness.
That should not, of course, come as a surprise to anyone who has seen him fight even one of his 11 professional bouts. Saturday's victory was his 11th knockout and took just 69 seconds. The longest anyone has ever lasted with him was 2:11.
He'd blown out Christian Wellisch and Neil Wain in his first two UFC fights, but he moved from taking on plow horses to fighting a thoroughbred when he accepted the bout against Gonzaga. One counter right hand later, he put himself near the top of the heap in the UFC's suddenly impressive heavyweight division.
"After beating Gonzaga, there's nobody he can't fight in the UFC now," UFC president Dana White said.
Carwin had his share of critics, who ripped him for what they said was a lack of quality opposition, a poor chin and a lack of conditioning.
Carwin, who was an NCAA Division II wrestling champion at Western States College and holds degrees in mechanical engineering and environmental technology, pretty much squashed the lack of opposition knock on Saturday.
And while anyone is vulnerable when hit on the chin by a world-class heavyweight, Carwin answered a lot of questions about his chin, too. Gonzaga cracked him early in their bout and sent him down, but Carwin was quickly up and fighting.
The conditioning rap was always ludicrous. He was a national-caliber wrestler and his trainers say his first round is almost always his worst. He gets better the longer the fights go, though his fights generally don't last awfully long.
Carwin, 34, wearied at hearing the talk about his conditioning, but when you knock guys out as quickly as he does, the critics have to have something to pick at.
"All the time, I wonder what these people are thinking, but people just like to question things," Carwin said. "I guess it's the unknown. People didn't know a lot about me and hadn't seen me much. But I'm working with so many good trainers and so many good guys. My conditioning was the best-ever tonight. Each fight it gets better because we keep refining things and I get better at what I do."
He's going to get very familiar with a pair of other men who are a lot like him. A year ago, when the UFC's heavyweight division was in disarray, White and matchmaker Joe Silva reloaded by adding three former collegiate wrestlers, each of whom was a gamble.
But a year later, Brock Lesnar is the UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez is hailed as perhaps the UFC's top prospect and Carwin has established himself as arguably the sport's biggest puncher.
It's going to be a treat for MMA fans over the next several years as the three of them undoubtedly will square off in a series of fights.
"It's inevitable that we're going to see a lot of each other, and it's a great thing for that to happen," Carwin said of Lesnar and Velasquez. "It's great to have people talking about it and now I think we're at that point.
"Velasquez is very talented and he's going to do a lot of damage in the UFC. He's right there at the top. He was an All-American wrestler who is great on his feet as well. He's getting better all the time. All three of us are improving on the standup and the jiu-jitsu. I have a lot of respect for Cain. Brock is athletically gifted. What people don't see are the athletic gifts of heavyweights, but Brock is gifted in that area as well."
Carwin, who still works full-time as an engineer, is as soft-spoken and humble as he is powerful. But he knew he belonged in the UFC when he arrived last year, even if most of the UFC's fans had no idea of his athletic pedigree.
This is a guy, though, who was such a good small-college football player that the Philadelphia Eagles invited him to training camp. He was more than holding his own with world-class guys in his fight training and that, more than any single victory, convinced him of his worthiness to fight in the UFC.
"I've always felt like I've been very athletic and I'm very competitive and I'm explosive," Carwin said. "I love to train, too. Being in the training room alongside the number one guys in the world and top 10 guys left and right and you're in there training with them, that's a boost of confidence as well."
He has to strike fear in anyone in the division, including the guys at the top. He's cutting down to get to 259, yet is as quick and agile as a light heavyweight.
The guy is scary good, and he's only going to get better.
"There were a lot of questions about Shane and I think he answered them tonight," White said.
If not, Carwin is eager to get back in with the biggest names the UFC will feed him. He's planning to give up his day job to concentrate full-time on fighting.
It's hard to imagine how good he might be when he can train full-time. He's already eager just to get back in there.
"Keep putting them in front of me," he said. "This is what I love to do."
And it's what he does about as well as anyone these days.
- Shane Carwin