Shane Carwin will be fighting Junior dos Santos this Saturday night in the main event of UFC 131 for the opportunity to challenge for the heavyweight belt — a second time.
Last July, Carwin faced then-champion Brock Lesnar for the strap at UFC 116. The battle between the two behemoths went in Carwin’s favor early, as he was able to defend against Lesnar’s takedowns and make him wilt under the force of his punches. Carwin had Lesnar in survival mode for much of the first round, beating on the grounded champion with his over-sized fists and looking to be only a few of those face-changing shots away from becoming the new champ.
And then his body betrayed him.
Carwin’s legs and arms began to seize up, his onslaught slowed. The bell to signal the end of the first round sounded and a battered Lesnar made it to his feet and back to his corner to reevaluate for the next round. In Carwin’s corner, “The Engineer” could be heard telling his coaches that his legs were shot.
Both men raised themselves from their stools, but it was Lesnar the fresher man. While Carwin looked like he was wading through mud, Lesnar had clearly regained his steam; he hit a double on Carwin that put him on his back and the champ sunk the fight-ending arm triangle in short order, forcing Carwin to tap and watch his dream dissipate.
Poised to again challenge for UFC glory, Carwin has taken pains to learn from and correct the problems present in the Lesnar fight by revamping his training and diet regimen. He spoke with Yahoo! Sports’ Kevin Iole recently about the lessons he took away from UFC 116.
“It was a buildup of lactic acid in my body to where I may not have been properly been breathing and getting oxygen to my muscles,” said Carwin of his drastic first round drop off against Lesnar. “Lactic acid reaches a threshold and then after that, it just exponentially increases in your body. You’re pretty much left dead for the wolves when that happens. That’s the explanation I was given and there were some things we’ve worked on that will take care of that.”
Carwin has slimmed down and made the necessary changes to ensure that his cardio can hold up to the kind of sustained onslaught it might take to put dos Santos away, because, at the end of the day, that’s just the kind of fighter that Carwin is going to be.
“If I’m ever in that situation again, Shane Carwin and the personality I have, I’d do the same thing,” he said. “I would go in to finish the fight. It was so close and Josh knew it was close. He said it several times. When you hear the ref telling the other guy that he’s got to do something or he’s going to stop the fight, being the top guy, you pick up your pace to try to get that stoppage. I kept hearing that every 30 seconds. It was all out there for a while.”
UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin goes down Saturday night at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.