UFC 131: Dos Santos vs. Carwin goes down tonight from the the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
FightLine.com owner Raj Giri and head writer Mark Wayne preview the top fights and offer their predictions for the show. Also, don’t forget to check back here later this afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC 131.
Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
Many have pegged this bout as being a more intriguing one than the originally scheduled dos Santos vs. Lesnar main event.
Against Lesnar, dos Santos was facing essentially a wrestler only, whom many predicted would fall to the Brazilian’s vaunted striking onslaught if he were unable to get the fight to the mat. In Carwin, dos Santos is facing an adept knockout artist with wrestling skills to boot, upping the risk factor for “Cigano.”
The big X factors in this bout are dos Santos’ unseen ground game and Carwin’s long, injury-induced layoff coupled with a revamped training and diet regimen. Training with Brazilian jiu-jitsu masters like the Nogueira brothers and Demian Maia, it is very possible that dos Santos’ ground game is as good as he says it is, but the fact remains that it simply hasn’t been seen. For Carwin, the question is: how will he look coming back from his first loss, a serious surgery and after switching up his training?
Mark: Carwin has the chance to make a big statement here in the heavyweight division and he can do so by making the fight ugly, clinching with dos Santos and landing those big bombs from inside the phone booth á la Randy Couture. However, I see dos Santos being able to keep his range and land the kind of technical pinpoint striking that has seen him through his career to this point. Dos Santos via TKO in round one.
Raj: Carwin is coming off of a long layoff, which I think will be a factor in this bout. Carwin’s best bet is to get the fight to the ground early, pace himself, and wear dos Santos down with ground and pound. However, I think dos Santos should be able to keep the fight standing and eventually topple “The Engineer” with his superior boxing skills. Dos Santos via TKO in round two.
Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
This is another fight which could possibly hinge on a X factor, considering that it will be longtime lightweight contender Kenny Florian’s debut at featherweight.
“Ken-Flo” gets no easy out in his first fight at 145lbs. either, as 28-year-old Brazilian fighter Diego “The Gun” Nunes has proven himself to be as skilled and gutsy as they come in earning recent victories over Raphael Assuncao, Tyler Toner and, most impressively, Mike Brown. Florian will be looking to rebound from a decision loss to Gray Maynard which took place at 155lbs.
The two draw from very similar skill sets, with their primary assets being Brazilian jiu-jitsu and muay Thai. While the Nova Uniao-trained Nunes certainly possesses a ton of skill, he fights with more recklessness than Florian, who tends to favor a more cerebral approach to combat.
Mark: Florian has had to essentially revamp his lifestyle in order to make 145lbs., taking an even more disciplined approach to nutrition than he did before in his career. It’s possible that Nunes, an established featherweight, could overwhelm Florian should the Bostonian respond poorly to the weight cut, but “Ken-Flo” has smart trainers and I think he’ll be able to hang tough against a game Nunes before eventually earning the victory. Florian via submission in round three.
Raj: This is the fourth weight class for Florian, who made his official UFC debut at middleweight before dropping to welterweight and then settling in the lightweight division. This is Florian’s debut at featherweight, and he will be coming into the fight with an obvious size advantage. It will be a long night for Nunes, whose last six fights have went the distance. I see this one going the distance as well, although I believe that Florian’s well-rounded skills should carry him to a dominant decision nod. Florian via unanimous decision.