Junior dos Santos jumped to the top of the UFC heavyweight division after the Brazilian striker battered Shane Carwin at UFC 131 last night to become the next contender to Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight strap. dos Santos noted at the evening’s post-fight press conference that while the fight with Carwin was very important, his biggest challenge lies ahead.
“All fights I take seriously, but this one was very important for me. I was a little bit nervous, but it was like I expected… I was faster, and my boxing skills were a little bit better than him,” said dos Santos. “I think my biggest challenge is coming because Cain Velasquez is the champion, and he deserves that. He’s proved that he is very good, but I will be ready for him.”
Carwin and dos Santos showed respect for each other’s power early on, but dos Santos began to run away with the striking exchanges thanks to his stiff and precise jab. The Brazilian slugger kept Carwin from taking him down for the most part and got back to his feet quickly when the 36-year-old did put him on the mat. Dos Santos dropped Carwin to a knee with a big punch as the round began to wind down and absolutely hammered him before realizing that he would punch himself out to no avail if he kept the onslaught up. He backed off of a profusely bleeding Carwin and got ready to get things going again in the second round.
“I was getting tired of hitting him, hitting him, hitting him. I tried to finish him in the first round, but like [Carwin] said, he has a hard chin. He’s tough, so I couldn’t,” dos Santos admitted. “He [referee Herb Dean] didn’t stop the fight so I asked him, ‘Hey, stop the fight, man.’ He said, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going.’ Then, Shane had a good defense. It was the right decision. You saw Shane Carwin get back to his feet and keep fighting with me.”
From there on, the fight belonged to dos Santos. “Cigano” picked Carwin apart on the feet and was only taken down once by the NCAA Division-2 champion, at the start of the third round. Dos Santos hit two solid takedowns of his own toward the end of the third, which sealed a fight that was already his.
Carwin showed that he is not to be counted out in any fight at heavyweight, fighting through a mangled face and beyond the point that the doctor was called into the cage, giving him an out if he had wanted one. Carwin also answered the long-standing questions about his cardio, recovering from dos Santos’ first round onslaught and keeping the bounce in his step until the last bell sounded. His record now stands at 12-2.
Dos Santos was met in the cage by champ Cain Velasquez following his eighth consecutive victory, sealing the fact that they will meet for the next heavyweight title fight.
“I think the best of Cain is his cardio,” dos Santos said of the champion. “He’s good in wrestling, too, so I have to train this a lot. I’m learning wrestling very fast, and I will try to defend his takedowns. Using my boxing, all the time I’m looking for the knockout. It’s not going to be different.”
Dos Santos is now 13-1 overall and has his sights set on Velasquez’s belt.
For news, videos and results of last night’s event, click here.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.