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UFC 131 Preview: The Main Card

Junior dos SantosThe star power of UFC 131 took a serious hit when Brock Lesnar was forced from the card due to diverticulitis.  Luckily, the organization was able to salvage the main event by slotting Shane Carwin in to face Junior Dos Santos in a fight that will likely decide the number one contender for Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight title.  The Vancouver fans will also be treated to Kenny Florian’s improbable drop to featherweight, and a middleweight battle between Mark Munoz and Demian Maia.

Main Event
Heavyweight Bout:  Junior Dos Santos (12-1) vs Shane Carwin (12-1)

Breakdown: Shane Carwin is a much tougher matchup for Junior Dos Santos than Brock Lesnar.  While Carwin brings similar wrestling skills and athleticism to Lesnar, the difference is the insane power he packs in his hands.  Carwin’s tendency to dish out brutal and swift knockouts to the likes of Frank Mir and Gabriel Gonzaga make him one of the most feared heavyweights in the game.  However, Shane Carwin may best be known for his epic collapse in his UF C 116 title clash with Lesnar.  After dealing Lesnar a serious beating in round one, Carwin’s body shut down in round two and he was submitted by an arm triangle choke.  Carwin has been on the shelf for almost a year, recovering from injuries, and will need to have his conditioning in order to deal with Dos Santos.  Junior Dos Santos’ reputation as a nice guy, earned while coaching the previous season of TUF, is in stark contrast to his demeanor in the cage.  “Cigano” is a phenomenal athlete who mixes great footwork with devastating strikes.  A disciple of the Noguiera brothers, his ground work is solid as well.  After steamrolling through his first five Octagon appearances, Dos Santos faced a stiff challenge in Roy Nelson at UFC 117.  Nelson got hit with everything but the kitchen sink but would not go down, which tested Dos Santos’ conditioning and resolve.  Junior showed great mental toughness by not panicking when Nelson would not go away.

The outcome: This probably won’t go past one round.  These guys throw with bad intentions and someone will get clipped sooner rather than later.  The x-factor is Carwin’s wrestling, but Junior will land that big uppercut and Carwin will be staring at the lights.  Junior Dos Santos will win by KO (punch) in round one.

Co-Main Event
Featherweight Bout: Kenny Florian (14-5) vs Diego Nunes (16-1)

Breakdown: Kenny “KenFlo” Florian will set a new record once he steps in the cage in Vancouver as he will be the first fighter in UFC history to compete in four weight classes.  Whether that makes him famous or infamous is up for debate, but the fact of the matter is he is one of the most talented fighters in the sport.  Having made the move to Firas Zahabi’s Tri-Star Gym, Florian has made great improvements in his game, especially his takedowns.  Florian has always been able to fall back on his striking as his elbows are razor sharp and his jab is second to none, just ask Takanori Gomi.  Florian is ruthless from top position and has a mean streak to go with his willingness to finish fights.  “Ken-Flo” has trouble with powerful wrestlers (see Maynard, Gray), but he won’t have that problem against Muay Thai specialist Diego “The Gun” Nunes.  Nunes trains with the famed Nova Uniao fight team and counts featherweight champion Jose Aldo as one of his training partners.  “The Gun” was smoking in his biggest win to date, a split decision victory at UFC 125 against former champ Mike Brown.  He’ll have to keep a few in the chamber if he hopes to compete with Florian (gotta love those gun analogies).  The game Nunes is a tricky striker with five decision victories in the WEC/UFC, with the lone loss being to wrestler L.C. Davis.   “The Gun” has great kicks, an aggressive style and is unafraid to pull the trigger from top position and work for submissions.  I did it again sorry.

The outcome: Of course the big question is how Florian’s body responds to the weight cut.  Every fighter has an adjustment fight at a new weight class, and Nunes will be dangerous if Florian is depleted.  Florian is at his worst while backing up so Nunes would be smart to come after him.  However, I think Florian is too talented and will play to his strengths while neutralizing Nunes.  Kenny “KenFlo” Florian will win this fight by unanimous decision.

Heavyweight Bout: Jon Olav Einemo (6-1) vs Dave Herman (20-2)

Breakdown: Jon Olav Einemo is perhaps the biggest mystery on this entire card.  The Norwegian grappler’s fight with Dave Herman will be his first in five years.  Before his layoff, Einemo was one of the hottest heavyweight prospects in the circuit.  Mixing excellent submission grappling with Golden Glory polished striking, Einemo got the finish in all six of his victories with his lone loss being in Pride to Fabricio Werdum.  Five years have passed, and now we will have to wait and see if time has eroded Einemo’s skils.  Dave “Pee-Wee” Herman is currently one of the top heavyweight prospects in the game.  Of his twenty victories, “Pee-Wee” finished nineteen, which is pretty darn incredible.  His wins over UFC veterans Don Frye, Kerry Schall, and Ron Waterman served as great building blocks for his UFC debut.  Herman is well-rounded, but tends to coast during fights and let his opponents dictate the pace.  If he can swarm Einemo with strikes and stay off the ground, he should be just fine.

The outcome: “Pee-Wee” will have no trouble finding EiNemo.  See what I did there?  However, Einemo didn’t become one of the world’s top grapplers by being passive, and he will make every attempt to put Herman on the ground.  Once on top, it will only be a matter of time for Jon Olav Einemo who will by armbar in round two.

Middleweight Bout: Demian Maia (14-2) vs Mark Munoz (12-2)

Breakdown: This is an intriguing fight as it matches perhaps the sport’s best pure submission artist (Maia) against its best pure wrestler (Munoz).  Oddly enough, I believe this fight will be decided in the stand-up.  Former title challenger Maia relied heavily on takedowns and ground control in his last two Octagon victories over Kendall Grove and Mario Miranda.  The cerebral Maia thinks two steps ahead of his opponents on the ground, which was readily apparent in his first five Octagon victories, all by submission.  While his striking has improved, it provides little threat to his opponents.  Former NCAA champion wrestler Mark Munoz improves his skills in every fight, as evidenced by his swift knockout of C.B. Dollaway in his last Octagon outing.  Munoz used his hellacious ground and pound to dispatch of Grove and Ryan Jensen in previous Octagon outings, but the Dollaway fight showed that Munoz is now a serious threat to end the fight standing.

The outcome: The formula for Maia is simple, get Munoz to the ground and catch him in a submission.  I don’t believe Maia is dynamic enough to dictate where this fight takes place.  Munoz will score a few takedowns, but will be very careful on the mat.  Munoz will do heavy damage with his hands to Maia.  Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz will pick up the victory by TKO via strikes in round two.

Lightweight Bout: Donald Cerrone (14-3) vs Vagner Rocha (6-1)

Breakdown: Fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone returns to the UFC for the first time since a submission win over Paul Kelly at UFC 126.  Cerrone has really come into his own in his last three fights, displaying an improved and well-rounded game in his wins over Kelly, Jamie Varner, and Chris Horodecki.  In the past Cerrone would be content to slug it out on his feet for three rounds, but by mixing in wrestling and submissions he has become a much more formidable opponent.  “Cowboy” has great conditioning and the ability to withstand a lot of punishment.  Vagner Rocha is a late replacement for Cerrone’s rival Mac Danzig.  Rocha is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard with heavy hammerfists from top position.  Rocha has nothing to lose, and Cerrone has been submitted in the past.

The outcome: Rocha is a one-dimensional fighter, and that is simply not enough to combat a three-dimensional fighter like Cerrone.  The Greg Jackson-trained Cerrone will stick to a smart gameplan that will highlight his strengths, rather than fight with reckless abandon as he has in the past.  Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone will win by TKO via strikes in round two.

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