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Heavyweight knockout kings fight for title shot at UFC 131

Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin have heavyweight belt in sight

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Hyoung Chang, Denver Post

Junior Dos Santos looks to finish Gabriel Gonzaga during their heavyweight bout at UFC Live: Vera vs. Jones at 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colo. on March 21, 2010. Dos Santos won the fight by knockout.

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Shane Carwin, right, in action against Frank Mir during their heavyweight match at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Saturday, March 27, 2010. Carwin won at 3:28 of the first round to take the UFC interim heavyweight title.

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Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin each have notched 12 victories in their mixed martial arts careers.

Out of the combined 24 wins, 22 of them have come via first round stoppage. In the UFC, they both have four first round knockouts apiece.

“Let’s face it: Both dos Santos and I got to where we’re at by knocking people out on our feet,” Carwin said. “That’s just where I’m most passionate right now. I think we’re both explosive fighters and the fans are going to have a real treat.”

Carwin and dos Santos will clash Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the main event of UFC 131 to determine the No. 1 contender for the heavyweight belt.

Any result other than a knockout in the opening two rounds of the bout would be a major surprise. The two heavyweights have arguably more power than any of their counterparts.

Carwin is the single biggest fighter on the UFC roster, while most believe dos Santos is the best boxer in the division.

“I’m going to look for the knockout at all times,” dos Santos said. “Shane Carwin is a very tough guy and walks through punches, but I believe in the power in my hands. I believe Shane has never felt power like I have.”

Their names are littered at the top of a number of statistical categories. According to FightMetric, the UFC’s official stats provider, Carwin leads the UFC in strikes landed per minute with 7.65 and dos Santos ranks third at 7.18.

The man sandwiched in between the two is current champion Cain Velasquez, who they are fighting for the right to face. Neither Carwin nor dos Santos expected to be in this position five months ago.

Velasquez was supposed to face dos Santos in his first title defense before the champion had to undergo shoulder surgery. Dos Santos agreed to take another fight in the interim, but only because the UFC offered him Brock Lesnar.

With Lesnar out because of another battle with diverticulitis, Carwin stepped in. Dos Santos admitted the change upset him at first, but he got over it quickly and decided not to alter his training camp.

“The strategy is the only thing that’s changed,” dos Santos said. “Against a guy like Brock, I would feel a little more comfortable on my feet. Fighting a guy like Shane, I’m going to have to be a little more cautious.”

The way dos Santos talks, he thinks the fans might actually have benefited from Lesnar pulling off the card. He wasn’t as sure about how the fight with Lesnar would have played out.

Dos Santos knows Lesnar, a former NCAA Division I wrestling champion at Minnesota, would have tried to take the match to the ground. Carwin is also a former college wrestling national champion — at Division II Western State — but has shown more of a willingness to stand and trade punches throughout his career.

“Me and Shane Carwin are good stand-up fighters,” dos Santos said. “I believe so much in my boxing. I will try to keep the fight standing.”

Carwin described a similar game plan. Judges likely won't be necessary in this bout.

“We’re knockout artists,” Carwin said. “That’s how he fights and that’s how I fight. I believe in my power and my strengths in boxing and he believes in his.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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