Posted by Jacob Lawton on June 11th, 2011
Pictured: Junior dos Santos and Shane Carwin staredown at last night’s weigh ins in Vancouver, Canada.
Zuffa’s summer deluge continues tonight as two top 5 heavyweights clash for the honour of facing Cain Velasquez in the autumn. And that’s just the main event, as this is one of the strongest cards of the summer, despite the best efforts of an injury bugbear that saw changes to no less than 8 of the 11 fights presented tonight. And every single one of the fights will be available live, on Facebook from 5:50 ET, Spike and Rogers Sportsnet from 8 ET with the PPV taking over at 9. This is probably the second best card we’ve seen thus far this year, with fireworks up and down the order and stars like Michihiro Omigawa and Yves Edwards relegated to the prelims, plus Kenny Florian making his debut at Featherweight on the main card.
Predictions for UFC 131 come from myself (JL), Total-MMA editor Tommy Hackett (TH) and debutant Shangalla Bass (SB). Remember this is all in the spirit of fun - anyone trusting our judgements unduly will be asking for any gambling misfortune that befalls them.
Main Event Heavyweight Bout: Junior dos Santos (12-1) vs. Shane Carwin (12-1)
SB: In two words–great fight. Boring interviews. Wait, that’s four.
With Lesner being out due to a diverticulitis flare up, it’s a rare opportunity to see two of the biggest and nicest guys in the heavyweight division face each other with an eye on the number one contender spot. Both 12-1, hardcore strikers who put on fights fans love to see, Dos Santos is more mobile, more athletic with a better timing and accuracy to his punches. Carwin? Well, if a bulldozer and Tank Abbot had an illegitimate love child — he’d probably be getting knocked out daily in the cafeteria lunch line by Shane Carwin. Not saying the Tank Abbott had sex with a diesel powered earth-moving machine but if anyone could– well, enough said. Carwin is stronger than a gorilla on an all dianabol diet, and more explosive than anyone in the division. The kamikaze dash he produced in the fight with Lesner is a good example of just how fast you can end up with this 260 pound dude on your chest giving you an a very deep tissue facial massage. On the down side he is taking this fight on a 30 day notice and after only 8 months to recuperate from a serious neck operation as well as the lingering back injury he sustained a year ago against Lesner. There are also questions about his conditioning . I don’t think there is any heavyweight that hits harder or can take a harder punch–question is will he get a chance for any of that. Dos Santos is a very intelligent fighter and he will do his best to keep his distance and use his superior boxing skills to take the fight into later rounds. Carwin’s no dummy himself and is very adept at coming up with a strategy to defeat his opponents. That’s what I believe this fight will come down to. Will Carwin come up with a game plan to keep this fight standing and swinging or a good way to take Dos Santos to the ground? I think so –after all the cage is only so big –I am going with Carwin on this one.
TH: I’m going with “Cigano.” Dos Santos has been on a tear, steadily improving with each victory, and I think he’s close to his peak now. Carwin was training to fight anyway, but he’s still coming off a bit of a layoff and I think that may come into play here. Look for the more technical striker to earn the early advantage and mostly keep it. Carwin will fade in the second and JDS will earn a T/KO victory in the third round.
JL: Fireworks are guarenteed here - Carwin’s heavy hands are renowned and JDS has some of the best boxing in any division, so you can probably bet on a stand up war. However, both are also fine grapplers - Carwin was a Div. II wrester in College and JDS has his BJJ purple belt from the Nogueira brothers. Skills-wise, these two are very equal, and their physical gifts are also similar. However, Carwin has his terrible ‘lactic acidosis’, or lack of stamina, and JDS can go and go and go no matter how tough his opponent - see his beatdown of Roy Nelson - and I see him breaking Carwin in the third round for the TKO win.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: DOS SANTOS, 2-1
Co-Main Event Featherweight Bout: Kenny Florian (14-5) vs. Diego Nunes (16-1)
SB: Kenny Florian drops four weight classes from 185 to 145 to face Diego Nunes. Nunes is coming in with a 16 to 1 record, and three straight wins in the UFC including against the formidable Mike Brown. His striking, especially long distance kicking is hugely underrated. He is as fast and aggressive as piranha on meth. Florian on the other hand looks like he’s in shape for the first time in his career. Don’t get me wrong –he is a great fighter, but even at 155 he still looked as just some dude that wondered in from the street. Problem is there is always a chance he is draining himself out dropping all that weight and following a diet that’s more appropriate for a 85lb model. That aside Kenny’s Muay thai is getting better and better with each fight and he’s got a huge advantage on the ground. Also he’s got that “old mean dog” thing going for him–I’ve never seen this guy quit or crumble down. I expect KenFlo withstanding a super agressive first round from Nunes by tying him up and going to the ground to dominating afterwards.
TH: Team Nogueira’s Nunes is best known for his WEC run of decisions, won and lost, against strong opposition. But it’s a step up here, against a guy who not only hangs on, but finishes all but the very best. Sure, it’s hard to say how Florian will respond to the drop to featherweight — but I’m gambling that he knows what he’s doing after nine years fighting professionally. Watch for Florian to earn an edge standing before taking the win with a mata leao in round three.
JL: The mata leao is the ‘lion killer’, the name BJJ gives the rear naked choke. And Florian is a fine propenet of BJJ, as everyone seems to forget as his stand up gets steadily better. Last I looked, Nunes also has some very good BJJ - as most students of the Nogueira brothers tend to - and, as Shangalla notes, he knows his was round the cage standing. The x-factor is of course how Florian responds to his weight cut - which, by all accounts, is now monstrous - remember this guy competed on the original Ultimate fighter as an undersized Middleweight, and last we saw him was a large lightweight. I have my doubts, but Nunes has never fought someone of Florian’s standard before - I think this is going to be that big loss that so frequently comes before the big wins for Nunes, as Florian, regardless of his condition, uses a superior gameplan to grind out a decision.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: FLORIAN, 3-0
Middleweight Bout: Demian Maia (14-2) vs. Mark Munoz (10-2)
SB: I am really looking forward to this match up. This fight is a throwback to the early days of MMA– a face of of a national level wrestler in Mark Munoz vs a 4th degree BJJ black belt. Reminds me of early Couture fights. Munoz is not going to try and take Maya to the ground to avoid his submissions and Maia doesn’t have the takedowns or power to get Munoz to the ground. Their pre-mma skills pretty much neutralize each other so most likely we are looking at a stand up bout. And when it comes to stand up Munoz got a huge advantage–his knockout power is pretty close to the top of the middleweight division and Maya’s stand up is more or less just a bridging for his ground game.
I am going with Munoz in round 3.
TH: This is my favourite matchup on this card. Both guys have greatly improved their striking and all-around game, but I think Maia’s still a step ahead. Watch for Maia to outbox Munoz, and when Munoz hesitates to take the fight to the mat, look for a good right hook to shake him up and keep him on the defensive for the remainder of the fight. Maia, decision.
JL: Ooft, Shangalla, like the old days of MMA? A bit harsh on these too competitors - while it’s true that Munoz and Maia are high level champions in the worlds of wrestling and BJJ, both have become fine all around comeptitors since their debuts - after being humiliated by Anderson Silva last year Maia has shown much improved stand up, and Munoz is following the Dan Henderson mold of being a great wrestler who’d much rather swing for fences than take you down. Both are talented fighters, but technically Maia is streets ahead of Munoz - who might have a good double leg but his hands are often low and his punches looping, and he struggles to pass the guards of mediocre BJJ players like Kendall Grove - and Maia’s guard is one of the best in MMA - he has a great combination of sweeps and submissions from that position, and I think that’s how the fight will end - Maia frustrating Munoz standing with his superior technique, leaving the wrestler to resort to a double leg before being tapped by a Maia traingle.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: MAIA, 2-1
Heavyweight Bout: Jon Olav Einemo (6-1) vs. Dave Herman (20-2)
SB: Jon Olav, an oddity as an European BJJ practitioner was originally scheduled to fight Carwin. I think he got a huge break in a chance to face Herman especially coming in after a 4 year lay off.Herman is big,aggressive and unpredictable but not even close to the size of a pain in the behind that Carwin is in the ring. I don’t think Einemo had a chance against Carwin but with Herman unless a lucky punch or a knee lands in the first 2 minutes the fight will end on the ground with Einemo victorious.
TH:</strong One of the many fights that sees its participants shuffled due to injuries, this isn’t much of a loss. Norway’s jiu-jitsu standout (now training with Golden Glory in Holland) Einemo is best known for his grappling success, including a 2005 victory over Roger Gracie at Abu Dhabi. But at 35 years old and five years removed from his last MMA fight, he appeared to be being fed to Shane Carwin when this card was originally scheduled. His new opponent, Dave Herman, has been brawling his way through smaller MMA shows up while J.O.E. has been inactive — including beating up Don Frye and Ron Waterman. I… just don’t know. Selecting Einemo to derail Herman’s rising career here may seem a stretch even for my usual BJJ bias, but I’m not sold on the somewhat crude American’s opposition, and I think the larger Einemo might weather a storm to sneak in the choke. Einemo, submission round two.
JL: I think you two might be underestimating Mr Herman something awful. He may have started brawling his way up the small shows, but more recently Dave (not Ed) has been fighting on cards that are a little more prestigious, such as Sengoku, Bellator and Shark Fights. And I disagree with labelling him as a brawler, too - he may be a scrappy fighter, but Herman’s technique is very fine, as can been seen in his impressive axe kick TKO (yes, axe kick) of journeyman wrestler Jim York. Herman also held his own against decorated judoka Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou before being DQ’d due to illegal knees. I think JOE’s going to be at a loss here - he has nothing for Herman on the feet and as long as ‘Pee-Wee’ fights smart - keeps moving, establishes his jab - he should take a jab’n'jive decision.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: EINEMO, 2-1
Lightweight Bout: Donald Cerrone (14-3) vs. Vagner Rocha (6-1)
SB: In WEC the “Cowboy” is one of my favorite fighters. That dude is downright mean. The wincing look on the faces in the audience at the sound of one of his kicks landing is unmistakable. Cerrone is patient , conditioned and has some of the best muay thai in the game. His take down defense is getting very good as well. On the other hand Rocha is pretty well known in BJJ circles for his submission skills,being a lead trainer at Pablo Popovitch’s BJJ school and a PAN AM gold medalist. His 6 to 1 record speaks for itself. Problem is for Rocha to utilize his skills he’ll need to get through Cerrone’s striking. In this fight my money is on Cerrone finishing the fight with a submission after battering Rocha senseless.
TH: We lost a good fight between near-mirror images in Mac Danzig vs Donald Cerrone here, but such is life. Danzig’s replacement is a new one. Nothing on UFC debutante Rocha’s record tells me he can answer Cerrone’ striking and grappling acumen, but I’ll wager the Pablo Popovich black belt can avoid a submission and go the distance. Cerrone, decision.
JL: I’m struggling to get fired up for this - one dimensional Rocha doesn’t belong in the cage with the well round Cerrone, who, providing he doesn’t do anything silly like take down the decorated BJJ practioner, should beat him bloody standing en route to a dominant decision.
TOTAL-MMA PICKS: CERRONE, 3-0
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the fights!