Skill trumped power in a showdown between two of MMA's heaviest hitters.
Junior dos Santos battered Shane Carwin for three rounds and captured a lopsided unanimous decision in the UFC 131 headliner on Saturday at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26, as Dos Santos staked his claim as the top contender for UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez's crown.
"That's awesome [that I'm getting a title shot]," Dos Santos said. "Much respect for Cain Velasquez. Cain, I'm coming for you."
Carwin, who had never before gone the distance, was barely recognizable by the end of his encounter with Dos Santos. The Brazilian broke him down with a crisp two-punch combination in the first round, putting him on all fours next to the cage. Dos Santos moved in for the finish and launched a torrent of unanswered blows, briefly looking at referee Herb Dean in hopes he would intervene. Carwin was allowed to continue, but by the close of the round, his face was a mangled mess.
Dos Santos (13-1, 7-0 UFC) slowed his pace in the second round, perhaps wary of Carwin's infamous one-punch knockout power. He repeatedly put a stiff left jab in the Coloradan's face, landed lead left hooks to the head with regularity and worked beautifully to the body when opportunities presented themselves. Carwin (12-2, 4-2 UFC) stayed in the fight and landed the occasional power shot, even though he was clearly outgunned.
Unbeaten in seven UFC starts, Dos Santos further illustrated his superiority in the third round, as he scored a pair of powerful takedowns on the winded former collegiate national champion wrestler.
Florian's featherweight debut a success
Two-time lightweight title contender Kenny Florian made a successful debut at 145 pounds, as he grinded down Diego Nunes and took a unanimous decision from the gifted Brazilian in the co-main event. All three cageside judges scored it for Florian: 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Florian (14-5, 12-4 UFC) conceded the cut to 145 was a challenge.
"That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he said. "[It was] very, very difficult. I was above 180 pounds. I was coming back [after] knee surgery. I was on the couch doing nothing for two months. I felt all right. The last month was pretty tough with training. I had a phenomenal camp."
Nunes (17-1, 1-1 UFC) made a valiant run at victory. He knocked down the backpedaling Florian with a crisp left hook late in the first round and utilized his speed to great effect early in the fight. However, Florian slowly took command. He opened cuts on the face and the back of the head of Nunes with elbows from the bottom in the second round, scored with a takedown, passed guard and worked his ground-and-pound, standing-to-ground punches included. By the end of Round 2, Nunes looked spent.
Florian, clearly the fresher of the two, went back to work in the third, again scoring with a takedown and ultimately moving to side control. His hair soaked in blood and sweat, Nunes fired one last volley when the featherweights returned to a standing position in the closing seconds, as he dropped Florian to a knee with a winging right hand. It was not enough to stave off defeat.
"I want to make a run for that belt [at 145 pounds]," Florian said. "I beat one of the toughest guys in the world, and I wanted to face someone like that and prove that I'm one of the best featherweights in the world."
Munoz defeats Maia, moves into contention
Mark Munoz landed the most significant victory of his mixed martial arts career, as he outpointed former middleweight title contender Demian Maia by unanimous decision in a fantastic tactical battle between two top-level fighters at 185 pounds.
Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27, all for Munoz.
Maia (14-3, 8-3 UFC) roared out of the gates, wielding aggression with his strikes that he had not shown in previous outings. He wobbled Munoz with a glancing left hand behind the ear in the first round, fought well in the clinch and attacked with reckless abandon. A 2001 NCAA wrestling champion, Munoz gained a foothold in the fight in Round 2, as he backed up Maia with combinations, grounded the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and delivered some of his trademark ground-and-pound.
Round 3 was about as closely contested a five-minute stretch as one could imagine. Munoz scored twice with takedowns, only to be threatened from the crucifix position, as Maia went to work on an unorthodox choke. They were even on the feet down the stretch, as well, with neither main appearing to gain a discernable advantage. Alas, the judges sided with Munoz (11-2, 6-2 UFC), a winner in six of his past seven bouts.
"He did surprise me [with his standup]. He caught me in that first round. I was on shaky legs," Munoz said. "His cage work actually surprised me. He was really strong on the cage, actually. I didn't expect him to be that strong. I told him it was a true honor to fight him."
Herman stops Einemo in barnburner
Sengoku Raiden Championship veteran Dave Herman weathered the heavy blows and considerable ground skills of John Olav Einemo to put away the Norwegian with second-round strikes in a heavyweight showcase. The barnburner ended 3:19 into Round 2.
Herman (21-2, 1-0 UFC) cracked Einemo with knees from the clinch throughout the fight and twice escaped on the ground against the 2003 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist.
In the second round, Herman absorbed a knee from the 6-foot-6 European, stuck his nose back in the fight and countered with a knee of his own and a crackling left hook that put Einemo (6-2, 0-1 UFC) on his rear end. Later, Herman backed up another knee with a straight left hand, pounced on his grounded foe and finished him with punches from above. The 35-year-old Einemo, a Pride Fighting Championships veteran, had not competed in mixed martial arts since November 2006.
"I like to think I was [having a good time], but I'm a little tired," the mercurial Herman said. "I saw him go down and was going in for the finish, but he's real good on the ground, and I was having trouble getting to him."
Cerrone dominates BJJ ace Rocha
One thudding low kick after another -- some to the outside, others to the inside of the thigh -- carried former WEC lightweight title contender Donald Cerrone past Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Vagner Rocha by unanimous decision in a featured duel at 155 pounds. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 30-26.
Rocha, his offense limited to sporadic right hands and a brief first-round takedown, was never in the fight. Cerrone (15-3, 1 NC, 2-0 UFC) unleashed a brutal barrage of low kicks on the Brazilian and had him limping noticeably by the second round. A Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts representative, Cerrone picked up his pace late in the third round, as he put his punches together and dropped an ailing Rocha (6-2, 0-1 UFC) with a left hook in the closing seconds.
"I'm [frustrated about] not fighting the way I wanted to fight," said Cerrone, who has won four in a row. "I was holding back and not doing what I wanted to do. I didn't want to get taken down and get submitted. I fought not to lose [instead of fighting] to win."
Stout hook KOs Edwards
Stout (17-6-1, 5-4 UFC) weathered a takedown, walked through the Bahamian-born veteran's punches and slammed a beautiful counter left hook into the lightweight's jaw 3:52 into the first round.
The blow sent an unconscious Edwards (40-17-1, 8-5 UFC) crashing to the floor, his head bouncing brutally off the canvas. He lay motionless at Stout's feet; eyes open in an unsettling stare, as the Canadian raised his arms in triumph. Stout's first UFC finish was a spectacular one.
"That overhand left always works good for me against left-handers," he said. "Yves Edwards is a precision striker. I was trying to work my head movement in this camp. I'm trying to not get hit as much as I usually do."
Unbeaten Weidman submits Bongfeldt
Weidman (6-0, 2-0 UFC) secured a takedown inside the first minute and passed Bonfeldt's guard with ease more than once, attacking with punches and elbows from the top. Bongfeldt (15-5-1, 0-1-1 UFC) returned to a standing position late in the first round, ate a stout knee to the gut and ducked into the guillotine. The Canadian struggled briefly to free himself, but there was no escape. Surrender was the only option.
A protégé of former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, Weidman worked through an apparent knee injury to score the victory.
"My meniscus popped into my joint," he said. "I've actually had four knee surgeries. It's a preexisting [injury]."
Soszynski handles Massenzio in decision
Krzysztof Soszynski worked efficient, powerful strikes and neutralized and answered takedowns from Mike Massenzio en route to a unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27, 30-26 and 30-27, all for Soszysnki (26-11-1, 6-2 UFC).
Massenzio (12-5, 1-3 UFC), who accepted the bout on a week's notice as a late replacement for Igor Pokrajac, was dogged in his pursuit of takedowns but found himself outgunned by the Polish-born Canadian at virtually every turn. Soszynski trapped the decorated amateur wrestler on the ground in the third round, attacking with knees to the top of the body and threatening with a choke.
"I wish I would have finished," Soszynski said. "I wasn't prepared for a wrestler. All of a sudden, I get a call, and I'm fighting a wrestler."
Ring choke sinks Head
Unbeaten "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 11 alum Nick Ring submitted Octagon newcomer James Head with a third-round rear-naked choke in a preliminary middleweight matchup. Head succumbed to the choke 3:33 into Round 3.
Ring (12-0, 2-0 UFC) weathered a staggering right hand, ground-and-pound and a head kick from his foe in the first round and took control in the second. The 32-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt grounded Head in Round 2 and punished him with strikes from the top position.
Bleeding from a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose, Head (7-2, 0-1 UFC) faded as the fight deepened; he stained the canvas red. Ring put the fight back on the ground in the third round, passed guard, attacked with elbows and forced Head into a turtled position. The choke followed, as did the tapout.
Poirier takes decision, outduels Young
Surging featherweight prospect Dustin Poirier posted his third consecutive victory in a unanimous decision over Cage Rage veteran Jason Young. All three cage-side judges scored it for the 22-year-old Louisianan: 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
Poirier (10-1, 2-0 UFC) cut Young above the left eye in the first round, survived a barrage of low kicks from the Englishman in the second and scored with multiple takedowns in the third. Young (8-4, 0-1 UFC), who entered the UFC on the strength of a two-fight winning streak overseas, impressed in his promotional debut. He showed no first-fight jitters, as he attacked with kicks, threatened with a few submissions and made Poirier pay for attempted takedowns.
Beltran spoils Rosa's UFC debut
Joey Beltran put the brakes on a two-fight losing streak, as he stopped Strikeforce and Bellator Fighting Championships veteran Aaron Rosa on third-round punches in a preliminary heavyweight matchup. Rosa met his end 1:26 into Round 3, his promotional debut spoiled by a one-sided thumping.
Beltran (13-5, 3-2 UFC) had no trouble moving around Rosa, who outweighed him by some 15 pounds. He routinely pursued the clinch and hammered Rosa (16-4, 0-1 UFC) with punches to the head and body. By Round 3, the bout was clearly in Beltran's hands. He split open Rosa with a knee, followed with punches and threw him to the ground. Beltran followed him to the mat, and put away the beefy Texan with heavy ground-and-pound.
Elkins victory leaves Omigawa 0-4 in UFC
Darren Elkins upset the world-ranked Michihiro Omigawa by unanimous decision in a preliminary featherweight duel. All three judges scored it in favor of the the Hobart, Ind., native -- 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 -- as he won for the fourth time in five fights.
The defeat leaves the world-ranked Omigawa winless in the UFC.
The two 145-pound fighters traded liberally throughout the 15-minute encounter, as Elkins briefly dropped the judo black belt to one knee and secured a quick takedown in the first round. Still, it appeared as though Omigawa (12-10-1, 0-4 UFC) landed the cleaner, more effective strikes, which left Elkins battered and bloodied. The 2009 Sengoku Raiden Championship featherweight grand prix finalist closed strong, driving Elkins (12-2, 2-1 UFC) to the floor with a high double-leg takedown and landing his left hand with regularity in round three. His work went unrewarded by the judges.