Winners, losers from UFC 131
Would two more rounds of Junior dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin have helped decide the winner? And if so, would the judges in Vancouver have made the right call?
If you saw what transpired Saturday at Rogers Arena, I'd hope you'd answer
In the first fight of the night, one judge gave Darren Elkins every round versus Michihiro Omigawa, and later did the same for Kenny Florian versus Diego Nunes. Another judge gave Mark Munoz every round versus Demian Maia. There wasn't just eye-rolling after the event; there was outright anger. So incensed was UFC president Dana White that he gave Omigawa his show and win money -- a little "Overruled!" to the judge who gave Elkins all three rounds.
A representative for the Vancouver Athletic Commission on Sunday told SI.com that the score will be reviewed "in detail."
Even the most incompetent ringside arbiter, though, didn't need a manual to figure out who won Dos Santos vs. Carwin. It was a dominant performance for Dos Santos, who pitched a shutout on the scorecards after battering Carwin for three rounds. That the full-time engineer held on until the final bell was simply miraculous.
Of course, the master plan wasn't to go the distance. The two had paved their ways to the top of the division with knockout after knockout. They were supposed to collide in the center of the ring like two great titans, and someone was supposed to fall down. And someone did: a Dos Santos combination dropped Carwin late in the opening frame and nearly brought a halt to the bout as he wailed away with punches. For a moment, it looked like the universe was in order, and referee Herb Dean would step in and stop the punishment. The Brazilian literally asked him to.
But from the momoent Carwin proved what a titan he really is, any hope of a finish was lost.
Dos Santos, you see, had learned his lesson in his previous fight against Roy Nelson. He'd hurt the round-bellied heavyweight hurt early on and swarmed with punches only to find himself sucking air in later rounds. With a title shot on the line against Carwin, he wasn't going make the same mistake. Afterward, he admitted he looked to Dean amid his barrage not to bail out his bloody opponent but himself after a good 30 seconds of red-lining it.
The point, though, is that Dos Santos knew he was well ahead. So he chopped away at Carwin for the remaining rounds, staying persistent with a jab, leg kick and a few takedowns. There was no reason to be reckless. And that's part of the psychology behind a high-profile fight, whether it be three rounds or five. When a fight's rhythm is established, as it was following Carwin's survival, it's extraordinarily hard to break.
"You go for the kill when you're at 100 percent and don't get it, what's the point of going for the kill when you're now at 80 percent?" asked one-time UFC middleweight challenger Chael Sonnen. "If it didn't work when you were fresh, why should you believe it's now going to work when you're tired?
"Pretty soon, guys don't go for it. They start to back off. You start to take inventory. You start to say, 'I've got this much time left, I'm this tired, this hurts, that hurts.' You start doing these different calculations in your mind, and it becomes a game of just trying to beat the clock."
One-time Strikeforce middleweight challenger Tim Kennedy is adamant that it shouldn't be that way. If you're fighting a 15-minute fight, he said, you should be able to sprint to the finish; likewise for a title-length bout.
But even he admits that there's something that happens when pace is established. Maybe it's that you're mind sets into a rhythm, and you conserve energy where maybe you should be expending. He remembers getting to the end of his title fight against Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and cursing himself that he had energy to burn.
Sonnen calls this part of an unconscious contract that gets often written between fighters during a bout. There's an initial clash, the first flush of combat. Momentum is established. Both, however, know they can't swing nonstop for the fences. So one moves a bit, fires a few punches, and re-sets. The other follows. They dance; they keep things moving. When the audience boos, they turn it up a notch. Maybe someone gets caught, or maybe they don't. But the fight keeps on chugging, hopefully without boos, until the final bell rings.
They might not even know what happened between them until afterward. They might say, "I was trying to finish, but the guy was tough."
"I should have gone faster," Kennedy said. "Maybe I'm being hypocritical. I might have even paced myself when I shouldn't have. It wasn't a conscious decision to want to pace the fight."
But with five-round non-title fights a reality after August's UFC 133, there could be a lot more of that in store.
And now, a stock watch:
Weighing heavily on those odds is the uncertain future of Velasquez, who damaged his labrum when he took the belt from Brock Lesnar at UFC 121. Assuming he's healthy to fight in October, it will have been a full year since Velasquez stepped inside the Octagon. At 28, he's at the stage of his career where it's not wise to take long breaks, and cage rust could be a factor. Dos Santos said "no way" to waiting for a title shot and took the fight with Carwin. That wasn't an option going the other way, and it could cement Dos Santos' favorite status as the fall moves closer.
The spread is pretty thin, obviously, and that's because of the wrestling skills of Velasquez. But that's not all he brings to a fight with dos Santos. In addition to his ability to take opponents down, he has the punching power to put them out. All but one of his UFC opponents folded to strikes, and should he put Dos Santos horizontal, he not only takes the challenger's power away but multiples his own.
Then again, we now know that Dos Santos is capable of hitting a double-leg. He did so twice on Saturday night -- to the great shock of all -- and showed off defensive wrestling chops that kept him upright on two of three takedowns attempted by Carwin, a NCAA Division II champ.
"I have a ground game," dos Santos said following Saturday's fight. "I train with good guys who are good in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. "Of course, I'm not like Demian Maia, but I'm tough."
So it's pretty much a toss up at this point as to whether Dos Santos can take Velasquez's belt. Saturday's fight certainly showed us that there's a lot we didn't know about him. Are there more surprises in store? We'll find out.
A scary one, as it were. Edwards lay twitching on the canvas several moments after Stout's left hook sent him lifeless to the mat, his head awfully bouncing on impact. Thank heavens the Canadian had the consciousness not to inflict more punishment.
The victory nonetheless earned Stout a big sum of career capital. I think a fight against Donald Cerrone would be another barnburner (if Cerrone can be pried from his desire to silence Mac Danzig).
Poirer is headed for big things in the featherweight division. Right now, he's a little wild and unpolished. In a year or two, though, he could be fighting for the belt. A ton of top-level wrestlers stand in his way to the top, so my advice for "The Diamond": get thee to a wrestling room, and stay there.
Maybe Munoz had an off night. Maia clearly rocked him in the first round. But if he struggled against Maia, he has a long way to go before he's in the title picture. He hit a brick wall against current contender Yushin Okami, and against Michael Bisping or, God forbid, Anderson Silva, he's overmatched on the feet and faces a tough night in the takedown department. A fight with Brian Stann is already the talk of the Internet sewing circle, and I think it's a perfectly logical fight for both.
I'm guessing he'll welcome Ben Rothwell back to the cage late this summer.
I'd rather remember him for the truly memorable fights he's delivered than Saturday night's grisly scene.