The main event for this past Saturday’s UFC 131 initially pitted the UFC’s cash cow and former title holder Brock Lesnar taking on Brazilian stand up specialist Junior Dos Santos in a fight that would decide the next challenger to UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Valesquez. Bad luck in the form of a flare up of diverticulitis forced Lesnar to withdraw from the matchup and was replaced by Shane Carwin.
Now in the grand scheme of things, a man’s health is a much more serious matter than title belts and bragging rights, but for my purposes here, I’m going to make the argument that being forced to withdraw from this matchup may have very well saved Brock Lesnar’s fighting career.
The show must go on and on Saturday night JDS put his striking and defensive wrestling chops on full display and completely dominated Carwin and nearly finished him with a brutal onslaught of strikes in the opening round. That’s right, the same Shane Carwin that had Lesnar reeling last year and would have taken him out had he not gassed out and collapsed at the beginning of round two, practically inviting Brock to take his neck and choke him out. Dos Santos’ speed, technique, and chin were just too much for Big Shane and in my humble opinion would have been an even bigger problem for Lesnar had the original main event taken place.
Lesnar’s last two fights have significantly diminished his mystique and possibly even his drawing power (yet that remains to be seen). He came away victorious against Carwin last year but he was battered and bruised in that first round and while he did show true fighting spirit by surviving that onslaught and coming out strong for the second round, everyone who saw the fight knew that Carwin was out of steam at that point. His next fight out was against current titleholder Cain Valesquez and he was virtually rag dolled and battered until the referee compassionately stopped the fight, ending his UFC title reign.
The fight against JDS was a fight that Brock took because it was a way for him to get back into the title picture immediately and as Brock has said on multiple occasions, he’s in the sport to fight the best. Dos Santos proved emphatically on Saturday that he’s not only one of the best… he may be THE best. If Lesnar had been finished brutally in the first round of his fight against Junior, where would that have left the former WWE Superstar? He would have found himself in the UFC’s purgatory, as many other fighters’ tend to find themselves after a few tough fights. With the way that things seem to be playing out, when Brock returns from his illness, he’ll most likely be lined up against one of the gatekeeper’s of the division, such as Frank Mir or a beatable up and comer like Brendan Schaub or Matt Mitrione. These are all very winnable fights for him and fights that will embellish his fighting record and ability to sell PPV’s.
As far as Dos Santos goes, odds makers have him as the early favorite over current champion Cain Valesquez in a bout that will most likely take place later this year. The UFC marketing machine nearly always promises fireworks in their main event’s, but in this case I believe that will be the case and this one will be a lot of fun.
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