UFC heavyweight Shane Carwin faced off against Brock Lesnar at UFC 116 this past July in a colossal heavyweight championship tilt.
For essentially the entire opening frame, Carwin battered Lesnar, sending the champion into defense mode time and time again. However, after coming so close to earning the stoppage and the belt on multiple occasions in just five minutes, Carwin exited the Octagon without the title after his cardio failed him in the second round.
At UFC 121, the new heavyweight top contender Cain Velasquez took his turn against the title holder, obliterating Lesnar in their championship affair to earn the UFC heavyweight crown by dominating him in much the same way that Carwin had just three months prior. A barrage of well-timed punches had the champion staggering backwards,and Velasquez utilized his calculated technique to force a just stoppage.
Carwin may have been the first man to test the chin of the former heavyweight champion and came very close to scoring the knockout finish, but he is not the man with the belt. When comparing his performance to Velasquez’s, he notices similarities, but also notices the one major difference that allowed Velasquez to do what he could not.
“The gameplan essentially looked like the same as mine,” Carwin told Heavy.com on the latest Heavy MMA Podcast. “He was able to slow down his punches in between and pick his shots a little bit better than I was and finish the fight.”
Leading up to his clash with Lesnar this past July, Carwin was touted as the most powerful puncher in the division, if not the entire sport. He was sitting on a 12-0 record with all wins coming via first round knockout, including his absolute obliteration over Frank Mir at UFC 111 to earn the interim title.
The quick finishes were certainly impressive, but they gave Carwin little time to test out his body and skills in the later rounds. After an incredibly intense five minute first round, followed by one of the biggest comebacks in some time, Carwin learned a thing or two from the disappointing loss.
“I accepted what happened, and obviously God chose a path for me,” Carwin said. “The loss, I think, was a good thing for me. It exposed me to things I need to work on; that being probably my diet a little bit more and watching my weight before I come into the fights. Actually, I hope to come in a little bit lighter than the max weight now. You know, it’s lessons learned for me. I try to take away from every fight and I try not to let them attach so much. (I try to) look ahead to the future and be excited for that.”
Following his July title fight, rumors circulated about who Carwin would step into the cage against next. However, shortly after a match up with Roy “Big Country” Nelson was slated for UFC 125 on January 1, 2011, Carwin learned that he would require surgery on his back after years of problems hindered him in training.
The impending operation forced him out of the New Year’s Day bout and out of action for months after that. However, after dealing with issues and complications for some time now, Carwin understands that the surgery is for the better and a necessity at this point in his career.
“For three years (I have been having back problems),” Carwin said. “I’ve had days where I’ve gone in there and a nerve blocks, so I don’t have the feeling in the nerve. My conditions just kept getting worse and worse. And then this last time I was actually in training and my whole arm and pretty much right side of my back went completely numb.”
At the beginning of this month, the heavyweight wrecking machine went under the knife for just under four hours. Now, just under three weeks later, he is already working towards a return in 2011. While the rehabilitation is slow to start, Carwin says he should be back in action sooner than most people may believe.
“I don’t (know when I’ll be back),” Carwin said. “We have to see how the rehab goes, and I don’t know what the doctor is thinking, or the surgeon and the rehab people. I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
When Carwin does return to the Octagon, almost certainly at some point in 2011, he will immediately plunge back into the deepest depths of the shark tank that is the UFC heavyweight division. Still a contender, if Carwin returns to his winning ways, it should not be long before he once again finds himself vying for another heavyweight title.
But the fan favorite knows his place. He had an opportunity to win the heavyweight belt and, although he came incredibly close to doing so, he realizes that he has to take his place at the back of the line of contenders and prove himself once again before earning another five round bout and an opportunity at glory.
“I think it’s probably a couple of fights (before I get another title shot),” Carwin said. “I don’t think anybody deserves an instant rematch or anything. Once you lose, there are other people that are waiting in line, and you have to go back and prove yourself to be the number one contender. That’s what I have to do right now.”
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