This Saturday, Shane Carwin and Junior dos Santos will both break free of extended periods of inactivity and fight to determine a No. 1 contender for the UFC heavyweight title.
As big as these dudes are and as big as the implications might be for their bout, it’s no wonder it’s hard to focus on much else this week. While UFC 131 duly dominates the landscape, the MMA Hot List soldiers on, doing its best to track trending topics of all sizes in the world of mixed martial arts.
Here are this week’s most giant-est storylines:
1. Heavyweight slugfest: Both dos Santos and Carwin are promising a stand-and-bang-type affair when they meet in this weekend’s main event. I’m probably in the minority, but I can’t help thinking I’d like to see this fight go to the ground, instead. Especially if I’m Carwin. We know dos Santos can knock people out, but we have yet to see what he has to offer in the grappling portions. Time to find out?
2. Featherweight the answer for Florian? After losses in two title fights and one No. 1 contender bout, Kenny Florian set out for 145-pounds with the express purpose of finally claiming himself some gold. To their credit, UFC matchmakers did not set him up with a gimme in his first fight at featherweight, as he takes on Top 10-ranked Diego Nunes on Saturday. It’ll be a stiff test, but so long as Florian doesn’t sacrifice his cardio or strength in making the weight cut, I think he has the potential to be force at 145.
3. Two interesting debuts: Not a ton of press prior to 131 for the promotional debuts of John Olav Einemo and Dave “PeeWee” Herman. Understandable, considering the literal and figurative size of the main event, I guess. On the other hand, Herman rolls in at 20-2 and fitting the mold of what the UFC likes in its heavyweights – a big dude with a penchant for T/KOs. Meanwhile, Einemo is somewhat less experienced (6-1), but immediately becomes one of the better submission stylists in the heavyweight class. A couple of prospects to keep an eye on here.
4. Grappler vs … grappler? Believe it. When Mark Munoz and Demian Maia do battle on Saturday you’ll see the 185-pound division’s best wrestler take on its best submission specialist. You know what that means: Tons of boos from the live crowd. Just kidding, Vancouver! Given the choice, it’s hard not to like Munoz here, as he figures to have a physical advantage and can use his wrestling to decide where in the cage this fight gets contested.
5. Vancouver maneuvers: A couple weeks ago, the city asked the UFC to foot the bill for extra police patrols around Rogers Arena during UFC 131. The company declined that request and UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright told me last week he didn’t think it was fair for Vancouver to paint the UFC “with a different kind of brush” than other live event promoters. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but with a possible game five of the Stanley Cup finals scheduled for the arena on Friday night – and memories of riots in Vancouver in 1994 after the Canucks lost the cup to the Rangers still lingering – I also don’t blame the city for wanting to take precautions.
6. Carano canceled, or at least delayed: Strikeforce officials announced during a conference call on Tuesday that Gina Carano would not make her return to MMA this month due to a “revoked medical clearance.” Now – amid reports of a difficult training camp for the long inactive fighter – news is percolating that Carano actually was medically cleared, but pulled herself from the event due to an "unfortunate setback." Strange. What’s ailing Gina?
7. Kaufman version 2.0: Former Strikeforce women’s welterweight champion Sarah Kaufman is also set to make her return after winning one fight away from the promotion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Kaufman has once again been relegated to the promotion’s B-list “Challengers” series after dropping her title to Marloes Coenen last October.
8. Bellator eyes Canadian market: The fight promotion will make its first trek outside the friendly confines of the United States next month in order to stage a potentially epic featherweight title fight between Joe Warren and Patricio Freire. The bout – a rematch of their 2010 clash, which Warren won by split decision – is scheduled for July 23 in Rama, Ontario. Seems like everybody wins here.
9. Fighters hoping Strikeforce tourney means something, anything: Both Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum said this week they hope winning the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament nets them a chance to fight UFC champion Cain Velasquez. Both guys can’t do it, obviously, but it does bring up the fairly compelling question of what spoils exactly (if any) will be afforded the winner of this tournament. Hopefully it’s not all for naught.
10. Better luck next year, New York: For what seems like the umpteenth time, efforts to regulate MMA in New York will likely die before the issue sees a full vote on the floor of the state assembly. It’d be great to see the sport get sanctioned in the Empire State, but clearly some significant political roadblocks still exist.
UFC President Dana White (above) embarrassed after Gray Maynard beat Clay Guida by split decision to win a lightweight bout and the main event of the UFC card in Atlantic City.
Can anyone top the big three of Silva, Jones, and GSP as the best pound-for-pounder fighter?