UFC 131: Carwin Vs Dos Santos takes place tomorrow night in Vancouver and we’ve got our full preview and predictions for you to check out below.

Main Card:

Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin

Normally Brock Lesnar pulling out of a fight would be a major blow for a big UFC card, but on this occasion we’ve ended up with a better fight as two of the heaviest hitters in the sport collide in a bout that will decide the next No.1 contender in the heavyweight division.

The striking realm is where both fighters like to ply their trade, and of the two Dos Santos is the more technically sound boxer. He’s also relatively mobile for a heavyweight and should hold a speed advantage over Carwin.

Dos Santos also has impressive KO punching power, but personally I believe Carwin is the most powerful puncher in the sport. Dos Santos defense is not impenetrable, and while I expect Carwin to get hit more often, if he can connect cleanly on the chin then that could well be all she wrote.

Carwin also has an ace up his sleeve in this fight in that he has a strong wrestling base, and that gives him addtional options, whether it’s roughing up his opponent against the cage as he did to Frank Mir, or taking him down and hammering down bombs as he did against Brock Lesnar. To combat that Dos Santos is rumored to have a solid BJJ game, but we’ve basically never had an opportunity to see it in the Octagon so it’s hard to put much faith in it.

As I mentioned in a seperate article yesterday, an interesting side story in this fight is Carwin’s recent weight cut – dropping down somewhere in the region of 20-30lbs. Will that improve the cardio issues he experienced against Lesnar, and additionally will it affect his punching power? It’s hard to say for sure, but what we do know is that Dos Santos can go the full three rounds.

Prediction: This is an extremely tough one to call, and given both men’s ability to finish a fight in an instant with their fists I certainly wouldn’t want to bet on the winner. In the end I think cardio could be an issue. Let’s not forget that Carwin is coming off a long layoff as well after serious back surgery and I think that, plus concerns about gassing out will make him hesitant to go all out in the first round. That’ll give JDS a chance to get an early grip on the fight using angles and movements to keep him at bay, and then turn up the heat as the fight progresses and Carwin begins to tire.

Junior Dos Santos to win by TKO in Rd2

Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes

Florian undertakes his first fight at 145lbs, making him the only UFC fighter to have competed in four separate weight divisions, and a win over Nunes is expected to earn him a title shot.

A true veteran of the UFC, Florian’s well rounded skill-set of striking and BJJ together with an analytical mind and some razor sharp elbows has meant that he’s been a threat in every division that he’s fought in. The 145lb division is definitely not as strong as lightweight where Florian has spent much of his career, and his experience against a string of top opponents over the years will serve him well here.

For Nunes this is a golden opportunity to make a name for himself against the most recognized fighter currently fighting in the division. He is equipped with a similar skill-set to Ken-Flo, relying on his muay thai and BJJ skills to get the job done, and he’s done so successfully in 16 of his 17 fights to date. A win over former WEC champ Mike Brown in his UFC debut proved that he’s a fighter Florian has to be wary of.

Again, as I mentioned in an article yesterday, like Carwin, Florian’s weight cut could play a factor in this fight. The lighter weight-classes are notoriously fast paced, and with Florian admitting that it’s been a tough camp forcing his body down another 10lbs, his cardio could be tested, and we’ll have to see how his strength has coped too.

Florian will have several physical advantages in the fight, being four inches taller and having seven inches of reach over his opponent, and come fight night he should also be considerable heavier than Nunes.

Prediction: I think Florian will have too much for Nunes here. He’s fought tougher fighters in the past, and I think his size and reach will give Nunes problems on the feet, and he will also prove to be the superior BJJ practitioner on the mat as he gains a submission win.

Kenny Florian to win by submission in Rd2

Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman

Not the most glamorous fight to grace the main card, and really indicates how injuries have effected the card. Still, this match-up sees two heavyweight newcomers battling it out to make an immediate impression in the division.

Einemo is better known for his BJJ exploits than his MMA skills, winning the 99kg division at the prestigious ADCC tournament in 2003, famously submitting Roger Gracie along the way. MMA wise he also holds a 6-1 record, but the problem is that he has been out of action for four and a half years, so there’s undoubtedly going to be a large degree of ring rust on show here.

Meanwhile his opponent ‘Pee-wee’ Herman is an experienced campaigner at the age of 26 having fought 22 times for a range of promotions including Bellator, EliteXC, Sengoku and Shark Fights to name but a few, and losing only twice. Primarily a stand-up fighter, Herman packs a serious punch and the majority of his victorious have come inside the first round.

Prediction: It’s hard to get a real sense of where Einemo is at after such a long spell out of action. For that reason alone I favor Herman who’s been competing frequently and should also have the advantage in the striking. I believe he also has enough wrestling to keep this fight on the feet where he can do the most damage.

Dave Herman to win by TKO in Rd3.

Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz

Maia and Munoz are two fighters who could use an impressive win to help get people talking about them in terms of the middleweight title picture so hopefully they’ll put on a show on Saturday night.

Maia is of course a wizard on the ground, with some of the best jiu-jitsu in the business, but lately he’s been favoring his stand-up and the truth is it’s just not his forte. It’s not that he’s completely out of his depth, but rather just that he’s no better than average on his feet and never looks like ending a fight with his punches and kicks.

Munoz is also still a little raw with his striking, appearing a little hesitant at times and unsure of his range, but he is slowly improving and when he does commit to his strikes he’s got big power in his hands.

Also in Munoz favor is the wrestling, though his takedowns are at times surprisingly ineffective given his creditionals, and though his ground and pound is vicious he’d be wise not to go to the mat and risk getting caught up in one of Maia’s endless array of submission techniques.

Prediction: On the feet I favor Munoz heavily, but I think this a fight where Maia will go back to his roots and look to pull out a submission victory. Munoz likes to finish his fights with ground and pound, and i think that could be where he gets caught out here.

Demian Maia to win by submission in Rd2

Vagner Rocha vs. Donald Cerrone

Another fight that features a late replacement, Rocha steps in for Mac Danzig to fight former WEC favorite ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.

Cerrone has a knack of getting himself into entertaining scraps with his love of toe-to-toe stand-up wars and slick submission skills on the mat. While not possessing one-punch KO power, Cerrone has good technique and mixes up his strikes well, working the body and the head effectively with punches, knees and kicks. He also transitions smoothly from the striking to takedowns which often catches his opponents off guard.

‘Cowboy’ likes to finish by submission though, with 12 of his 14 wins coming that way, and that’s something he may have difficulty in doing here as BJJ happens to be Rocha’s forte. That could lead to this fight being fought largely on the feet which could pose a problem for Rocha who’s considerably less experienced than his opponent and may not have the striking arsenal to cope with Cowboy’s relentless and varied offense.

Prediction: I’m pretty confident that Cerrone will win here, the real question is whether he can do so inside the distance. He has very good cardio so I think he’ll push the action on the feet from start to finish and by the third round I think Rocha will be into very deep water and may succumb to the culimative effect of ‘Cowboy’s’ offense.

Donald Cerrone to win by TKO in Rd3

Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)

Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards

Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Chris Weidman

Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young

Krzystof Soszynksi vs. Mike Massenzio

Nick Ring vs. James Head

Joey Beltran vs. Aaron Rosa

Darren Elkins vs. Michihiro Omigawa