Two of the heavyweight division's heaviest hitters will collide when Junior dos Santos meets Shane Carwin in a title eliminator at UFC 131 on Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Recovering heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez likely awaits the winner.
Dos Santos was originally slated to fight Brock Lesnar, his opposing coach on Season 13 of "The Ultimate Fighter." However, the former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar was forced to withdraw after a second bout with diverticulitis resulted in substantial intestinal surgery.
Enter Carwin, a behemoth of a heavyweight with devastating punching power. The 36-year-old Coloradan has not fought since succumbing to an arm-triangle choke from Lesnar nearly a year ago. In the months since, he underwent a surgical procedure to correct a nagging neck injury.
Sherdog.com recently touched base with dozens of professional trainers and fighters to gauge their opinions on the dos Santos-Carwin matchup:
Matt Pena: Having seen JDS train on a couple of occasions, I'm convinced that folks have no idea exactly how good his standup really is. Sure, he's impressed folks in fights, but I promise you, unless you have been in the gym with him that you haven't seen the angles, movement and speed that JDS uses. It's better than any other heavyweight in the division. The real question is how tentative can Carwin make JDS of his takedown attempts. My eye tells me that JDS has seen many heavy-handed fighters in his upbringing, so he will be able to handle a powerful puncher, skill-wise. If Carwin gasses or can't get in JDS' head or get a consistent takedown, which I don't think he will, it will be an early stoppage win for "Cigano." Exciting fight, because I know Shane will bring it, but I look for the precision fighter, who is JDS, to take advantage of Carwin.
Kyle Kingsbury: Dos Santos will be crushed by "Sloth" Carwin via takedown and You-Stole-My-Baby-Ruth hammerfist.
Eric Pele: Dos Santos.
Erik Paulson: I believe that Carwin is the most dangerous heavyweight fighter in the first round. If Junior can push the fight into the second round or more, I think Junior will win. It's a bummer that Brock had to pull out because of his stomach. We shall all say a prayer for his instant successful recovery so we can watch him fight the winner of Junior and Carwin.
Jason Lambert: Junior [by] TKO.
Nam Phan: I say dos Santos will win by letting Carwin outpunch himself into a TKO victory. If that doesn't happen, I think dos Santos has better boxing anyways and will get the TKO in the later rounds.
John Hackleman: It appears to me that Junior has [better] athleticism and better technical boxing skills with the knockout punch. If he keeps the speed on or keeps the distance, I think he will either outpoint or find the chin of Carwin and knock him out. But if Carwin uses his superior strength and overall athleticism -- he has just as much but in a different way -- and gets inside, roughs him up and lands that hammer-like right hand, I think he can knock out Junior. So I think whoever gets their [game plan] off first will win. That's just my way of staying on the fence.
Ryan Ciotoli: I am going with dos Santos by second-round TKO. Dos Santos will counterstrike off Carwin's missed takedown attempts and will be too quick for him on the feet. Expect a big uppercut from dos Santos in the second round.
Scott Jorgensen: Man, that's a good fight. My heart lies with the wrestler, but dos Santos is so dangerous and, at that weight, it's a puncher's game. Whoever can land that clean, solid shot can end the night. You see it all the time. I think it's going to be a great fight, but in the end, it's whoever lands that big shot, and [then] it's lights out.
Ed Herman: I'm going with Carwin, man. I've been training with him. I tend to go with my heart, so I'm pulling for Shane.
Greg Jackson: I'm going with Shane. He's my man, and I believe in him 100 percent. He's a great guy [and] a great fighter, so, yeah, I'm sure he's going to take it home. It'd be nice if [it ended] in 10 seconds so my friend, Trevor [Wittman], doesn't lose his mind, but I'm just hoping he wins it.
Ramsey Nijem: I'm definitely going with dos Santos in this one, as long as he can move. Carwin hits with power, but Junior hits with power and speed, so I think that Junior is the more dangerous heavy hitter in this fight. He was able to stop Roy [Nelson]'s takedowns, so as long as he can stop Carwin's takedowns and always get up, he's always in better shape. I think a second-round knockout is my prediction right now.
Rex Richards: I'm taking Carwin in Round 2. I hear he's lost weight but kept all of the strength. Plus, we have yet to see JDS fight this type of fighter. Should be interesting, and both fighters are extremely dangerous with a single punch. Finally a great fight without a corny storyline.
Duke Roufus: It all comes down to style. I'd hate to be so wishy-washy, but I like Carwin if he can use his wrestling to control the fight and dos Santos if he can use his range and keep it on his feet with his boxing. And also, how good his takedown defense is [will determine it].
Ron Foster: In my opinion, this is a much better fight than Brock and JDS. Carwin does pose a huge threat of putting dos Santos on his back and overpowering him with wrestling, but I don't think he will be able to get his hands on him. JDS will use his superior footwork and boxing to bust Carwin up from the outside, ensuring that his back is never against the cage. This fight could look very similar to the beginning of the Carwin-[Gabriel] Gonzaga, but this time it will end bad for Carwin. JDS moves one step closer to his fight with Cain with a TKO victory over a very game Carwin; dos Santos by TKO [in the] late first [round or] early second.
Keith Berry: How can you not like Carwin? He's like the all-around badass American dad. I'm really pulling for him in this fight. I'd be very happy to see a KO, so I'm saying Carwin by KO, Round 1.
Jaime Fletcher: These guys both hit hard and are down to slug it out. I think dos Santos is more sharp and technical and won't fold to Carwin's pressure or get taken down. JDS [takes it in the] first round in an all-out scrap.
Brian Warren: Straight-up war; hope nobody gets hurt. God Bless, peeps.
Matt Hamilton: I will go JDS by KO in Round 1 or 2. A lot depends on how long of a feeling-out process these guys give.
Ray Elbe: Carwin doesn't let this fight get out of the first round, finishing the fight faster than a 16-year-old after prom.
Billy MacDonald: Carwin is a beast. My friends that train with him at [the] Grudge [Training Center] say that he hits harder than anyone else they have trained with, and that's an impressive list of warriors. That being said, I just can't see a way that JDS doesn't come out with his hand raised. This could end quickly with either fighter getting clipped. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that JDS will have the advantage on the ground.
Charlie Brenneman: JDS all the way. Carwin has power, yes, but JDS is a great striker. Should Carwin get him to the ground early on, my guess is that he'll tire; dos Santos by TKO in Round 2.
Benji Radach: Watch out for the first round of power from Shane, but I pick Junior to push him past the first round and pull it off.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: I think JDS is gonna wreck Carwin after Shane gasses. JDS then beats Cain for title. Then the best heavyweight in the world, Alistair Overeem, comes to the UFC and the UFC actually considers having him fight in handicapped two-versus-one bouts to give someone a chance to beat him.
Blake Bowman: Just two big guys with decent skills; no story, no hype, no commercials and no gladiator music. Just two dudes I want to watch fight each other.
Kultar Black Mamba Gill: Junior all day long -- better conditioning, better striking and hard to take down. Junior by second-round KO.
Michael Guymon: I think after such a long layoff this is too tough a fight for Shane. Granted, this is MMA and anything could happen, especially with big heavyweights. I believe Junior is stronger in all categories and will end up knocking out Shane in the second round.
Roli Delgado: Tough fight to call. I have to pick Carwin. His hands are just too heavy.
Pros Picking Dos Santos: 15
Pros Picking Carwin: 7
No Pick: 6
Sloan is a contributor to Sherdog.com. You can also contact Sloan at www.facebook.com/mikesloan19. Features Editor Brian Knapp contributed to this report.