At UFC 131, Junior dos Santos will fight for his right to get a title shot.

It won’t be against Brock Lesnar, like he originally expected, but against Shane Carwin because the former UFC heavyweight champion is continuing to battle diverticulitis and was forced to remove himself from the number one contender match-up.

Junior Dos Santos

Dos Santos vs. Nelson at UFC 117

What does that mean for dos Santos? According to him, not much. It’s still a fight to get excited about and one where he has to stay on his toes because Carwin is no slouch. Actually, dos Santos feels he traded one enormous challenge for another by accepting a fight with Carwin.

The Brazilian fighter is willing to accept any obstacles on his road to fighting for a UFC title. If those obstacles include Carwin, so be it.

“Yeah, I really want to be the champion, the UFC heavyweight champion,” dos Santos said recently. “So, now I got one more big challenge in front of me. It’s Shane Carwin. He’s a very dangerous fighter and I have to respect him.”

If you think fighting Carwin is something that takes away from dos Santos’ confidence, think again. The Black House fighter is more than confident he can handle the task of conquering a fighter who’s lost merely one fight out of 13.

The confidence probably has to do with the fact that dos Santos fought a long time ago – 10 months, to be exact. Without having an actual injury, that’s a long time to be without a fight. Dos Santos could have fought once or twice in that amount of time.

The excitement to get back in the Octagon is building for heavy-handed heavyweight.

“But I believe so much in (myself) and I will give 100 percent of me to keep in the line for the title.

UFC Fighter Junior Dos Santos

UFC Fighter Junior Dos Santos

“I’m very excited to be fighting against Shane because my last fight was almost 10 months ago. That’s too much time without fighting, so I’m very excited to be fighting.”

For the last several weeks, dos Santos has been a coach on The Ultimate Fighter Season 13. While there, dos Santos was surrounded by his coaches, helping him work the team he coached thoughout the season.

The time taping the show in Vegas was beneficial to dos Santos, as well. Preparing for his UFC 131 fight was all done during the taping of the popular reality show. To dos Santos, testing himself as a coach was a grand time, to say the least.

“Yeah, the test was a great experience for me and I learned a lot there,” he said. “But also, I have a very good coaching team. They are with me the whole time, and teaching me and helping me with with my training camp.”

The obvious strength for Junior dos Santos is his stand-up game. Too many opponents have fallen to the will of dos Santos’ punches to ever doubt that he is one to look out for on the feet at heavyweight. Besides, four of dos Santos’ six UFC opponents have fallen as a result of a KO or TKO.

That kind of ratio make somewhat of a statement when regarding impressive strikers.

Carwin has experienced some success on the feet, as well. The Grudge Training Center fighter has scored a knockout in all of his UFC wins. Despite falling to then champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 116 in July of 2010, Carwin has finished all his opponents in the first round.

Although he admittedly feels a bit more comfortable on the feet against someone like Brock Lesnar, dos Santos is confident that his boxing prowess will serve him well against Carwin.

After all, dos Santos’ boxing has brought him to where he is now. Why doubt it now?

“So, I’m feeling great for this fight and I know it’s going to be tough fight, but I’m ready for this. Yeah, me and Shane Carwin are good standing fighters. And I believe so much in my boxing, my boxing (has brought) me here until now.

“I feel very comfortable fighting on my feet. So, I will try to keep this fight standing, but I’m ready to fight whatever the fight needs, on the ground or on my feet. It doesn’t matter where. I’m ready to fight.”

Going into UFC 131: dos Santos vs. Carwin, both main event participants have just one loss on their records. Carwin most recently gave up a submission to Brock Lesnar at UFC 116. Dos Santos, however, hasn’t given up a loss since 2007.

With a seven-fight win streak intact, dos Santos has gained enough experience to separate himself from his career’s early stages. The loss he experienced was nothing more than a turning point for his career. Since then, dos Santos feels he’s grown and it’s done nothing, but help him along the way to a showdown for the UFC heavyweight title.

“I learned a lot from that first loss,” dos Santos said through his interpreter Derek Lee. “And I feel that was really the dividing moment in my career. After that, I just felt like I was a lot more experienced, a lot more relaxed, and I saw that losing is not really that big of a deal. After that, I felt that I really matured and grew as a fighter.”

Sure, dos Santos isn’t getting a date with Brock Lesnar at UFC 131 like he was originally intending, but that’s okay. There might have been a little irritation at the beginning, but he understands that it’s out of his control. Lesnar is battling a serious condition and he respects the fact that the former heavyweight champion has to do what’s best for him and his family.

In the long run, Junior dos Santos wishes Brock Lensar a speedy recovery.

“At first, I was a little upset,” dos Santos said when talking about Lesnar dropping out of their scheduled match-up. “Once again, my opponent changed and I haven’t fought in nearly 10 months now. But I realized that it is really in God’s hands. And all I can really do is prepare for this fight and wish all the best to Brock.”

Got something to say? Weigh in with a thought of your own in the comments section below.

Ken Pishna is the managing editor of MMAWeekly.com.
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@KenPishna on Twitter or e-mail Ken a question or comment.

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