MMA: Shane Carwin

Browne kicks door open for title fight

August, 18, 2013
8/18/13
11:14
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
Archive
Hope, faint as it was in the moment Travis Browne found it, emerged in the form of a front kick.

Things had gone all wrong until he snapped off that gut-deflating kick to Alistair Overeem's midsection. Browne, 31, allowed Overeem the boost of confidence, which is just about the worst thing a person can do if they're fighting the Dutch banger. No matter what people think about Overeem in the wake of his drug issues and now, back-to-back knockout losses in the Octagon, he can still punch and hit and knee with devastating results.

And for the first half of the first round, Overeem did just that against Browne, who absorbed so much punishment it easily could be used as the counterclaim to the idea that heavyweights can't take more than one punch and survive. We know that's not true because Randy Couture showed it against Pedro Rizzo the same way Brock Lesnar did against Shane Carwin. Those were tremendous comebacks, each unique in their way. So was Browne's rally against Overeem.

The front kick appeared out of thin air. But that's what Browne wanted to do all along, it just took him suffering through a tentative start and subsequent beating to get there.

After finally managing to stand and shake off the assault from a 265-pound threat, Browne told himself he wasn't going down again. Nope, instead, he expected to kick Overeem in the stomach. And if that went well, maybe the face.

"I just felt him hitting me so I knew I needed to get up and get back to work," the 6-foot-7 Hawaiian said.

The front kick became part of the game plan because the brains at Greg Jackson's camp found Overeem's "common denominator for what he did and some of his openings," Browne said.

It was the way in which Overeem held his elbows too far out, Browne said. That led the group to think Overeem could be susceptible.

Brown flinched at the start of the fight. He backed away from Overeem's aggression, which only spurred on more attacks. For that he paid a hefty price, but it hadn't been enough. And when that first kick landed, Browne felt new life. Hope. So he kicked again. It landed. Overeem paused. Browne moved forward. Kicks were aimed at the head, and they landed, too. Finally, one connected with power, and Overeem hit the canvas.

"I kept going back to it and as he kept dropping his elbows further and further," he said, "that's when I saw the opening to the head and I took it."

Browne boasted that Overeem learned what his training partners are too familiar with.

"You can ask just about any of my training partners at Jackson's, because I've hit everybody with that shot," he said. "And they've all pretty much went down."

The win pushed Browne to 15-1-1. His lone loss: a technical knockout against Antonio Silva after popping a hamstring early in the fight. Knockout wins against Gabriel Gonzaga in April and now Overeem make Browne look like a force in the division. ESPN.com currently ranks Browne at No. 9, and he's in line to move up.

Browne said he'd like a fight with Fabricio Werdum (ranked No. 3), who has won three in a row over Roy Nelson, Mike Russow and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Many feel Werdum has done enough to merit a title shot, and the Brazilian's trainer, Rafael Cordeiro, told ESPN.com that their intention is to wait for a five-round fight.

Said Browne: "I've never said 'no' to a fight and I've always been ready for anything they've thrown my way.

"It's definitely not out of the question."

Based on his effort so far, neither is a championship.

Silva's no-show; Alvarez still a no-go

May, 8, 2013
5/08/13
10:50
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
Archive
So let's get this straight.

Anderson Silva no-shows UFC media obligations in Los Angeles on Tuesday and gets fined $50,000 by the UFC. After returning to Brazil, the middleweight champion tells the press he was unaware of being on the hook for a media day.

I'm not alone here, right? This is a really strange sequence of events.

How could Silva, the top pound-for-pound fighter in MMA, be in the dark about a full day's worth of media events designed to get the word out about ticket sales for UFC 162? Can you imagine? I can't, but maybe I'm not trying hard enough.

Say what you will about the "Spider" lacking as a promoter and showman, the man does not have a reputation for skipping out on the media. It's true as years have past he's become less accessible, but that can just as easily be a result of the natural course of things. Silva is a star in Brazil. He has major sponsorship endorsements. The strain on his time must be severe. And hey, he never enjoyed doing interviews to begin with. How many times can he say he wants to fight his clone? He wasn't the kind of fighter who made much noise, preferring, always, to do his talking in the cage. And aren’t we thankful for that?

Still, consider his numerous achievements over the years, his time spent atop the highest peak in this sport. It shouldn't be so shocking, then, if success got to his head. Hey, I'm not saying that was the cause of what happened in L.A. I don't know what was, and Silva's management isn't talking.

Well, the fighter himself claimed no knowledge, which needs to be respected for now. But I will say I've heard more than once, even from people who know him very well, that Silva isn't above acting like a diva. He can be impossible to handle if that's where his mind's at.

Alvarez not going anywhere anytime soon

Eddie AlvarezDave Mandel/Sherdog.comWhen it comes to fighting, Eddie Alvarez is likely to be on the outside looking in for some time.

Not so long ago I wrote about a conversation between Eddie Alvarez and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney in a production truck during an event in Atlantic City, N.J. Rebney thought it was positive, though he never suggested that any of the issues between the two were close to being resolved. A legal battle over the fate of the lightweight's career was ongoing and pleasantries probably weren't going to change that. Turns out, it didn't mean a thing. If Rebney had an inkling of hope that Alvarez would come back into the fold without a fuss, he can forget it. Alvarez went off over the weekend on his Twitter page, criticizing Bellator's majority owner, Viacom, for not playing fair.

It should be that Alvarez doesn't want to remain with Bellator. He has his reasons, and they're basically all that matter at this stage. Lawyers will determine whether Viacom and Bellator legally matched terms laid out by UFC, but that issue sounds settled to Alvarez. He doesn't think so, and probably never will based on where things stand today.

This raises a question: Why would Bellator battle over a guy like Alvarez if he has no desire to be there? If Viacom/Bellator feel the need to scratch and claw like this to keep Alvarez (who, remember, is not a champion in the organization), is this a preview of how other future UFC crossovers will be treated?

Bellator wants to promote a pay-per-view. Internally it's making moves in this direction, but there's no doubt that the pay model is tricky territory. And there isn't anyone who's watched MMA over the last few years who believes a promoter outside of the UFC can sell major numbers on pay-per-view. There's just no track record to suggest otherwise. It's no wonder why Alvarez would want to be tied to UFC when it comes to selling fights this way.

Unfortunately, this has all the earmarks of a protracted legal fight. Don't expect Alvarez to fight in the ring for a while.

On Carwin's retirement

Shane Carwin and  Junior Dos SantosAP Photo/The Canadian Press/Darryl DyckOne injury after another took a toll on Shane Carwin.

Heavyweight Shane Carwin announced his retirement from MMA on Tuesday night, closing the book on an entertaining and fruitful journey that sputtered to a halt because of injuries.

On the "entertaining" and "fruitful" fronts, I couldn't have been more wrong about the guy. In late 2007 a talent scout/fight booker asked for my take on Carwin. The powerhouse had destroyed everyone in front of him to that point, but based on the level of opposition, that's what he should have done. So despite covering his pro debut in 2005 and seeing firsthand how destructive he could be, I found a way not to be impressed with Carwin. Because he shared a similar build and friendship with Ron Waterman, I made the mistake of conflating the two.

Turns out Carwin was nothing like Waterman, whose slow, safe style made him one of the least enjoyable heavyweights to watch in MMA.

In reality, Carwin's power turned out to be a defining trait of the heavyweight division during a period in which bigger was better. Carwin was in the class of monsters who dominated the UFC for a stretch, especially because when he laid his hands on someone, they went down, regardless if the shot was clean or not. Such was the force of Carwin's concussive power that he didn't need more than four minutes to stop any of his first 12 opponents, including Frank Mir for a UFC interim title. Then he ran into a defiant Brock Lesnar -- prompting one of the best heavyweight fights in the UFC -- and young soon-to-be-champion Junior dos Santos. Carwin hadn't returned since losing a decision to dos Santos in June 2011, enduring neck and back surgeries, as well as a knee injury along the way.

It should be noted that in 2010 a U.S. Attorney in Mobile, Ala., connected Carwin to an illegal anabolic steroid ring, a situation he has not fully addressed.

Strife between casting couches and casting coaches

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
11:07
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
 Roy NelsonRod Mar for ESPN.com
It’s barely underway, but there’s already drama trickling out of "The Ultimate Fighter 16" house. Not from the crop of welterweight participants, who are still shrouded in mystery and being canned for preservation just like the old Spike days.

It’s from the coach, UFC heavyweight Roy Nelson, who hand-picked a peculiar coaching staff to help mold the upstarts -- people who didn’t necessarily meet with UFC president Dana White’s approval.

Who were they? There was former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion/current Bellator fighter Muhammad Lawal, who is serving a nine-month suspension for testing positive for an anabolic steroid; there was Kurt Angle, the professional wrestler and one-time Olympic gold medalist; and then Victor Conte, who’s ran the gamut of morality in all things steroid related.

Not exactly the most fetching bunch of names -- in fact, it reads like a devil’s den of asterisks. But it does make you wonder what exactly Nelson and the proposed coaching staff would have been teaching. And that begs a further question -- wouldn’t that make for compelling television? This is “reality” television, after all, where drama and conflict are meant to play out candidly. That we commonly talk about TUF as being a house of bottled-up testosterone sort of broadens the set of qualifications to a visionary like Nelson.

Wouldn’t that crew know how to manipulate, canalize and redirect testosterone?

That’s a sadistic maybe, because we’ll never know -- Dana White put the kibosh on it. And that he did, both head coach and big boss have been barbing at each other via interviews and on Twitter. White told MMAFighting.com that Nelson is being a “pain in the a--.” Nelson told MMAJunkie.com “I’m always at the back of the bus when it comes to the UFC. I’m trying to further MMA to the next level, hold journalists up to higher standards, holding fights to higher standards, holding promotions to higher standards, holding athletic commissions to higher standards, and even holding the fans to higher standards.”

It sounds like a pioneering effort was being hatched by Nelson. Instead, he is compromising with more savory names that make sense to the company and brand image. They are Skrap Packers like Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez, and the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate.

You know it’s a strange situation when the Diaz’s appear more savory than the alternative. The conflict between coach Nelson and opposing coach Shane Carwin isn’t the centerpiece of drama -- it’s between Nelson and White, who’ve been contentious off and on for years.

It wasn’t that long ago that Nelson was meeting with White to discuss the matter of just staying on the UFC roster. A win over Dave Herman later, and the boldness we saw from Nelson on TUF 10 comes storming back. White has never been a fan of Nelson’s attitude, the Falstaffian physique, nor the nature of all that hair and beard. Yet he still gives him opportunities.

Nelson has done an infuriating job of politely ignoring White’s tastes. And he still dances to White’s tune.

All of this should dial up the intrigue just a little bit when the new season of TUF airs in September on FX. But it’s a reminder once again that the inmates don’t run the big house (even the most persistent inmates). White does. And in this case it’s hard to find fault with his reasoning for saying no to a coaching staff of Lawal, Angle and Conte. When associations are so strong, dissociations can be smart.

But you can’t help but feel a pang. When a show is accused of growing stale and here comes Nelson thinking way outside the box, wouldn’t it have been fun to see what was up his sleeve?

Modern era of heavyweights now upon us

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
12:26
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
The flyweights debuted in the UFC in February, though the concept of high-octane little dudes had existed for a long time. Long before then, Tachi Palace Fights was the North American home to 125 pounders, and it always felt like the Central California town of Lemoore was in on a secret. Not anymore.

As for the heavyweights?

That’s the dinosaur division in the UFC. It goes back to MMA’s prehistoric times. It’s gone through periods, times of near dormancy. In the beginning, a heavyweight of 500 pounds was allowed entrance into the eight-sided cage, and he’d take on Gi-donning fighters the size of thimbles. In those days, there were talks of moats that thankfully never came to be.

In the middle times, when weight classes were better designated, a guy barely over the minimum weight of 206 pounds became king. Twelve pounds of it were heart, the same weight as the belt.

This was known as the Couture Era. It was revisited, but always short-lived.

Then came Brock Lesnar and the rift of perceptions. He was a circus, a bull, a collegiate wrestler, a bona-fide martial artist, a charlatan, a mercenary, a hermit and a comic book character with a sworded thorax all into one. He couldn’t take a punch; he had more heart than we knew. He was a novelty; he is a future hall of famer.

We still have no idea how to assess him.
[+] EnlargeJunior dos Santos
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesChampion Junior dos Santos and his peers offer a range of depth not seen before in the UFC.

That’s part of the reason that, as we arrive at UFC 146, there’s a feeling of something inaugural going on even though the division has always been. Something like the "Modern Era" of the UFC heavies is finally upon us.

This is the era of Junior dos Santos and his level-changing boxing quicks and heavy hands, and Cain Velasquez and his legit wrestling. This is Antonio Silva, and the resilient Frank Mir. It’s Alistair Overeem, so long as Lorenzo Fertitta stands behind him when his suspension is up. It’s Lavar Johnson and Stipe Miocic and beanstalk fighters like Stefan Struve and returning fighters like Shane Carwin.

It’s a lot of guys, rather than a few. And for once we are about to have a consolidated idea of where the heavyweight division stands. The division has gotten so hot that Chad Griggs had to get out of the kitchen. Soon Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett will enter the mix. Jon Jones will be there before we know it, but right now the division has newfound depth. And it’s deep enough that when MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani asked Dana White about Cormier’s future, White replied that he wouldn’t mind seeing Cormier as a light heavyweight.

When the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion looks like a spare piece to the company president, you know the division has arrived.
[+] EnlargeAndrei Arlovski
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesRemember (or try not to) when Andrei Arlovski, right, and Tim Sylvia ruled the roost?

Saturday night’s fight card is historic in that way. Gone are the days of Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia and a deck of middling hopefuls. Depending on how things play out in Las Vegas, the next title fight could be anything. It could be Velasquez/dos Santos II. It could be Mir/Velasquez, the fight that was supposed to happen anyway. It could be Bigfoot/JDS, or Cormier/JDS, or Mir/Cormier. This is the first time ever that not just one scenario makes sense, but they all do. Better yet, people would be excited to see any of those match-ups. In other words, UFC 146 in all its historical significance is hardly the culminating point.

For once, there is a broad horizon. This feels more like the beginning than the usual pitch. For once, heavyweights have something in common with the lightweights and the welterweights. The 265-pound division has the feeling of an ongoing story playing out, rather than one wrapping up.

The novelty isn’t an ageless wonder like Couture beating guys half his age and size, or a pro wrestler turned fighter who froths at the mouth and tramples people like it’s the running of the bulls. The novelty is that the division has the funny feeling of something complete.

And that can’t help but be anything other than exciting for fans of big boy MMA.

The heavyweights truly arrive in May

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
1:52
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
The biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez lasted a minute and four seconds. It was so brief that the coveted casual fan that tuned in to FOX that night was left with these four lonely words -- wait, so that’s it?

On the other hand, the biggest heavyweight grand prix in history has stretched on for 15 long, meandering months. When it started, Strikeforce was still a rival of the UFC’s. Fedor Emelianenko was still formidable. Antonio Silva was constructed from body parts unknown. Fabricio Werdum was still a castoff, and Brett Rogers was free of legal isues. Josh Barnett had single handedly shut down Affliction, and Andrei Arlovski was still believable in fangs. You might remember that The Reem wasn’t yet viral, and Sergei Kharitonov was still unspellable.

It was a different era when the tournament started. In fact, Daniel Cormier, who is in the grand prix final against Barnett, was the eleventh man in the field of eight. How, exactly, did we get here?

Just about all the elite Zuffa heavyweights (and Roy Nelson) will be making appearances in a seven-day span in May. The roads to spring 2012 have been very different, but between May 19-26, everybody will finally get on the same page. Schedules will sync up for matchmaking, guys who have been cordoned off from each other will be at liberty to poke their fingers in whoever’s chest they please, and the division will become one massive melting pot.
[+] EnlargeAlistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comSeven top-10 heavyweights, including Alistair Overeem, will see action in May.

It starts with Strikeforce’s heavyweight swan song in San Jose, Calif.; and ends with the UFC’s big man extravaganza in Las Vegas. On May 19, Cormier-Barnett goes down at long, long last, before one or both head to the UFC. On May 26, Frank Mir against Velasquez, Nelson versus Antonio Silva, Alistair Overeem in a title fight with Junior dos Santos. Seven of those names belong in ESPN.com’s top 10 Power Rankings.

That’s a lot of firepower. Forget about the biggest fight or biggest grand prix in heavyweight history -- this will be the biggest single week of consolidating big men we’ve ever seen. And a week after that, we’ll be in a state of musical opponents, matching up winners with winners and losers with losers, and pitting re-emerging bodies like Shane Carwin and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with each other.

What does it really mean, though? That we’ll finally have a division that captivates the imagination like the others, with a little more matchmaking wiggle room and a lot more overall possibility. It’s a relaunch of something, only this time something whole. Now the best heavyweights in the world are gathering under one roof. And as everybody knows, heavyweights have always carried a little extra clout in the minds of fight fans. The bigger the man, the more likely people are to stop what they’re doing to watch. It’s what happens when guys like Alistair Overeem walk around weighing two Ian McCall’s.

And Zuffa is smart to roll out this broadened division en masse like this.

If you’re going to reimagine something, do it big.

Mr. Overeem on to the next gauge

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
3:35
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
Alistair OvereemRic Fogel for ESPN.comAlistair Overeem is in desperate need of image repair -- but just try telling him that.
Alistair Overeem was a slight favorite heading into his fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. This made sense to him, as he has always been his own biggest booster (just check out any episode of “The Reem”). But plenty of people were scratching their heads at the perception of Overeem as a favorite, for no better reason than this: Lesnar had been fighting monsters for a short period of time in the UFC, while Overeem had been fighting imaginary monsters for a long period of time “elsewhere.”

In this case, it didn’t matter that Overeem’s unbeaten streak exceeded Lesnar’s tenure in the UFC by four months. Quality trumped quantity (and tawdry). Lesnar shopped on the boulevard, beating Frank Mir, Randy Couture and Shane Carwin. Overeem hit rummage sales, beating Fabricio Werdum, Todd Duffee and Tony Sylvester. Dana White himself discounted Overeem’s chances of keeping the fight standing, and, by extension, Overeem’s chances.

Well, we all saw what happened.

Overeem wasted no time in downing Lesnar with knees and kicks in the main event of UFC 141, the last of which crashed into his side and sent him squatting against the fence. The end followed, and it was anticlimactic -- it’s hard to feel satisfied when white flags appear so early in a fight of this magnitude. One way to look at it would be that it was an impressive victory for Overeem against a “real” opponent.
Alistair Overeem
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comOne timely kick to the midsection proved Alistair Overeem isn't overrated.

Yet from listening to people talk afterwards, what stood out was the way Lesnar lost, not so much the way Overeem won. And now there’s this temptation to lump Lesnar in with the laundry list of common folk that Overeem has knocked off in his run toward Junior dos Santos and the UFC belt. After all, knowing what we know now -- that Lesnar’s diverticulitis had taken its toll and reduced his athleticism, and that he had one foot out the door of the UFC before he ever stepped in at UFC 141 -- it’s easy to do.

Even Junior dos Santos was pointing out that he thought Lesnar fought a dumb fight, only he used the word “surprised.”

But the thing is, Overeem, who was widely accused of being overrated before Lesnar, begins to appear as just the opposite. He beat the guy standing in front of him, no matter if his training camp was a fiasco or not -- or if the fight was held in Japan or Dallas or Amsterdam. He won, which looks like concrete next to how people rate him.

Lesnar was his 11th victim in 12 fights, nine of which he finished in the first round. Overeem is a K-1 champion, and he has the Strikeforce heavyweight belt somewhere in his basement. These aren’t just notions, they’re real. Carrying that kind of résumé it should be impossible to tiptoe through the heavyweight ranks -- yet the Dutchman proceeds with a fairly light step. Even as he retires pay-per-view behemoths with sworded thoraxes.

Yet it wasn’t what Overeem did, it’s what Lesnar didn’t. That's the story of Overeem’s life.

And it’s time to revise that thinking. Four years is an eternity to go undefeated in the heavyweight division, no matter your global whereabouts, even if some of the guys you’ve beaten are named Lee Tae-Hyun. Some of Velasquez’s foes were named Brad Morris. In reverse dogma, fighting can be about the destination, not the journey. And Junior dos Santos is the new destination.

Beat JDS and, like the promotion he’s running with, that’s about as real as it gets -- and there’s no way to go about such business quietly when smashing such gauges.

Forget Lesnar's health, how's his standup?

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
5:08
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive
Brock LesnarEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBrock Lesnar was never a man of few words -- until it came time to talk about his health.
Brock Lesnar was in no mood.

No mood to talk about his health, anyway. Not during Monday’s UFC 141 conference call, when the former heavyweight champion bristled at repeated questions about his recovery from a second bout with diverticulitis, which has kept him out of the cage since October 2010.

“That's the best you can come up with today?” Lesnar eventually retorted to the reporter unlucky enough to ask that one question too many about how the big fella was feeling. “I feel great. I feel very, very good.”

This was not unexpected, obviously. From the beginning of his MMA career, Lesnar has taken an adversarial stance with the media and continued queries about his health force an already very private man to not only talk about his personal life, but to confront his own mortality in a way he’d probably rather not think about. Maybe as a result, word on the street is that, aside from the prerequisite news conferences and long-distance calls, the UFC's biggest pay-per-view draw won’t be doing much PR leading up to his main event bout with Alistair Overeem on Dec. 30.

One thing seems strange, though. As painful as it may be for him, shouldn’t Lesnar be pleased if the MMA media only wants to ask him about his health? After all, these questions should be far easier to answer than the ones about his stand-up game.

Even if no one wants to say it to his face, the thing we all whisper about Brock Lesnar when he’s not around is that he doesn’t like to get hit. And make no mistake, Overeem is going to try to hit him.

Lesnar’s aura of invincibility may have completely come undone during a UFC 121 loss to Cain Velasquez late last year, but the cracks had begun to show before that. The moment Lesnar started to look vulnerable on his feet can be traced back to his UFC 116 bout against Shane Carwin when, a minute, two seconds into the first round, Carwin stuck him with an uppercut and Lesnar recoiled like a man just realizing for the first time how bad that can hurt.

He went on to win that fight, of course, due to the good graces of referee Josh Rosenthall, but in the wake of an even more disastrous performance against Velasquez and then a lengthy absence from his intestinal ailment, questions about what Lesnar has done to shore up his punch phobia should be front and center here.

He’s given every impression that he’s indeed fully recovered from the diverticulitis, but his ability either survive (or avoid completely) Overeem’s stand-up game remains the biggest mystery. We learned against Carwin and Velasquez that, no, Lesnar won’t be able to instantly take down everyone in the UFC. What's worse, those last two performances left us with the impression he didn’t really have a back-up plan.

Will he have one next week, when he steps in against the most dangerous striker he’s ever faced? Will he be ready when that first punch pops his head back? Can he take Overeem down before it comes to that? And if he can't or he can't keep there, what then?

These are the question that should cause Lesnar the most consternation before UFC 141. The ones about his fists and his face, not the ones about his stomach.

Training rigors hurt fighters, UFC's plans

October, 20, 2011
10/20/11
6:49
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
Archive
Rashad EvansJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesRashad Evans knows a thing or two about career-stalling injuries.
It’s time for the folks at the UFC to begin crossing their fingers.

A pattern has developed this year that could derail any plan CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, President Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva have of turning mixed martial arts, and the UFC in particular, into a mainstream sporting event. High-profile fighters -- many of them titleholders -- are succumbing to prefight injuries at an alarming rate.

Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre became the latest fighter to fall victim to the injury plague after he suffered a knee injury Tuesday that forced him to pull out of his UFC 137 title bout Oct. 29 against Carlos Condit. That fight was slated to headline a pay-per-view card at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

While another intriguing welterweight fight -- B.J. Penn versus Nick Diaz -- has been moved to headline status, message board posters all across the Internet are urging everyone to boycott the event entirely.

UFC 137 remains a solid card; it can even be argued that Penn-Diaz potentially offers more excitement than St. Pierre-Condit. But the loss of St. Pierre highlights a problem that might spell big issues for the UFC as it prepares to hit network television next month and in 2012.

Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar and challenger Gray Maynard put on an exciting fight Oct. 8 at UFC 136. But the bout was originally slated to take place months earlier. Edgar and Maynard were to decide their third meeting at UFC 130 in May, but both fighters suffered prefight injuries. The injuries not only pushed their fight into the fall, but put other lightweight contenders in limbo.
Miguel Almeida & Frankie Edgar
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comFrankie Edgar, facing, is one of many high-profile fighters to fall victim to the injury bug earlier this year.

The list of high-profile bouts that came unglued due to prefight injuries is lengthy. A knee injury suffered in practice pushed Rashad Evans out of his long-awaited showdown in March with then-light heavyweight champion Maurico Rua. Jon Jones stepped in a little more than month after submitting Ryan Bader to face, and eventually defeat, Rua.

Jones would reveal a hand injury after becoming champion that put his first title defense on hold. A hand injury would later postpone Evans’ second shot this year at the 205-pound title.

A few days ago, former interim heavyweight champ Shane Carwin announced he injured his back while training. The injury is expected to sideline him until next year.

The constant loss of highly visible fighters has to hurt UFC pay-per-view revenue. UFC limits the financial pain because of its deep talent roster. But no matter how much UFC stacks its card for Nov. 12, it can’t afford to have either heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez or top contender dos Santos come up lame before their title bout.

White and the UFC are putting their reputations on the line that night with the promotion making its network television debut. Fox has strategically advertised Velasquez-dos Santos in prime spots during recent NFL games. Millions of people who never heard of Velasquez or dos Santos, and have not seen an MMA bout, are being exposed to the sport and its fighters.

Curiosity is peaking, and those who tune in next month expect to see two of the biggest, toughest men on this planet. High-ranked lightweights Clay Guida and Benson Henderson won’t cut it on that night.

UFC needs Velasquez and dos Santos to remain injury-free. But there is little the promoter can do other than keep its fingers crossed.

The reason? Professional mixed martial arts training is demanding. As the sport becomes more technically advanced, fighters are forced to work on many disciplines. But there two disciplines that make fighters very susceptible to injury during training camps -- wrestling and boxing.

“When you mix the two [boxing and wrestling], you have wrestlers who are worried about getting hit, so they are flinching,” Edgar’s boxing trainer Mark Henry told ESPN.com. “Then their legs are exposed and their back is exposed.

“A lot of these guys are waiting for a punch, then their legs are getting hit. And they’re not ready for that blow to their knee. They’re not lowering their level and preparing for that shot to the leg, because they think there’s a punch coming high.
[+] EnlargeCain Velasquez
Dave Mandel/Sherdog.comIt's go all out or go home in Cain Velasquez's training camp.

“When you mix boxing, kicks in the standup and wrestling, it’s a recipe for getting hurt.”

This has to be worrisome news for UFC. Wrestling is the primary discipline for Velasquez. He is without doubt putting in extra time working on his takedown techniques. But Velasquez must also continue to fine-tune his improved boxing.

For Velasquez’s coaches and teammates at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., it’s training as usual. And that means going at it hard and never taking shortcuts during training sessions.

“If you’re concerned about injuries, they will happen,” Velasquez’s trainer, Javier Mendez told ESPN.com. “If you prepare properly and everything goes according to plan, freak accidents can still happen.

“The nature of MMA is that there are so many different disciplines. But you can’t go into it with a safety-first mentality. The fighters have to prepare for a fight and they have to prepare properly. The most important part for us as coaches is to get our fighter ready to win.”

Thus far, no news has come from either heavyweight’s camp suggesting physical ailments have occurred. And no news is great news for the UFC, especially with Velasquez returning to the Octagon for the first time since Oct. 23, 2010, when he lifted the belt from Lesnar.

A little more than three weeks remain before Velasquez and dos Santos enter the cage for their highly anticipated fight on network television.

UFC, its decision-makers and every fan of this sport can only cross their fingers and hope the rash of injuries that have plagued the promotion this year has come to an end.

Shane's absence shakes things up at heavy

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
2:08
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive
Velasquez/Dos SantosDave Mandel for Sherdog.com As the MMA world turns: The heavyweights will have to go on without Shane Carwin for now.
It was with no small measure of disappointment this week that we all learned of the latest injury setback dealt to Shane Carwin, a back surgery he says figures to keep him out of action until summer 2012.

A mainstay in the heavyweight title picture, this most recent ailment threatens to knock Carwin out of the top-10 for the immediate future and makes it hard not to wonder where the former interim champion will fit in when he launches a comeback next year at age 37. If everything goes as planned, the UFC heavyweight division will march on without him in double-time over the next eight or 10 months and we could conceivably see wholesale changes atop the 265-pound rankings by the time Carwin returns.

At 12-2 and possessing some of the best pure wrestling skills and most fearsome punching power in the division, a healthy Carwin clearly has the skills to forge his way back to the top, but the road will be longer and more arduous than ever. Knowing what we know about the engineer from Colorado, however, he probably wouldn't want it any other way.

This is a guy, after all, that a famously kept his full-time day job while pursuing a shot at UFC gold and a guy who has already weathered a fair amount of adversity in his career. Even on the heels of two straight losses, amid unanswered questions from last year about how his name wound up on a list of athletes the government alleged bought steroids from an online pharmacy and ongoing health troubles, Carwin has remained pretty relevant thus far in the heavyweight class. He’s still holding down the No. 7 spot on the ESPN.com Power Rankings and his scheduled fight at UFC 141 with Roy Nelson stood to interject the winner back into the outskirts of title contention.
[+] EnlargeCarwin/Dos Santos
Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesThis probably wasn't the last we've seen of Shane Carwin, right.

However, that bout is now canceled and if Carwin doesn’t return prior to June, it will mean a 12-month absence from the cage. At that point, inactivity alone could be enough to bounce him out of most top-10 lists and meanwhile, the rest of the division’s supporting cast will be gunning for his spot.

We already know that, next month, ownership of the world’s No. 1 ranking should be settled when Cain Velasquez (No. 1) defends his title against Junior dos Santos (No. 2) during the UFC’s debut on the Fox Network. Challengers for whoever emerges from that event with the belt could already be stacked two deep, given that Brock Lesnar (No. 3) and Alistair Overeem (No. 4) have a scheduled title eliminator at UFC 141 and the winner of the Strikeforce GP tournament final between Josh Barnett (No. 5) versus eighth-ranked Daniel Cormier is expected to find his way to the UFC with a future championship opportunity pending.

This is to say nothing of sixth-ranked Frank Mir’s UFC 140 rematch with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (No. 10), the winner of which stands to creep up the ranks. There are also any number of fresh faces who could be on the verge of top-10 consideration with another win or two: Guys like Travis Browne, Matt Mitrione and Stefan Struve.

Add an expected influx of other Strikeforce talents like Fabricio Werdum (No. 9) and Antonio Silva and the top-10 starts to look pretty crowded all the way around.

If there's one guy in the heavyweight division not to count out, it's Shane Carwin. But for the time being, there's just not a lot of room for a guy on an 0-2 skid who is now forced to take a protracted injury timeout.

Back injury to sideline Carwin until 2012

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
6:14
AM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
Archive
CarwinMike Roach/Getty ImagesIt's going to be a while before Shane Carwin climbs into the Octagon again.
Former UFC interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin announced on his web site Saturday that he has suffered another back injury.

Carwin expects the injury to sideline him until next year.

“As I ramped up my training for UFC 141, my back locked up,” Carwin said. “It wasn’t like the [Brock] Lesnar fight, but my back just tightened up and I froze.

“I scheduled an MRI and the results showed that my disc in my lower back is into the nerves. My doctor gave me two options: retire and I could probably go on for a few years without surgery or I could undergo surgery and continue fighting.

For Carwin, the decision wasn't a difficult one to make.

"I have unfinished business [inside the Octagon]," he said. "The UFC had me lined up to face one of the best in the world and I am confident I have everything I need to be a champion. I am scheduling surgery and I hope to return to the Octagon by spring or summer of 2012.”

Carwin (12-2, 4-2 in UFC) suffered a previous back injury after a second-round submission loss to Lesnar during a title bout at UFC 116 in July 2010.
[+] EnlargeCarwin
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesIn his last outing, Shane Carwin went the distance with Junior dos Santos in a losing effort.

It was the first loss of Carwin’s professional mixed martial arts career. He would lose by unanimous decision to Junior dos Santos in his next fight on June 11 at UFC 131.

Carwin-dos Santos was a heavyweight title elimination fight. Dos Santos is scheduled to face current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez on Nov. 12 in Anaheim, Calif.

While Carwin states he was preparing to compete at UFC 141 when his recent back injury occurred, sources with knowledge of the situation informed ESPN.com on Sunday that the promotion never made an official announcement of such a fight.

It is also not known whom Carwin would have fought at the event.

UFC 141 takes place Dec. 30 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Lesnar is scheduled to face former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem in the main event.

An evening inside Maynard's mind

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
3:10
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
Gray MaynardEd Mulholland/ESPN.comGray matter: Maynard has had Frankie Edgar on the brain all year.
HOUSTON -- For much of 2011, Gray "The Bully" Maynard has been hounded by a compulsion that he never intended. That compulsion is Frankie Edgar.

Everybody wants to know what it’s like to have Edgar on the brainstem for a full calendar year. At this point, is he tired of thinking about him? Does he want to just get the thing over with already? Does he get lost in the “what if’s” about leaving that first round onslaught unfinished?

Is the swirl of surmounting pressures tolling him these nine months later?

Frankly, Maynard is more tired of this classic sort of intrigue than he is of the man he’ll square off with in a trilogy fight on Saturday night for the 155-pound strap.

“For me all this stuff isn’t new,” he told ESPN.com from his hotel room on Thursday evening. “Just dealing with the guy you always have to compete against. I’ve done it in college. I’ve done it in high school. I had trilogies in college. I had trilogies all over. And I can still understand that it’s a new sport, but for me, I’ve been competing from the time I was three. It’s just a little bit of a change for the sport.”

It isn’t so much that Maynard has fought Edgar twice as it is the set of circumstances and travails he’s found himself against once in the cage with him.
[+] EnlargeFrankie Edgar
Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesExhaustion got the better of Gray Maynard, right, before he could finish off Frankie Edgar.

In the first fight in Broomfield, Colo., in 2008, Maynard broke his hand in the opening round but was still able to outlast Edgar for all three rounds in a unanimous decision. That’s gritty stuff, but people really only remember the second fight -- the one where he caught Edgar with an uppercut and then blitzed him for the next few minutes to keep things teetering on the verge of a stoppage. Maynard went so hard for the coup de grce that he dumped his adrenaline with 20 minutes to go and a million minds unhip to his sinking dread.

When his legs barely answered the second-round bell, he felt a pang of terror.

“Yeah, it was terrifying. I didn’t know how I was going to fight the rest of the way -- it was a gut check,” he said. And to illustrate the feeling of what he went through, had to overcome, and what he’ll do differently as the Roman Numerals get longer in the series, he rolls out Brock Lesnar as an exhibit.

“Ok, here’s the whole comparison,” he says. “What I did before, it would be like [Shane] Carwin and Brock. If I have [Edgar] hurt again, it’ll be like Cain Velasquez and Brock. More calculated, slower, picking it apart.”

Shane Carwin notoriously made lactic acidosis a part of MMA vernacular at UFC 116. Very similarly to Maynard, he had Lesnar on the ropes for the whole first round. But he hanged himself in the process -- in the second round he had nothing for Lesnar and got submitted. Velasquez hurt Lesnar with a first-round shot at UFC 123 and went about his finish with unsettling poise and awareness. How he reacts to the wounded animal was the biggest tweak Maynard made in his training camp.

Edgar, all heart and Adam’s apple, came back in January from the 10-8 first to force a draw with the “Bully.” Yet the most underplayed part of the second Maynard/Edgar bout wasn’t just that Edgar rebounded but that Maynard found a way to survive. When the unreasonable feeling came over him that he had nothing left, he had to dig deep to find something. Anything.

“The whole point of growing in a career, or to build an athlete, is have him in the smaller shows, the smaller fights, so that all the bad stuff happens early,” he says. “For me, it happened in a championship fight. That’s a learning experience ... You look at Dan Henderson with Jake Shields, same thing. I pushed through it.
[+] EnlargeCain Velasquez
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty ImagesNext time Maynard has his man in trouble, he'll take a more patient approach like Cain Velasquez did.

“By no means do I want people to think I am making excuses. I fought off my guts. I was on pure guts. It was a gut check. I’ve had some gut checks in both fights [with Edgar]. I try to make a big deal about. I don’t know how he felt. I can’t say, ‘man, if I didn’t blow it all out in the first round I’d have smoked him the whole fight.’ Who knows.”

It’s all part of the game, but stories come from the game within the game. Maynard and Edgar have been in each other’s crosshairs all year long. A bottleneck situation has occurred behind them at 155 as they sort it out. This has been an action-based series; the level of talking back and forth has never reached any real pitch. It’s an improbable set-up -- Maynard has gone 1-0-1 against Edgar despite so many adversities, and the undersized Edgar carries around the belt in spite of logic.

Just who feels better after what happened in the last encounter depends on how you crook your head.

“I feel good that, for a long time he was the cardio king,” Maynard says. “But for the first fight, he broke. I felt him break. In the next one, obviously he didn’t break, but I think he felt me pull back in Round 2. That sparked him up. If he thinks that’s how he’s going to beat me, that’s not how it goes.

So what does he expect?

“You know, he’s a tough kid, but I expect him to do a point fight,” he says. “I don’t expect him to come in there looking to bang with me. I expect a lot of inside, outside, a lot of trying to do the leg kicks, score points. You look back at his tapes, and they’re all pretty equal. The [Sean] Sherk fight, the [Matt] Veach fight, the Hermes Franca fight. They are all pretty much carbon copies. I don’t know how he’ll change it up, but he does a good job at what he does.”

It’s a long time to contemplate the fact. But it’s not just Edgar and the fight he’s contemplating, there’s also the big picture.

“For me, I’m starting to know -- everything happens, some of it might be good and some of it bad, but as long as you’re above the grass and not below it you’re doing alright,” he says. “There’s always tomorrow. And I don’t want to come across as ‘whatever happens, happens,’ but for me, as you get older, and you know a bit more, it’s about the gift of life. That’s the most important thing. As long as I’m breathing.”

A lot of media find the normally terse 33-year-old challenger sort of hard to pry through, but that’s Maynard. He appreciates the situation he’s in. In fact, he recognizes what’s unraveling right now as the golden moments of his life, the centerpiece of his rocking chair stories.

So if you think that he’s tired of thinking about Edgar, you’re probably half-right. To hear Maynard tell it, though, he’s clinging to that image with both hands, and this time he won’t let go.

Big Jon Olav Einemo fancies return to UFC

September, 9, 2011
9/09/11
2:12
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
John Olav EinemoDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesSergei Kharitonov will have a very big supporter in the form of John Olav Einemo on Saturday.
CINCINNATI -- Heavyweight John Olav Einemo, one of the casualties in the Golden Glory cuts of a several weeks back, is in town to corner his training partner Sergei Kharitonov, who’s hoping to be the triumphant dark horse in the Strikeforce GP.

Einemo was cut after one fight in the UFC -- a loss to Dave Herman that earned fight of the night honors at UFC 131 -- due to discrepancies between the UFC’s policy on fighter pay and how Golden Glory handles accounting matter. Einemo says he’s pretty optimistic that he’ll be fighting again soon, and he foresees repairing his relationship with the UFC.

“At the moment I don’t really know because we’re just focused on Sergei’s training and getting him ready for the fight,” he said. “I think my management is very busy. My feeling is that it’s going the right way. I really hope and believe that this thing with Zuffa [is being worked out]. I don’t think it’s going to be any problem anymore; I think it’s already fixed.”

Einemo was scheduled to face Shane Carwin in June at UFC 131, but when Carwin was bumped up to the main event slot to face Junior dos Santos, he was dealt “Pee-Wee” Herman. The fight was back and forth, and Einemo came close to finishing Herman at one point. In the end he lost the fight, but picked up $70,000 in bonus money for making a good showing of it.

With fellow Golden Glory member Alistair Overeem having signed a deal with the UFC, indications are that Einemo could end up back with the promotion soon. There is a relative lack of depth in the UFC’s heavyweight division, and it’s one of the reasons why Einemo thinks he can make some waves.

“It’s a very exciting division for me to go to,” he said. “My last fight, I feel I have a lot more capability than that. It was five years since I fight the last time; the first time in a big show again. So I think I [can] make some trouble in that division.”
[+] EnlargeDave Herman vs Jon Olav Einemo
Rod Mar/ESPN.comJon Olav Einemo, left, was that close to a successful UFC debut -- before Dave Herman struck.

Einemo spent those five years raising his son, working to support his family and rehabbing from lingering injuries. If he had ring rust in Vancouver, it didn’t show. Presuming he does end up back in the UFC, there are a lot of guys that would make for fun fights. Einemo says that he’d be fine with seeing his original opponent, Carwin, whom he feels he’d have fared well against.

“I think that it was a better match-up for me than Pee-Wee Herman, actually,” he said.

We could soon find out. And as for his prediction on who wins between Kharitonov and Josh Barnett in tomorrow night’s main event?

“Sergei by knockout, maybe in the second round.”

JDS-Velasquez, then what? Answer: Reem

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
12:39
PM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
OvereemEsther Lin/Getty ImagesSitting pretty: Alistair Overeem is in a position to entertain offers.
The UFC will roll out its as of yet “non-mainstream” heavyweight stars on the inaugural FOX card on Nov. 12. That’s champion Cain Velasquez against the definitive No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos.

Dana White said during Friday's news conference that it made sense to put “our best foot forward” for this colossal showcase. It’s a great first step, but the UFC might not want to look backwards after they take it. At least, not the way things stand now in the heavyweight division.

That’s because the UFC’s current heavyweight division is hardly the deep reservoir that its other divisions are. In fact, it’s only knee deep. The world can tune in to watch the two best heavyweights go at it, but behind JDS and Velasquez there’s a gulf which has yet to be filled.

The one guy who can fill this gulf? Alistair Overeem. Here’s guessing that his signing is the next announcement made.

Had Brendan Schaub defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- as just about everybody outside of Brazil expected -- there would at least be a fresh body scaling toward contention in the heavyweight division. Turns out, he didn’t beat Big Nog. In fact, Schaub lost so emphatically that the word “exposed” was being tossed around. Not so much directed at Schaub, who is young and raw and realistically exactly where he should be today, but at the overall state of the heavyweight division in the UFC.

There was plenty of banter leading up to UFC 134 about Schaub becoming the No. 1 contender with a victory over what was thought to be a fading star in the sport in Nogueira. That’s the big red flag right there. To have been talking about Schaub being that close to a title shot at all was to admit that there’s a dearth of believable contenders at the top of the division.
[+] EnlargeSchaub
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comPart of the UFC's heavyweight plans went up in smoke when Brendan Schaub lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

That’s why it’ll not only big news when the UFC signs Strikeforce champion Overeem, but an act of necessity. The UFC needs somebody in the on-deck circle for Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. As of right now, you would never confuse what’s going on at the top of the heavyweight division with a logjam. What’s going on is the exact opposite of the UFC’s lightweight division, which is flush with contenders.

Check out what’s below dos Santos and Velasquez currently:

There’s Brock Lesnar, whose future is uncertain as he continues his ongoing battle with diverticulitis. If he returns, the question mark then becomes in what form?

There’s Frank Mir, whose star is sinking a little with lackluster performances (even in victory). He’s viable, but not coveted -- and besides, his next fight will likely be against Big Nog.

There’s Shane Carwin who has lost two in a row, Roy Nelson (ditto), and guys like Cheick Kongo, Matt Mitrione, Travis Browne and Stefan Struve, the last one who’s a stretch and all the rest of whom aren’t there yet.

By bringing in Overeem, there’s at least an immediate third to the JDS/Velasquez party, which only magnifies the singular main event on Nov. 12. As with all sports, people have a tendency to play things forward. A marquee that reads “Champion versus Champion: Cain Velasquez versus Alistair Overeem” will do big business. Just about everything else would require blinders and gullibility to get stoked about for the winner of this big fight.

Once the Strikeforce GP wraps up and contracts can be navigated through, the UFC can stock its shelves with heavyweights for days. Guys like Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Sergei Kharitonov and Daniel Cormier. By 2012, the UFC’s land of bigs will look completely different. Out of the aforementioned names, guys like Mitrione could emerge into the top ten as well. A couple of names on the current UFC roster will certainly make cases for their contention. Only then do you have a true division where mixing and matching the top eight guys or so becomes an exercise in frustrating parity. That’s the right kind of frustration.

But, for now at least, the UFC can use some of Overeem’s muscle.

Healthy Lesnar on the hunt for UFC title

August, 18, 2011
8/18/11
12:19
PM ET
McNeil By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com
Archive
LesnarJosh Hedges/Getty ImagesCall to arms: Brock Lesnar is ready to serve his legion of fans again.
Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar said via Twitter on Thursday that he is healthy again and looks forward to regaining his title.

Lesnar first made the announcement Wednesday during a YouTube video, in which he is seen firing a rifle at prairie dogs in North Dakota.

“Recently, I went under the knife and had surgery for my diverticulitis,” Lesnar said. “I feel like a new man. I feel great, healthy [and] strong.

“I feel like I used to feel.”

In the video, Lesnar looks to be in top physical condition and displays a lot of energy.

If Lesnar can bring that high-energy level into the cage again, he will be a very difficult out for any UFC heavyweight. The only issue, of course, will be how much has his standup game improved.

Lesnar did not address that matter.

“Right now, [it’s] one day at a time for me,” Lesnar said. “I still believe there’s a bright future in the UFC for me. My health is 100 percent; I feel great. My motivation is there and I want to get on the map again. I want to become the UFC heavyweight champion again and I believe I will do that.”
[+] EnlargeBrock Lesnar
AP Photo/Jae C. HongBrock Lesnar's last time out in the Octagon was a slugfest with Cain Velasquez.

It is not known when Lesnar (5-2-0) will return to the Octagon, but an official announcement is expected to be made Thursday during a news conference.

Lesnar won the heavyweight title in just his third UFC bout, stopping Randy Couture in two rounds on Nov. 15, 2008.

He would successfully defend the title twice, before losing it to Cain Velasquez in Oct. 2010.

Lesnar was scheduled to face Junior dos Santos in a heavyweight title eliminator on June 11 at UFC 131 but was forced to pull out of that bout on May 14 because of diverticulitis.

Shortly after withdrawing from the fight, Lesnar told ESPN.com, “I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not retiring. This isn’t the end of my career.”

It was the second time that Lesnar was forced to withdraw from a bout because of illness. Lesnar pulled out of a title fight with Shane Carwin in October 2009 after discovering he had both mononucleosis and diverticulitis.

He would defend his title against Carwin on July 3, 2010. Lesnar submitted Carwin in the second round.

Five-round mains not without caveats

July, 18, 2011
7/18/11
5:55
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
Archive
Charlie Brenneman and Rick StoryDavid Dermer/Getty ImagesAn even longer shot: Would Charlie Brenneman have pulled the upset in a five-round fight?
At UFC 131 in Vancouver, Dana White broke the news that going forward all main events -- title fights and non-title fights alike -- would be five-round affairs.

At the time, when I asked him if this would be universal for altered main events that are put together on short notice, he stated simply, “no exceptions.” That seemed like a pretty straightforward way to think -- save for the fact that there’s been nothing but pretty exceptional things happening for the last few months to card headliners, making for a complicated case-by-case basis of five-round main events.

In short, it’s hard to imagine five-round headlining spots being universal, given the recent trend of altered main events.

Imagine if the UFC had enacted this frill-based privilege before UFC 130. That was the card where Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard became Matt Hamill versus Quinton Jackson on a few weeks' notice. Forget that the world would have been subjected to two more rounds of a blasé match-up, the bigger problem is that Hamill and Jackson would have had to alter their camps to train for five rounds rather than three. Similarly, when Shane Carwin stepped in late for Brock Lesnar at UFC 131, he would have had more to think about than just Junior dos Santos. Would it have played a hand in his decision to take the fight? Probably not. But he had been training for a three-round fight with John Olav-Einemo up until then, and it’s a pretty sizable shift in thinking for a guy whose main concern for the last year was gassing out.
[+] EnlargeTito Ortiz
Kari Hubert/Getty ImagesWould it have been fair to expect Tito Ortiz to accept a five-round fight with Rashad Evans on quick turnaround and short notice?

But over the last couple of weeks the proposition of five-round main events has gotten stickier still. If there were truly no exceptions, the UFC Live on Versus card in Pittsburgh would have been that much more complex. Anthony Johnson versus Nate Marquardt on plenty of notice became Nate Marquardt versus Rick Story on relatively short notice which became Rick Story versus Charlie Brenneman on virtually no notice. How easy is it to prepare for an extra couple of rounds if you’re Brenneman, who was only hoping for the off chance of a hypothetical three? Even for a fighter who is physically ready, the mental adjustment is significant.

And then this stuff with UFC 133 began happening. Would Tito Ortiz have still have taken the fight against Rashad Evans if it were a five-rounder? Ortiz is stepping in for Phil Davis on a little three week’s after spending a day in contemplation about whether to accept it or not. Would he have been as willing if the fight with Evans -- whom he fought to a full 15-minute draw at UFC 73 -- was a set-in-stone five-round fight? Maybe, but it’s that much more to ask.

The bottom line is, if we are to take this recent string of events at face value, for the UFC to make all main event bouts five-rounders without exception it will have to convince its roster to be ready for 25 minutes of fighting at all times. Either that or it will have to make some exceptions, and have five-round main events operate on a case-by-case basis.

Maybe then Lyoto Machida could argue for Anderson Silva money on the premise that he’d be working time and a half.

SPONSORED HEADLINES