Where's the beef?: Carwin-Gonzaga signals a new era of UFC heavies
Preview by Brady Crytzer
The heavyweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship is changing in a big way. 2008 had its share of memorable moments, but none may be more significant than Randy Couture’s sensational TKO loss to the behemoth current champion Brock Lesnar.
On Saturday, March 7th two massive heavyweights collide to determine the next potential star in the division as former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga squares off with the 6’4, 260-pound Shane Carwin. With Lesnar acting as the division’s new barometer for success, all challengers much be measured (and weighed) against the massive stature of the former NCAA and WWE champion.
In 2009, small heavyweights in the UFC should reconsider their career options and take a serious look at the 205 pound division. With fighters like Lesnar, Mir, Gonzaga and Carwin leading the charge, they may not be able to stack up.
There is nothing small about UFC champion Brock Lesnar. Then again, size isn’t really the issue in the modern landscape of mixed martial arts. The monstrous Minnesotan has proven to be a formidable adversary for any professional fighter as he had shown tremendous wrestling ability, heavy punching power and, perhaps most telling, endless cardiovascular capabilities.
Throw in a stand up KO over Randy Couture, and the fact that the only other man to do that was Chuck Liddell, and you have the new archetype for divisional dominance. Let’s take a look at who’s got the hustle (and the muscle) to succeed in the new heavyweight division.
Shane Carwin: (10-0) 6’5, 265 lbs. out of Denver, CO
Nobody is perfect in mixed martial arts, but Shane Carwin’s 10-0 record makes a good case. Part of Brock Lesnar’s initial draw was his massive frame, but many are shocked when they find out that he has an equal who has been thrashing opponents (or better yet, victims) on UFC dark matches for the last nine months. A former NCAA All-American in both wrestling and football, Carwin has adapted well to the sport of MMA. Carwin made his debut in May of 2008 and KO’ed Christian Wellisch with one brutal right hand. In October, Carwin returned to obliterate Englishman Neil Wain in less than two minutes with devastating ground n’ pound. It remains to be seen whether he has the skills to compete at the highest level, but a win over Gonzaga will answer a lot of questions.
Gabriel Gonzaga: (10-3) 6’1, 240 lbs. out of Ludlow, MA
Gabriel Gonzaga is no stranger to fans of the UFC’s heavyweight division. A world class jiu jitsu black belt, “Napao” ripped through his first four UFC opponents with an impressive mix of KO and submission victories. His 2007 headkick knockout of Mirko Cro Cop remains a part of highlight reel lore that rings throughout the MMA world. Since his back to back losses to both Randy Couture and Fabricio Werdum, Gonzaga has shown that he has rededicated himself by submitting Justin McCully and KO’ing Josh Hendricks. While his last two opponents are far from the division’s top ten, Gonzaga has shown promise. He will need to make a statement against an undefeated and physically imposing Shane Carwin on March 7th.
Frank Mir: (12-3) 6’3, 240 lbs. out of Las Vegas, NV
Frank Mir is next in line to challenge Lesnar, possibly as soon as this summer. Mir is a former Nevada state champion wrestler who is not quiet about his natural athleticism. A former world heavyweight champion in his own right, Mir has proven to be deserving of his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt as he has relied more on technique than power throughout his career. Though he has had been criticized for his small gas tank and lack of pop in his punches, Mir has shown solid improvement in both areas as seen in his 2008 KO over “Minotauro” Nogueira. He’s beaten the man once, now he looks to do it again.