UFC 131 turned out to be one of the most exciting, interesting MMA fight cards of 2011 despite the "experts" saying the fight card didn't have enough "star power".
Junior Dos Santos vs. Shane Carwin
Result: Dos Santos via Unanimous Decision
Dos Santos gets better with every fight he has had in the UFC. After almost finishing Carwin in the first round, JDS spent the rest of the fight using his crisp striking to keep Carwin at bay. He even took Carwin down twice in the third round to leave no doubt in anyone's mind who the real number one contender is for the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
Next for Dos Santos: He has a date with UFC Heavyweight Champ Cain Velasquez later this year. Since Cain is still recovering from Rotator Cuff Surgery this showdown will probably happen at UFC 136 in October or UFC 138 in November.
Next for Carwin: Shane Carwin deserves a lot of credit for his heart, toughness, and willingness to take on such a tough fight on short notice considering it was his first fight since having major neck surgery. Carwin looked a little slow and rusty in the Octagon, which is understandable considering he hasn't fought since last July and had only been training a few months before this fight because he had to recover from surgery. Carwin will be back in full force sooner then later. A matchup with Roy Nelson would be a good opportunity for Carwin to get back on track and test his skills in all areas of his game.
Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
Result: Florian via Unanimous Decision
Kenny Florian made a successful debut at 145 pounds Saturday night but showed he is still adjusting to the division. During the first round Nunes suprised Florian with his speed and power. It appeared KenFlo underestimated his opponents physical abilities. Yet as he usually does, the thinking fighter Kenny Florian adjusted his approach to Nunes and proceeded to out-strike his opponent while taking him down several times.
Next for Florian: Dana White has changed his position as to who Jose Aldo's next opponent would be over the last two months. It is expected that Florian's next fight will be either for the UFC Featherweight championship against Aldo or Florian will have a number one contender fight to decide who will face Aldo next. Big problem for Florian is that the other top contender, Chad Mendes is already commited to fight in August. The likely next fight will be against Aldo considering most top ten featherweights in the UFC are already booked to fight already.
Next for Nunes: It wasn't a bad fight for Nunes. Showing good power and heart, Nunes can be considered a contender at 145 pounds. He needs to work on his takedown defense and the accuracy of his flashy kicks. A fight with Michihiro Omigawa would be good for Nunes so he can work on his grappling and ground game.
Damian Maia vs. Mark Munoz
Result: Munoz via Unanimous Decision
This was one of the two fights on the card I thought should have been rewarded Fight Of The Night honors. Munoz won the final two rounds after surviving Maia's attacks in the first. If Munoz wasn't such an excellent wrestler Maia would have had a better chance at winning this fight since Maia had no success trying to takedown Munoz.
Next for Munoz: Since dropping to the Middleweight division, Munoz has won 6 of his 7 fights and the lone loss being to Yushin Okami via split decision. Munoz is one of the toughest and most consistent fighters in the UFC. His next fight should be against a fighter who is also on the rise and Brian Stann fits that description.
Next for Maia: Maia's striking looked sharp in this fight and if it wasn't for the fact he was facing a top level wrestler he would have been in a better position for the win. Maia has evolved his MMA game from being a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert who was limited in other areas to a fighter who forces you to pick your poison when fighting him. The problem for Maia is that his last three fights have been close decisions against fighters with good grappling skills. A fight with either Dan Miller or Jorge Santiago would test his ability to handle opponents with solid all-around skills who push the pace of a fight.
Jon Olav Einemo vs. Dave Herman
Result: Herman via TKO
This was clearly a mismatch from the start. Einemo has not faught in an MMA fight since 2006 and it showed during the match. Herman moved more swiftly and was the more active striker. But this was not one of the better fights of the night and I still question why it was awarded Fight Of The Night honors.
Next for Herman: Herman has faught in over 20 fights before his UFC debut so the only way to know if he can handle top level competition is to put good fighters in front of him. Stefan Struve is a fighter whose all-around MMA game is good enough to be trouble for most Heavyweights and if Herman can beat him then we will know if he can really hang in the UFC.
Next for Einemo: Einemo is one of the best grapplers in the Heavyweight division so there is no doubt he belongs in the UFC. But right now he is near the bottom of the ladder with his loss to Dave Herman. A matchup with either Aaron Rosa or Mark Hunt are fights that would be a slower pace so he can get use to fighting in the octagon.
Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha
Result: Cerrone via Unanimous decision
Cerrone used a his kickboxing experience to basically chop down Rocha's leg with leg kicks. The only time Rocha had Cerrone on the ground he was suprised that Cerrone was trying to submit him and he let him back up.
Next for Cerrone: Cerrone is currently on a four fight winning streak and has made a solid argument to be a mainstay in UFC's 155 pound division. In an interview with Ariel Helwani of MMAfighting.com, "Cowboy" said he would like to be matched up with Sam Stout because he wants to "throw down" with someone. After Stout's brutal knouckout of Yves Edwards, maybe Cerrone should be careful what he asks for.
Next for Rocha: This was the UFC debut for the Brazilian who is famous for his ground game. He looked very passive once he realized he couldn't get the fight to the ground. Both Cody McKenzie and Kamal Shalarus would be willing to match grappling skills with Rocha so one of those fights may be next for him.
Quick thoughts on some Preliminary Card Fights
Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards: Stout lived up to his nickname "Hands of Stone" with a knockout of Edwards that rivals any great knockout you may seen in the last 10 years. Stout is a MMA veteran who is now 6-5 in the UFC and should get more credit for being able to hang around the UFC for five years now.
Chris Weidman vs. Jesse Bongfeldt: Weidman ended this fight with a standing gullitoine choke that displayed his physical strength and jiu-jitsu skills. Chris' coaches have claimed he will one day win the UFC Middleweight belt but we have not seen much of Chris' standup game yet. A fight would Tim Boetsch would force Weidman to fight standing up while facing someone who is also a good wrestler and has serious physical strength.
Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young: This was a fight that was my choice for Fight of the Night. Both fighters stood and striked at a rapid fire pace. The main reason Poirier won was because he got a couple takedowns and showed better footwork in the octagon. Nothing should be taken away from "Shotgun" Young, he has a bright future as an MMA fighter.