Junior dos Santos is a rising star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He recently served as coach of the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter against former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. He carries an impressive 12-1 mark with victories over Fabricio Werdum, Roy Nelson, Mirko Filipovic and Gabriel Gonzaga.
He is personable. And his punches hit like a brick.
Saturday night, dos Santos will look to continue his ascent when he faces former UFC interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin in the main event of UFC 131 in Vancouver. The fight, which will be broadcasted live on pay-per-view at 9 p.m. EST, will determine the top contender to face UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
"I really want to be the champion, the UFC heavyweight champion," said dos Santos, a 26-year-old Brazilian. "So now I've got one more big challenge right in front of me. Shane Carwin is a very dangerous fighter that I have to respect. And, I respect (him). I believe so much in me. I will give 100 percent to keep in line for the title."
Carwin, who was initially slated to fight UFC newcomer Jon Olav Einemo, was bumped up to the main event and a title shot after Lesnar was forced to withdraw after he suffered his second bout of diverticulitis in recent years and underwent surgery.
"(Dos Santos is) one of the top guys in the world," said Carwin, a 36-year-old native of Greeley, Colorado, with a 12-1 record. "I have a ton of respect for him and all the opponents he's fought. . . . This is a super exciting fight for me. You get very few opportunities like this in life. I get to go in there, make the most of it and do something I love to do. When I got the call, it was naturally a yes. Not only do I get to fight one of the best guys in the world, but there's a title shot on the line."
The rest of the card includes: featherweights Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes; heavyweights Einemo vs. Dave Herman; middleweights Demian Maia vs. Mark Munoz; and lightweights Donald Cerrone vs. Vagner Rocha.
Two fights - lightweights Sam Stout vs. Yves Edwards and middleweights Jesse Bongfeldt vs. Chris Weidman - will air on Spike TV at 8 p.m. EST.
The UFC's Facebook page will air the remaining preliminaries: heavyweights Joey Beltran vs. Aaron Rosa; light heavyweights Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Igor Pokrajac; middleweights Nick Ring vs. James Head; and featherweights Dustin Poirier vs. Jason Young and Michihiro Omigawa vs. Darren Elkins.
-- Gina Carano, who was set to make her return to MMA on Strikeforce's card next week, was ruled out of the fight by her doctors due to an undisclosed medical reason earlier this week.
Carano, who was set to fight Sarah D'Alelio, hopes to return soon.
"I'm seriously disappointed not to be fighting on June 18," Carano said in a statement. "I'd like to thank Greg Jackson and Team Jackson for such an amazing camp. I hope this is only a brief setback."
-- UFC president Dana White recently announced plans for a super fight to match UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre against Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz on October 29.
-- Anthony Pettis, who won the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight championship in December, lost out on his opportunity for a UFC title shot last weekend. Pettis, who was promised a championship bout when the WEC was absorbed into the UFC, accepted and lost a fight against Clay Guida.
UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar was expected to fight top challenger Gray Maynard two weeks ago, but both suffered injuries in training. Edgar and Maynard are expected to fight later this year.
-- Tony Ferguson defeated Ramsey Nijem last Saturday to win The Ultimate Fighter's 13th season.
-- Anthony Johnson suffered a shoulder injury and will be replaced by Rick Story in the main event of June 26th's UFC Live against Nate Marquardt.