Sometimes opportunities appear out of nowhere when you least expect it. For Shane Carwin, recovering from back surgery since October, now is that time. Despite having only fought three times in the past two years due to two serious spinal surgeries, Carwin finds himself given an opportunity he never expected to have. With fellow UFC Heavyweight contender Brock Lesnar retiring on Saturday, December 30, Carwin knows now that his path back to a title shot will be a bit quicker and straighter than it probably otherwise would have been.
Carwin was on the quick path to the title back in 2010 and the future looked very bright indeed. In March of that year, Carwin knocked out Frank Mir in the first round to extend his MMA fighting record to 12-0 and lay claim to the interim Heavyweight Championship. In July, he was given his first title shot against then-champion Brock Lesnar. Carwin dominated the first round but suffered a defeat by submission to the larger man in the second.
Any thoughts after that of a quick rematch were squashed a few months later when Carwin announced that he needed surgery to correct a condition called spinal stenosis in his cervical spine. Carwin had suffered from long-standing neck pain for years, but had just started to feel constant numbness in his arms as a result of his heavy training. Following successful surgery and rehabilitation, Carwin was back in the octagon against Junior Dos Santos in June of 2011.
Despite pushing the fight to the full three rounds, Carwin lost via unanimous decision to Dos Santos, who then received a title shot against Cain Velasquez. Carwin, who hadn't fought in almost a year to that point, appeared rusty and was unable to land a significant blow to the younger fighter. Dos Santos was able to pummel Carwin to a bloody pulp but was unable to knock him out. Following the loss (his second straight in the UFC), Carwin was set to fight next in UFC 141 but was again sidelined by a serious injury.
During training, Carwin herniated multiple discs in his lower thoracic spine. Deciding to undergo surgery again in order to continue his career, Carwin faced another difficult and long recovery process. So far, his recovery has gone well and he expects to be able to fight again in the Spring of 2012. Whether or not he's capable of returning to his prior fighting form will not be known until he faces off against another contender in the octagon. When he's 100%, Carwin is as dangerous a striker as any other man in the UFC.
With Lesnar retiring, Carwin is still ranked in the top five in the Heavyweight Division. It's conceivable that with the right scheduling and one or two convincing wins, he could receive a title shot by the spring of 2013. While a re-match with Lesnar would have been a top draw, Carwin needs to face some of the younger, more promising contenders in order to get another title shot. At the age of 36, Carwin knows that his next march to a title shot could be his last in the UFC.
Julie became a fan of the UFC after first meeting Shane Carwin three years ago. She still has trouble reconciling the warrior in the ring with the family man that she knows him to be.