Sizable obstacle blocks dos Santos' path

One more challenge lies between Junior dos Santos and the opportunity to fulfill his dream of fighting for the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight belt.

It just happens to be a big challenge.

Dos Santos will fight Shane Carwin in the main event of UFC 131 on Saturday night in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the winner earning the right to fight champion Cain Velasquez this year.

Carwin, listed at 255 pounds, is one of the biggest guys in the organization and might be the only fighter in the division who can match the 240-pound dos Santos in the striking game.

"I really want to be the champion," dos Santos said, "so now I got one more big challenge in front of me. It's Shane Carwin. He's a very dangerous fighter, and I have to respect him. But I believe so much in me, and I will give 100 percent of me to keep in line for the title."

Taking on Carwin is actually Plan C for dos Santos. He was next in line to meet Velasquez after he won the belt in October, but the champion suffered an injury and is still out of action.

So dos Santos agreed to coach against Brock Lesnar on Season 13 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and take on the former champion for the right to meet Velasquez when he returns.

With filming on the reality show complete, Lesnar was forced to pull out of the fight after a recurrence of diverticulitis, and Carwin, coming off his first career loss to Lesnar, agreed to step in for him.

"At first I was a little upset (about the opponent switch)," dos Santos said. "But I realized that it is really in God's hands, and all I can really do is prepare for this fight and wish all the best to Brock."

Dos Santos said his training camp remained the same, but his strategy will be different against Carwin, who is 12-1 with 12 first-round finishes.

"The only thing that would change in the fight is that against a guy like Brock, I'd feel a little more comfortable on my feet, as to where fighting a guy like Shane, I'm going to have to be always a little more cautious when we're on our feet and move around the cage better," dos Santos said.

Not that he's going to shy away from exchanging punches.

Dos Santos is also 12-1, with 10 first-round finishes, and probably the best pure boxer in the division. He didn't finish Roy Nelson in his last fight in August but dominated the action.

He knows it won't be easy to finish Carwin, either.

"Shane Carwin can walk through some punches," dos Santos said. "He is a really tough guy. But I feel that I really have a lot of belief in my hands and the power of my hands, and I feel that Shane maybe has never felt the power of hands like I have."

Even with several shake-ups in the schedule and sitting out 10 months between fights, the 26-year-old Brazilian does not regret agreeing to participate on the reality show.

He thinks it helped make him more popular and mainstream in the United States, which in turn will make him more marketable when he becomes champion.

Now, he has just one more obstacle to get through before getting that chance.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at or 702-224-5509.