Even though the event has yet to be officially announced, the UFC is poised to return to the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio for the third consecutive year with UFC 96 on Saturday, March 7.
And while no matchups have yet to formally be released to the public, FiveOuncesOfPain.com can exclusively report that a heavyweight clash between former heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga and former NCAA Division II wrestling champion Shane Carwin is now set to take place.
Gonzaga is 10-3 and trains out of Team Link in Massachusetts. The jiu-jitsu black belt’s most high-profile fight took place at UFC 74 in August of 2007 when he lost to then-UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture via third round TKO.
Following the loss to Couture, the native Brazilian then suffered a second round TKO defeat at the hands of Fabricio Werdum at UFC 80 last January. However, since that time, Gonzaga has once again begun to climb the championship ladder with consecutive wins.
Facing former professional wrestler Justin McCully at UFC 86, Gonzaga submitted the Team Punishment member with a Kimura at just 1:57 into the bout. He followed up dominant victory with another first round finish last month by knocking out UFC newcomer Josh Hendricks just 1:01 into the fight.
The 33-year old Carwin is not only a former D2 wrestling champion, but he is a former two-time NCAA Division II All-American in football who once went to training camp with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
The Colorado native made his pro MMA debut in 2005 and has gone 10-0 in that time with notable victories over Justice Smith of American Gladiators fame, former IFO heavyweight champion Chris Guillen, former Arena Football League star Rex Richards, and former UFC veteran Sherman Pendergarst.
After beginning his career with an 8-0 record, Carwin began to attract interest from multiple major national promotions, including EliteXC. His name had actually prematurely appeared on Showtime’s website last January in an advertised match against Antonio Silva at “Street Certified.” However, Carwin never formally signed with EliteXC and actually accepted less money to sign with the UFC, as he considered the promotion to be the NFL of mixed martial arts.
Debuting at UFC 84 in May, Carwin needed just 44 seconds to knock out Christian Wellisch of the American Kickboxing Academy. He returned at UFC 89 in October, where he took all of 1:31 of round 1 to TKO British heavyweight Neil Wain. The win over Wain marked the tenth consecutive time an opponent had failed to escape the first round against Carwin.
Since arriving in the UFC, Carwin’s punching prowess has been better than advertised. While still considered a prospect, his solid standup coupled with his tremendous wrestling base could make him a title contender sooner than initially anticipated. By taking a major step up in competition at UFC 96, it’s possible that the winner of Gonzaga vs. Carwin could find themselves in prime position for a future heavyweight title shot.