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Shane Carwin gets the call for UFC card in Vancouver

In place of “The Next Big Thing,” the Ultimate Fighting Championship is presenting the next best thing in its Saturday debut fight card in Vancouver.

Brock Lesnar, the organization’s top pay-per-view draw and a former heavyweight champion, was forced to withdraw earlier this spring from his scheduled fight against Junior Dos Santos, his co-coach on the reality TV series “The Ultimate Fighter,” because of another round with the intestinal disease diverticulitis.

Lesnar, known as “The Next Big Thing” from his days as one of the most popular stars in World Wrestling Entertainment, was replaced by former heavyweight title contender Shane Carwin.

Now, the UFC matches a pair of 12-1 heavyweights who both like to engage in crowd-pleasing, boxing-style fights.

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“Two massive bangers are always a treat to watch,” UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said in a text message to The Times, adding that he believes pay-per-view interest without Lesnar will remain “solid.”

The winner will get a title shot at heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, who dethroned Lesnar in October but later underwent shoulder surgery and is expected back either at the UFC’s November stop in San Jose or its New Year’s Eve card in Las Vegas.

Dos Santos, 27, owns first-round knockouts of talented Strikeforce heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and former UFC title contender Gabriel Gonzaga, along with victories against veteran Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and former “The Ultimate Fighter” champion Roy Nelson.

“I believe so much in my boxing … I feel very comfortable fighting on my feet,” Dos Santos said in a conference call last week.

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Carwin is the more skilled wrestler — but, he says, “let’s face it, both Dos Santos and I got to where we’re at by knocking people out on our feet.”

Since losing to Lesnar in July by failing to finish off the beat-up champion in the first round and enduring a second-round submission, the heavier Carwin, 36, said he’s altered his diet and expects to withstand the cardio challenges of a possible three-round fight.

“Before the Lesnar … fight, I was cutting around 15 pounds … for that Friday weigh-in,” Carwin said. “I walk around now, I feel like I have more energy and I just feel generally better.”

Friday’s weigh-in had to be moved out of Rogers Arena because of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Canada’s fervent mixed martial arts fan base led to a quick sellout when tickets for UFC 131 were made available earlier this year.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire


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