UFC 116: "Lesnar vs. Carwin" is set to go down this Saturday, July 3, 2010 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, live on pay-per-view.
Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE updates with blow-by-blow, round-by-round commentary of the main card action on fight night, which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET.
To get us pumped for the event, MMAmania.com Editor and Senior Writer, Jesse Holland (that’s me), will break down the main card matches and take a closer look at the intricacies of each contest.
And make no mistake, this is the Brock Lesnar show.
We have a pretty decent line-up heading into tomorrow night but let's not pussyfoot around the main event, this is all about who is the world's biggest ass-kicker.
Even if you don't agree that Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin are the top two heavyweights on the planet (I don't), the fall of Fedor Emelianenko back on June 26 has certainly added another layer of intrigue to this contest.
Who is the baddest of the bad? We're going to find out soon enough.
I’ve also included the current betting lines for each fight so that you can get a feel for what the money has to say about the chances of each combatant.
Now, enough with the formalities … let’s get cracking:
265 lbs.: Brock Lesnar (4-1) vs. Shane Carwin (12-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: UFC President Dana White has been galloping through the streets of "Sin City" on his trusty steed with one of those goofy hats and noisome oil lanterns. "The heavyweights are coming! The heavyweights are coming!" Is this an exciting main event? Absolutely. But that has to do with the allure of Brock Lesnar and not so much the competitiveness of this match-up.
The former WWE star is living proof of the combat sports maxim that a big, scary-looking meathead who snarls at pedestrians and barks at passing cars will always fascinate the general fan base. To that end, he's been a smashing success. And to his credit, he's roughed up a few people along the way. But is Brock Lesnar a good fighter? That depends on what your definition of "good" is. Personally, I think he's got the greatest asset you can have in today's MMA: World class wrestling. It's the same reason that Georges St. Pierre is so unbeatable and why "King" Mo made Gegard Mousasi look stupid back in April.
But my job in predicting a fight is to peel back the layers of pre-fight hype and the promotion's requisite sales pitch. Granted, there are more layers than usual here, including my own bias, but can I pick a fighter that is 4-1 against an undefeated opponent at 12-0? No, I can't. I want to, because he's Brock Lesnar, but that's just it, I want to pick the name, not the fighter.
Critics have called Shane Carwin "unproven," but in reality it's Lesnar with the major shortcomings.
He's only fought three people in the UFC. In addition to breaking even with Frank Mir at 1-1, he was taken to a decision by Heath Herring (who's no longer in the UFC) and stopped a geriatric Randy Couture, who is a "Natural" light heavyweight. Brock Lesnar has the division title because he beat a man he outweighs by 50 pounds. Am I taking a dump on Randy's legacy? No way. It's amazing he was able to win the belt at his age in a weight class that has long since outgrown him, but he also won it and kept it by beating Tim Sylvia and Gabriel Gonzaga, who haven't been able to keep pace with today's goliaths.
I'm not suggesting that Carwin is a perfect fighter because he isn't. His striking defense is a little suspect and I was surprised how easily he was taken down against "Napao." But where he showed weakness he also showed tremendous strength. His nose was broken in that fight and not only did he get back to his feet, he won by knockout. Shane Carwin has heart and a warrior's spirit.
Just ask him, he'll tell you.
Every MMAmaniac knows how I feel about fighters coming off a layoff. Larry Pepe of Pro MMA Radio argues that Lesnar has a simple but effective combination of wrestling and ground-and-pound offense, a style unaffected by his cage absence. He also cites Lesnar's history as a PPV headliner and his comfort zone as the top star. Valid points, but I don't believe you can improve as a fighter without a consistent fight schedule. A year without improvement in a sport that evolves as quickly as MMA does not bode well for any athlete of any caliber.
And he spent a good portion of that time out of the gym recuperating from a major illness.
But to his point let's assume going into this fight both fighters are equal. Then I have to compare and contrast preparations and training camps. Am I calling my bookie to throw cash at a guy who spends eight months grappling with Chris Tuchscherer and Cole Konrad? Or a guy being groomed under the expert tutelage of Greg Jackson and his stable of UFC all-stars?
And if that's not enough to convince you, take a few minutes to watch the footage from Wednesday's media open workout. Watch both fighters hit the pads. Lesnar can throw a decent punch, but Carwin hits like Jax when he got those bionic implants.
In case you can't tell by reading this long-winded prediction, I'm taking Carwin. "Well if Brock can implement his wrestling game and keep him down and blah, blah, blah ..." C'mon people. It's over. We had a good run and Lesnar played a great heel. But he's a circus strongman, not a UFC heavyweight champion.
That title belongs to Shane Carwin.
Betting lines (as of July 2):
Lesnar: -145 ((Bet Now))
Carwin: +115 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Carwin by knockout
185 lbs.: Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama (13-1) vs. Chris "The Crippler" Leben (20-6)
Nostradumbass predicts: It's impossible to say this without disrespecting Chris Leben, which is not intended, but man do I wish Wanderlei Silva was still on this card. It doesn't matter much in my prediction, because Akiyama is going down regardless of his opponent. Don't think "The Crippler" is the man to do it? He doesn't need to be. "Sexyama" has already done all the work for him.
If you had enough sense to skip over the novel that was my "Lesnar vs. Carwin" prediction, I'll remind you that I don't like fighters who spend a year on the sidelines. Baseball players who miss a significant amount of time don't return and hit .300 right off the bat (pun intended). Why? Because no matter how many swings you take in batting practice, your timing and mechanics need to adjust to a human opponent.
Fighting is no different.
And to stay on the baseball analogy, a lot of hitters go through a major funk because they're mentally broken. Remember all that second-guessing Akiyama was doing a week before the fight? It's never a good sign when a guy is making excuses for losing before he even steps foot in the cage. Normally a late change in opponents favors the existing fighter, but Leben is fresh off a training camp for another ground attacker in Aaron Simpson.
Not only is he fresh out of camp, he's got a huge win to go with it. Leben has the momentum, the preparations and most importantly, the right mindset for this fight. Believe me, I understand Akiyama's disappointment, because the fans have felt it too and that's not even an ounce of what it must be like for him. But this is the fight game and how you handle that kind of adversity is what makes or breaks you in your career.
As a total package, Akiyama is clearly the better fighter. Let's not forget it wasn't too long ago that Leben was being submitted by Jake Rosholt. But Akiyama doesn't have the power to KO the TUF 1 bad boy and he won't be as sharp as he need to be mentally to win this. Don't be surprised to see some sloppy attempts to grapple early in the fight only to get stuffed and psychologically broken. From there it will be academic.
Upset special kids.
Betting lines (as of July 2):
Akiyama: -210 ((Bet Now))
Leben: +165 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Leben by knockout
170 lbs.: Chris "Lights Out" Lytle (28-17-5) vs. Matt "The Immortal" Brown (11-8)
Nostradumbass predicts: I love giving readers an excuse to call me "Dumbass" and this fight should be no exception. Maybe not in the pick, but perhaps in the logic. You see, I'm convinced that Chris Lytle is going to be knocked out for the first time in his career. And Matt Brown will be the one to do it.
"Lights Out" is 35 and he's been doing this for over 11 years. He also has 50 fights (that we know of) to his credit. That's a major toll to take on someone and I feel like the end may be near. And unfortunately the style that's made him a fan favorite will ultimately betray him.
Is there ever a gameplan? Hard to tell. It seems like Lytle just likes to fight, to get in there and throw leather until someone goes out. His kneebar over Brian Foster earlier this year was impressive, but I don't believe it was part of some master plan. It was there, and he took it. If he did approach this (and future) fights with that kind of strategy, he might have a few more years left in him. But he doesn't get all those "Fight of the Night" bonuses from being a cage tactician. He gets them from wars.
And sooner or later it catches up to you.
How am I certain it will be Saturday night? Well, like Monty Burns told Darryl Strawberry when he got pulled in the ninth inning for Homer Simpson, it's called "playing the percentages." The odds are against him because he already has a win over Brown and well, that whole never-been-knocked-out thing. Let me pillage MLB one more time. Is there anything worse to a baseball fan when their favorite hitter gets up and Joe Morgan proudly declares "In 472 plate appearances, Derek Jeter has never struck out with runners at the corners." What do you think happens in that at-bat?
After the family of Pete Sell dropped the homicide charges against Brown, he went on to whip James Wilks in a performance that surprised a lot of MMA fans. This kid can fight. Sure, he got choked out by Ricardo Almeida, but there was such a grotesque difference in their grappling skills that I'm willing to give him a pass. Brown want to brawl and Lytle is the guy to oblige him. But as I alluded to earlier, Brown is on his way up while Lytle is on his way down.
When they meet in the middle, think of Joe Morgan when the ref is waving Brown off his downed foe.
Betting lines (as of July 2):
Lytle: -200 ((Bet Now))
Brown: +160 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Brown by technical knockout
205 lbs.: Stephan "The American Psycho" Bonnar (11-7) vs. Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (21-9-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: It must be hard to be Stephan Bonnar. He's lost three straight and looks over to see Keith Jardine being put out to pasture. I'm sure he'll always have a home as a UFC employee, but if you're not out there fighting, do you really want to be in the back smoking a microphone?
Like Forrest Griffin, who isn't far behind him in terms of expiration date, the sport doesn't need "The American Psycho" anymore. He was a great addition in the beginning, but his legendary toughness and never-say-die attitude have been overshadowed by his shortcoming inside the Octagon. Simply put, he's good at his craft in a sport that now requires him to be an expert.
I don't want to make it sound like he's fighting Anderson Silva or that we should start throwing dirt on the coffin, because Krzysztof Soszynski isn't a world beater. But in this fight he doesn't need to be. I had him ahead on points "Down Under" and he just looked to be more complete. He's had his share of struggles but what you do see is a marked improvement each time out. Bonnar may very well be the same fighter he was in 2005.
Not good enough.
He's still durable and can win this fight if "The Polish" experiments too much, but I have a sneaking suspicion this may be the last time we see Bonnar on the main card of a pay-per-view. Look for Soszynksi to keep his distance and get the better of the exchanges. It might be closer than he wants it to be as Bonnar will give a valiant effort, but I still see this one going to the cards -- and not in "Psycho's" favor.
Betting lines (as of July 2):
Soszynski: -230 ((Bet Now))
Bonnar: +180 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Soszynski by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: George Sotiropoulos (12-2) vs. Kurt "Batman" Pellegrino (16-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm all for self-confidence, but Kurt Pellegrino has been carrying on like some MMA missionary who just came down from his tete-a-tete with the burning bush. You've been impressive, yes, but you're not really "Batman."
What I like about the New Jersey native is that he was able to bounce back (4-0) from an embarrassing loss to Nate Diaz to re-establish himself as force among the lightweight contenders. He has great wrestling, great submissions and the discipline to stick with his gameplan. Josh Neer wanted to punch him. Pellegrino wouldn't let him. Sexy? No, but it's called "winning." In fact, he's looked better and better each fight.
But is it enough to quell the Australian uprising?
Sotiropoulos has gone 5-0 in the UFC since getting bounced from the TUF competition and like the batty man, he's continued to look better each time out. The destruction of Joe Stevenson was his coming out party and it will be important for him to have the same performance tomorrow night.
Breaking down this fight I have them equal or close in skill set. They also share a similar caliber of opponent in recent outings. I'm leaning towards George because he has both the size and the reach advantage and is probably a little crisper in the stand-up, but Pellegrino will not go away so easily and George won't have the home field advantage like he did against "Daddy."
In fact, I might as well just pull a Nostradumbass flip-flop and take Kurt in a split decision in what should be "Fight of the Night." I'm notorious for flip-flopping but this may be the first one I've ever done mid-prediction. Not impressed? Me neither. But I have to take Kurt because we're both from New Jersey and "upsets" are the theme for me today anyway.
So let it be written, so let it be dumb.
Betting lines (as of July 2):
George Sotiropoulos: -200 ((Bet Now))
Kurt Pellegrino: +160 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Pellegrino by split decision
That’s a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of "Lesnar vs. Carwin."
What do you think? Now it’s your turn … let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for Saturday’s event.