Grades are in from Las Vegas, where Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin shook the cage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in front of a sellout crowd.
Brock Lesnar: A+
Lesnar’s hype is the real deal. I figured the champion would fold at some point as Shane Carwin slugged away on the prone and bleeding fighter, but pure heart allowed Lesnar a fresh start against a gassed fighter in round two. Lesnar did what he does best and easily took his prey down, but the true surprise was the kata gatame that cemented his status as the sport’s top heavyweight.
Shane Carwin: B-
The first round went as many expected. Carwin used brute force to blow his opponent away, but obviously punched himself out in the assault. Carwin will be back. Add his first opponent to your prayer list.
Chris Leben: A-
Two wins over a pair of respected opponents in 14 days. Leben is tough as nails and showed a flair for the dramatic in his come-from-behind submission of a judo black belt in Yoshihiro Akiyama. Following the bout, the Oregonian voiced his desire to face Wanderlei Silva, whom Leben replaced on short notice at UFC 116. Silva testing Leben’s chin at break-neck pace? Sign me up.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: C
Was cruising on the Sherdog.com scorecard before massive fatigue set in entering the later stages of the slugfest. Akiyama nearly ended it in the first round from the top position, but was drawn into a firefight in rounds two and three that dashed his energy. The resting Akiyama tried to ride out the decision on the heels of a late third-frame takedown, but the fresher Leben was able to seize the moment.
George Sotiropoulos: B+
The product of Fisticuffs Gym continues to impress. 6-0 in the UFC and gutsy wins against two straight seasoned veterans means it’s time for Sotiropoulos to enter title discussion.
Chris Lytle: B+
How many times does Joe Rogan have to label Lytle’s submission game as underrated before people take notice? With 19 career submissions, the time to recognize Lytle for being more than a brawler is long past due.
Matt Brown: D+
The Cincinnati native followed a strong first-round performance with an embarrassing verbal-submission defeat in round two. Brown should find some solace once he realizes he’s not the first person Lytle has tapped from that ridiculously hard-to-defend position.
Kurt Pellegrino: C-
Oh so close. Pellegrino may have finished the Aussie had there been more time remaining in the final stanza, but “Batman” shouldn’t have put himself in such a disadvantageous position. In each round the takedowns came easy for Pellegrino, but he chose to execute them only in desperation mode following trouble on the feet. Back to the drawing board.
Stephan Bonnar: B
As one half of the duo that fought MMA’s most important bout back in 2005 on Spike TV against Forrest Griffin, it’s hard to believe that the biggest fight of Bonnar’s career stared him in the face at UFC 116, but it’s fact. The Carlson Gracie protégé was gazing down the barrel of a possible four-fight losing streak, and he desperately needed the win to continue on in the big leagues. Bonnar came through in the clutch with a manly performance that all but guaranteed his continued placement in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
Krzysztof Soszynski: C-
After cruising in the first round, it appeared that Soszynski’s conditioning failed him in round two.
Brendan Schaub: A
Now two lightning-quick finishes removed from his knockout loss to Roy Nelson, Schaub is starting to look like the fighter we expected to see when he took to “The Ultimate Fighter” house.
Chris Tuchscherer: F
Lost in just over a minute and dropped his UFC record to 1-2 in the process. Having now been less than impressive in all three of his Octagon appearances, I’d be quite surprised if his next bout isn’t a do-or-die proposition with the promotion. He’ll be fortunate if he even gets a final opportunity.
Gerald Harris: B+
Harris showed a well-balanced game against a respected newcomer and ran his streak of captivating knockouts to three straight with a delicious slam of Dave Branch. The Sooner is now prime for a stiffer test against an experienced middleweight in his next contest.
Dave Branch: C-
It was a tough task to face in his UFC debut, but Branch hung right in there before being put to sleep by a hard slam in the final period. Had the Renzo Gracie black belt not jumped to pull guard against the fence, it’s likely that the duel would have gone the distance.
Ricardo Romero: C
Romero made the big jump from the Ring of Combat circuit (home to all of his first 11 professional bouts) to the Octagon, but it was far from a seamless transition. The New Jersey native took a beating before getting the best of an awful display of grappling from both fighters. A win is a win, but more was expected from the prospect in his UFC debut.
Seth Petruzelli: D
“The Silverback” got off to a fast start, and then fizzled down the stretch to succumb to the rare straight-armbar finish. Now 0-3 in the UFC, one would have to wonder if the Floridian has fought his last bout on the big stage.