Brock Lesnar file photo: Sherdog.com
It was an average event on paper, but UFC 116 “Lesnar vs. Carwin” delivered the goods on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In fact, many have pegged it as the promotion’s best pay-per-view offering of 2010.
The key to the show’s success was the diverse nature of its bouts: a Brazilian jiu-jitsu chess match pairing George Sotiropoulos with Kurt Pellegrino, two outright brawls -- Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski and Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama -- and one of the most anticipated heavyweight confrontations of all time.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts at UFC 116.
George Sotiropoulos def. Kurt Pellegrino -- Unanimous Decision
What happened: In a battle of lightweights who had gone undefeated in their last 10 combined fights, Australia’s Sotiropoulos came out on top by displaying the better boxing and grappling throughout the 15-minute jiu-jitsu clinic. Pellegrino hit a couple of takedowns on the Aussie, but the Eddie Bravo-trained black belt was equally comfortable working from the top and off his back. Sotiropoulos showed excellent guard-passing skills and did a lot of damage via ground-and-pound in round two. Down two rounds two none, “Batman” mounted a late comeback that was capped by a powerful knee strike in the dying seconds. However, there was too little time to put away the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships veteran, as Sotiropoulos won a unanimous decision.
Forecast for Sotiropoulos: The 32-year-old ground fighting virtuoso has beaten Pellegrino and former title contender Joe Stevenson in his last two trips inside the Octagon, improving his UFC record to a perfect 6-0. With his sporting pedigree and continuous desire to improve, Sotiropoulos cannot be ignored in the lightweight title picture any longer. He likely needs one more convincing victory over someone like Evan Dunham, Jim Miller or Tyson Griffin to secure a championship fight on Australian soil in early 2011.
Forecast for Pellegrino: One man’s joy was another man’s sorrow. Had the fight gone his way, Pellegrino would have moved one step closer to title contention. Instead, “Batman” will have to convincingly defeat someone like Spencer Fisher, Sean Sherk or the winner of the Mac Danzig-Matt Wiman rematch in order to work his way back into the picture.
Stephan Bonnar def. Krzysztof Soszynski -- TKO (Punches) 3:08 R2
What happened: The rematch of their controversial first meeting at UFC 110 ended with Bonnar on top this time. Their fight was riddled with violence, as Soszynski landed the harder punches and Bonnar showed himself as the more accurate boxer. The highlights of the fight included a superb first-round armbar escape by the Canadian, as well as a crushing knee strike from Bonnar that triggered the end for Soszynski. The International Fight League veteran ate some 40 unanswered blows before referee Mario Yamasaki stepped in to halt the contest.
Forecast for Bonnar: Bonnar improved to an unimpressive 6-6 in the UFC. His losses, however, have come to Soszynski, light heavyweight wunderkind Jon Jones and three former UFC champions -- Forrest Griffin (twice), Rashad Evans and Mark Coleman. Jason Brilz, Brandon Vera or the Alexander Gustafsson-Cyrille Diabate winner would all make for intriguing matchups against “The American Psycho.”
Forecast for Soszynski: Sustaining his first technical knockout loss as a light heavyweight, the Polish-born Canadian will head back to the drawing board to work on his game. His ground game does not seem to have progressed at the same rate as his stand-up skills. Next up for Soszynski could be matchups against Luis Arthur Cane, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira or the winner of the James Irvin-Igor Pokrajac bout.
Chris Lytle def. Matt Brown -- Submission (Straight Armbar) 2:02 R2
What happened: Brown could not put his eight-inch reach advantage to use, as Lytle controlled him on the cage wall for most of the bout. Both men exchanged submission attempts in the first round, with Lytle trying an omaplata and Brown striking back with a D’arce choke later in the round. The end of the fight put Lytle’s vastly underrated grappling skills on display yet again. He used a guillotine choke to mount Brown but gave up the position and transitioned to side control. From there, he caught Brown in a reverse triangle choke and tapped him with a straight armbar.
Forecast for Lytle: At 8-9 inside the UFC, Lytle has become the promotion’s ultimate journeyman. He beats up on middle-of-the-road competition, only to come up short against the elites in his division. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with professional boxing experience, he has proven nearly impossible to finish, as well; his only TKO losses resulted from cuts. Now on a three-fight winning streak, Lytle would present a stern test for some of the UFC’s promising young welterweights. Dustin Hazelett, Rory MacDonald and Ben Saunders all come to mind.
Forecast for Brown: Brown will have to make some serious adjustments to bounce back from his first back-to-back defeats in the UFC. Losses to Lytle and Ricardo Almeida have shown he does not have the tools to hang with experienced black belts yet. His positive attitude and rough fighting style should earn him at least one more chance to turn around his fortunes. He could soon find himself pitted against fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” alums Amir Sadollah, Diego Sanchez or Mike Swick.
Chris Leben def. Yoshihiro Akiyama -- Submission (Triangle Choke) 4:40 R3
What happened: Leben completed the best two weeks of his career with an impressive come-from-behind submission victory over the world-ranked Akiyama late in the third round. The Portland, Ore., native, who turns 30 later this month, knocked out previously undefeated wrestler Aaron Simpson at “The Ultimate Fighter 11” Finale on June 19 and took the fight against Akiyama on short notice when Wanderlei Silva went down with injuries. Despite appearing clearly superior on the mat, Akiyama insisted on wildly trading leather with Leben for large portions of the bout. An exchange at the end of the second round had the crowd on its feet. Ahead on points, Akiyama tried to play it safe in the third stanza. Leben thwarted those plans by using Akiyama’s carelessness and exhaustion against him, as he applied the fight-ending triangle choke.
Forecast for Leben: “The Crippler” challenged Silva on the house microphone after the fight, but UFC President Dana White already shot down speculation of that fight coming to fruition anytime soon. Silva underwent knee surgery that will likely keep him out of action for the remainder of the year. In the absence of “The Axe Murderer,” Leben could take on “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Kendall Grove, rematch Michael Bisping or meet the survivor of Mark Munoz-Yushin Okami tilt in August.
Forecast for Akiyama: As the Michael Jackson of Japanese MMA, it never made sense for Akiyama to accept opponents with no name recognition in Asia. His matchup with Leben served as the perfect example for how such thinking can backfire. As a result, Akiyama will most likely wait for Silva to heal, unless UFC matchmaker Joe Silva can tempt him to approve a fight against Bisping.
Brock Lesnar def. Shane Carwin -- Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke) 2:19 R2
What happened: Carwin used the whizzer to stop one of Lesnar’s inimitable driving takedowns, landed a series of his patented uppercuts and had the defending champion crumble onto the mat following a big left knee. For the next two and a half minutes, he proceeded to punch Lesnar in the face without committing enough steam to finish the monstrous Minnesotan. Heading into the second round, Lesnar may have been cut under both eyes, but he was in a much better shape in the stamina department, as Carwin was breathing heavily. Exhausted from the first-round work, Carwin could not prevent another Lesnar takedown. The former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar briefly rested in half guard before transitioning to mount. From there, he moved to side control to finish the fight via arm-triangle choke.
Forecast for Lesnar: UFC president Dana White wants to catch up on the full year his promotion lost due to its champion’s illness by putting Lesnar back in the cage as soon as possible against undefeated top contender Cain Velasquez. That fight could take place as early as September. Still, a date with the American Kickboxing Academy thoroughbred in November or December seems more likely and appropriate.
Forecast for Carwin: Carwin may be used to keep the winner of the Junior dos Santos-Roy Nelson showdown busy until Lesnar and Velasquez have finished their business. Down the line, the UFC could match the heavy-hitting Colorado native against Todd Duffee or Ben Rothwell.
Contact Tim Leidecker at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1 or follow him on Twitter @Rossonero1.