"ex"-UFC champ Brock Lesnar is ranked #3 by SportsRatings among heavyweights, interim champ Shane Carwin just 9th. But when they battle at UFC 116 tonight, for many it will determine the best Heavyweight MMA fighter in the world.
UFC 116 Main Card
#10 Brock Lesnar (#3 HW) vs. #38 Shane Carwin (#9 HW) (HW title fight)
#49 Yoshihiro Akiyama (#14 LH) vs. #167 Chris Leben (Light HW)
#213 Chris Lytle vs. #476 Matt Brown (Welterweight)
#614 Stephan Bonnar vs. #280 Krzysztof Soszynski (Light HW)
#111 George Sotiropoulos vs. #98 Kurt Pellegrino (Lightweight)
Heavyweight title fight
#10 Brock Lesnar (4-1; #3 HW) vs. #38 Shane Carwin (12-0, #9 HW)
Key points and questions regarding this fight:
- Has Lesnar recovered from his near-death experience? This is the main question of the fight. Lesnar needed an extended amount of time to recover from his ordeal, which has allowed his body to be fully recovered and trained, but it's been a while since he's been in the ring.
- Which is more important—competition level or experience?
Lesnar's limited résumé (5 fights) lends to doubts as to whether he can
survive a technical fight. That is, the longer the fight goes, the more
unfamiliar situations he'll be in. Carwin, however, hasn't had that many
more rounds (12 partial rounds, total) and the competition he's faced
hasn't been as good overall. He has notched wins over Frank Mir and
Gabriel Gonzaga, while in his short career Lesnar has faced Mir twice,
Heath Herring, and Randy Couture.
- How much of a puncher's advantage does Carwin have? Carwin is mainly known for his punching, but Lesnar is no slouch in that area. Beyond his ground-and-pound, Lesnar caught Randy Couture with what was essentially a knockout punch. We also don't know who has a better chin, as neither has been extensively tested in that area. Both have eaten a few hard shots and come out unfazed.
- How much of a grappling advantage does Lesnar have? Like Lesnar, Carwin was a wrestler in college, but not nearly on the same level. How he'll do when the fight gets in the clinch or goes to the ground is key to his ability to win the fight, even if his grappling is just defensive.
- Who will win if stamina becomes an issue? Lesnar's overall health appears good, but again based on his bout with misdiagnosed diverticulosis and time off, his stamina may be an issue if the fight goes three rounds. On Carwin's part, he hasn't proven he can go for a second round, since he hasn't needed to yet. What happens in the later rounds is anyone's guess.
- Does size matter? Both fighters are huge; each is at least 6' 2", and both will weight about 265 for the fight. Lesnar has fought at around 280, and Carwin weighs about that "walking around." Both are very strong. One thing that might be settled is which fighter is actually taller; Lesnar claims 6' 3" and Carwin is sometimes listed at 6'4".
- Do we really know enough about either of these fighter to make a judgement? Everyone seems to have an opinion about who will win this fight, but with so few big matches between both of them, style differences, and issues regarding each's condition and stamina, I'm not sure any analysis can tell us what's going to happen with reasonable certainty. Overall I've never been impressed with Carwin, who overwhelms opponents offensively but doesn't have a lot of defense. Lesnar relies a lot on his size and power, too, but seems like he's trying to learn the complete game more.
Light Heavyweight bout: #49 Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-1, #14 LH) vs. #167 Chris Leben (20-6)
Time off vs. staying busy: One thing that stands out in this fight is how active (or not) each fighter has been. Akiyama took nearly a year between beating Masanori Tonooka in Dream 6 and defeating Alan Belcher in UFC 100. Now it's been almost another year. Leben, in contrast, fought just a few weeks ago, beating Alan Simpson in Ultimate Fighter 11. If readiness vs. ring rust is a factor, Leben has a shot. Otherwise, Akiyama should be a heavy favorite to beat an already-tired competitor.
Welterweight bout: #213 Chris Lytle (28-17-5) vs. #476 Matt Brown (11-8)
Youth vs. Experience: Chris Lytle is almost 36 and has been through a lot of fights. Brown is 29 and has a lot fewer. If father time catches up with Lytle he could lose, but otherwise experience should win the day. While Lytle's entire career includes recognizable opponents, Brown has had just five (2 wins, 3 losses) higher-profile fights in his career, including a loss to Lytle in 2007.
Light Heavyweight bout: #614 Stephan Bonnar (11-7) vs. #280 Krzysztof Soszynski (21-9-1)
History repeats: If that's the case, Soszynski should control the fight and beat Bonnar easily, like he did when they fought in UFC 110. Although the referee stoppage was poor, the decision in the record books accurately reflected the likely outcome. If styles make fights, this one will go much like the last. It's up to Bonnar to throw a wrench in the works.
Lightweight bout: #111 George Sotiropoulos (12-2) vs. #98 Kurt Pellegrino (16-4)
2nd best matchup of the night: Or at least it is on paper, featuring two quality grapplers. Pellegrino is coming off a solid 4-match win streak, while Sotiropolous has been cleaning up lesser foes. But Sotiropoulos has been unstoppable lately, and even his last loss (Shinya Aoki in 2006) was due to disqualification from a leg kick to the groin after an odd, leg-locked first round. This bout sends the winner to higher ground in the lightweight division.
#235 Brendan Schaub (5-1) vs. #619 Chris Tuchscherer (18-2)
Ricardo Romero (10-1) vs. #826 Seth Petruzelli (12-4)
#315 Kendall Grove (11-7) vs. #248 Goran Reljic (8-1)
Gerald Harris (16-2) vs. Dave Branch (6-0)
Daniel Roberts (9-1) vs. #554 Forrest Petz (17-7)
Jon Madsen (5-0) vs. Karlos Vemola (7-0)
While Schaub should be a strong favorite, most the rest of the ranked fighters are ranked low for a reason and facing up-and-coming opponents, making the task hard for Petruzelli and Petz. Two fights feature less experienced competitors, with undefeated Dave Branch in his seventh fight against tough Gerald Harris, and undefeated fighters Madsen and Vemola squaring off.
Perhaps the best undercard fight is Kendall Grove vs. Goran Reljic. Reljic suffered his first loss recently against C.B. Dollaway, and Grove lost to Mark Munoz in UFC 112. With both fighters coming off losses, the winner gets another chance at becoming a main card fighter while the loser sinks further into MMA oblivion.