On July 3, 2010 the UFC returned to the MGM Grand Garden Arena to determine not only the promotions heavyweight champion, but the man who many would consider the number 1 heavyweight fighter in the world. In addition to the showdown between the unbeaten interim champ Shane Carwin (11-1) and returning heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (5-1) there were also bouts between lightweight standouts George Sotiropoulos (13-2) and “Batman” Kurt Pellegrino (16-5), a rematch between TUF alumni “American Psycho” Stephan Bonnar (12-7) and “The Polish Experiment” Krzysztof Soszynski (20-10-1), a middleweight affair between Yoshihiro Akiyama (14-3) and “The Crippler” Chris Leben (21-7), and a welterweight war featuring “Lights Out” Chris Lytle (29-17-5) and “Immortal” Matt Brown (11-9). UFC 116 delivered like no one thought possible with every fight. From the prelims to the main card every single fight delivered non-stop action and most of the bouts showcased the entire spectrum of true MMA skill sets. However, like every contest, there were winners and losers at UFC 116, but in MMA nothing is ever that simple. Some winners lose, some losers win, and some losers, well, let’s just say they lose more than just the fight. This is an analysis of who came out ahead, who came out a little rough, and who would have been better of staying at home called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Brock Lesnar: Brock Lesnar came into the octagon with something to prove and despite almost leaving the cage on his back in the first, he managed to do it. Many fans wondered weather or not Brock had a real dedication to the sport especially after his long lay off and a bout with diverticulitis. Lesnar came through with flying colors showing a champions poise during the drumming he took in the first round before coming out strong in the second, quickly securing a double leg and submitting Carwin with a head and arm choke. With the defeat of Shane Carwin and the fall of “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) Brock Lesnar has solidified his place atop the heavyweight rankings. Perhaps more impressive than Lesnar’s chin and ability to stay cool under fire was his new fan friendly humble attitude. Gone were the horseshoes, Coors Light, and middle fingers and even his biggest detractors were suitably impressed. Now he just needs to fix the glaring holes in his stand up game before Cain Velasquez (8-0) gives him the boxing lesson that Shane Carwin started.
Chris Leben: “The Crippler” walked out of the octagon with not only his second win in as many weeks, but a Fight if the Night bonus check and a huge upset win over a very skilled opponent in Yoshihiro Akiyama. The bout started with Akiyama completely out classing Leben until halfway through the second when Leben landed a huge left hand. After that the fight became a war of attrition pitting Akiyama’s iron jaw against Leben’s granite chin. It looked as if Leben would surely lose the decision when, late in the third he pulled off an unlikely submission against the completely gassed Akiyama. This match was surely Leben’s finest hour and potentially his ticket back into title contention.
Chris Lytle: “Lights Out” managed to impress again, despite being beat out for fight of the night and submission of the night honors, with his technically advanced inverted triangle/arm bar submission of Matt Brown. This marks Lytle’s third straight UFC win and his sixth win in the promotion in the last three years. While Lytle has yet to break into the upper echelon of the welterweight division, he has certainly earned himself another crack at the elite.
Gerald Harris (17-2): Harris faced undefeated prospect Dave Branch (6-1) in a preliminary at UFC 116, marking his third appearance in the octagon. This time, Harris’ bout was aired on Spike TV, giving him the opportunity to stand out and generate some all important fan appeal and he seized it with both hands and a kung fu grip. In one, vicious, earth shaking slam, Harris made Branch pay for jumping guard. It was really a simple adjustment that turned this from just another guy trying to slam his way out of guard to a career boosting KO of the Night. Harris placed his arm under Branch’s chin, preventing him from tucking his chin so his shoulders took the impact, and drove the larger man’s head into the mat, robbing him of consciousness. This was the definition of luck: preparation meets opportunity. He was prepared to capitalize when Branch gave him the opportunity to give millions of fans something to talk about.
George Sotiropoulos: Sotiropoulos made “Batman” his sixth straight victim in the octagon with a performance that, while no GSP vs. Jon Fitch, was still complete dominance. Kurt Pellegrino, like “Daddy” Joe Stevenson (31-10), had no answer for the lethal combination of championship level boxing, solid wrestling, and black belt level jiu-jitsu that the aussie brings to the table. This bout proved that in the lightweight shark tank, George is tiger shark, not your run of the mill mako and is ready to start taking on the big fish.
Shane Carwin: Carwin made a rookie mistake, plain and simple. He is, after all, fairly new to the sport and like all new fish is entitled to an error or two but punching himself out in an attempt to finish Brock Lesnar earned him a 10-8 round and an 0-1 record against the champ. I don’t believe Carwin’s gas tank was the issue, it was simply the fact that he failed to control the throttle. Even after over extending himself, he could easily have defended Brock’s fight ending choke but he made the mistake of giving the champ a chance to reset the choke properly instead of rolling into it as soon as it was applied. The thick and thin of it is this, Carwin lacked discipline and wilted under pressure, Brock Lesnar did not.
Stephan Bonnar: Bonnar avoided a fourth straight loss with his second round TKO of Krzysztof Soszynski but he still looked like he didn’t belong in the UFC even as a gatekeeper. “The Polish Experiment” beat Bonnar to a bloody pulp before grabbing the clinch in an effort to survive. Bonnar landed a beauty of a knee and capitalized, but he didn’t look good in victory.
Matt Brown and Kurt Pellegrino: Both of these men were game opponents but showed that they don’t have what it takes to dive into deeper waters. Despite strong showings from both Brown and Pellegrino, they were totally out classed by Lytle and Sotiropoulos. Pellegrino said he would retire if he lost but if he doesn’t he will become the newest member of the UFC lightweight gatekeeper rotation. Brown lost out a little more than that. His TUF fueled hype train just got traded in for a more workman like little engine that could approach.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: After he dominated the first round against Chris Leben, “Sexyama” looked like he was going to make “The Crippler” pay for taking a fight with him on the terms he did. By the end of the second, Leben had turned the fight into glorified brawl, but Akiyama was still winning. In the third, it all fell apart. Akiyama was badly gassed at the start of the round, but still had the edge over the faltering Leben. In fact his victory at the judge’s hands was a forgone conclusion when Leben mechanically applied a triangle choke. The choke was not deep and the step up was haphazard at best but Akiyama’s pitiful conditioning left him too tired to defend, eliciting the tap just 20 seconds before the final bell. After this performance, Akiyama looked like he didn’t even belong in the UFC.
Krzysztof Soszynski: “The Polish Experiment” came into his bout with Bonnar an obvious favorite. He was clearly winning the first bout with a combination of solid ground work and aggressiveness before his errant head butt ended Bonnar’s night early. In the second fight he came out with the same panzer tank-like attack, ignoring Bonnar’s counter punches and continuing the blitzkrieg. All looked good for “The Polish Experiment” until about 1:30 of the second round when he completely shut down. He wasn’t gassed, he wasn’t hurt, he looked as if he simply stopped caring. Soszynski lazily defended Bonnar’s clinch against the cage before “The American Psycho” dropped him with a knee, after which he seemed to have recovered but decided not to attempt to improve his position. This bout completely derailed any chance Krzysztof had of breaking into UFC light heavyweight title contention.