UFC 116: Brock Lesnar Leads A New Era in the Heavyweight Division
By Matthew DeGonzaque (July 16, 2010)
Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin had a lot more to gain at UFC 116 on July 3 than the UFC heavyweight champion. With the recent defeat of consensus #1 MMA heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, the winner of the Lesnar-Carwin fight would be considered the best heavyweight in the world. A claim that former Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko held until last weekend when he was defeated by Fabricio Werdum.

Neither fighter has had many fights, but both have quickly solidified themselves as dominant players in the UFC
heavyweight division. Lesnar, the two time NCAA All American champion and former WWE star who captured the UFC heavyweight championship in only his 4th fight. In his short career, Lesnar has picked up wins over Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Heath Herring. Lesnar had also not fought in a year, after suffering from cases of diverticulitis and mononucleosis, and was looking to prove that he was still a force to be reckoned with in the UFC heavyweight division.

 Shane Carwin, a former division 2 wrestling champion who used his wrestling ability and incredible knockout power to pick up first round wins over Frank Mir, Gabriel Gonzaga. Carwin was undefeated at 12-0 and won an interim championship fight against Mir that the UFC had created in Lesnar’s absence. Lesnar congratulated Carwin the cage but told him that he was still the real champion and would have to go through him to be considered champ.

 Lesnar and Carwin met on July 3rd, 2010 to find out who would lead the heavyweight division in the future and to answer questions about themselves as fighters. Could Brock handle Carwin’s power? With all of his fights ending in the first round, did Carwin have the cardio to go the distance? Could Carwin defend Brock’s speed and takedowns? We found out at UFC 116.

 Both mammoth fighters officially weighed in at 265lbs, the heavyweight limit, but likely weighed much more after the weigh in. Lesnar went for the takedown quickly in the fight and Carwin showed good control and managed to sprawl out and avoid going to the ground with Lesnar. On the feet, Carwin quickly landed an uppercut that sent Brock reeling. Carwin went in for the kill, throwing brutal bombs that caused Lesnar to collapse against the cage. Carwin spent the first half of the round trying to finish Brock, who was defending off his back against the cage, avoiding punishment. Carwin spent a lot of energy trying to stop the fight, but Brock made it until the end of the first round.

 It was a great first round for Carwin, easily a 10-8, but more importantly for Carwin is that Brock had survived and was ready for another round. Carwin had spent a great deal of energy trying to finish Lesnar in the first round. He was exhausted and didn’t have the same energy he had in the 1st round to fight off Lesnar. Bruised and bloodied, Brock came right out and took Carwin down in the opening minute of the 2nd round. With Carwin offering up little resistance, Brock quickly took the mount and locked in a head and arm triangle, beginning to choke Carwin, and transitioned to the side to apply extra pressure. Carwin (12-1) quickly tapped out at 2:19 of the second round. Brock Lesnar (5-1) retains his heavyweight championship and takes the mantle of the number 1 heavyweight champion in the world.

 Brock is now ‘The Man’ in the heavyweight division and he is without a doubt, the biggest star in the UFC and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. He won’t have much time to enjoy this victory though as he has agreed to face Cain Velasquez (8-0) at UFC 121 at the end of October. Velasquez, an even tougher opponent than Carwin, will be an extremely difficult challenge for Lesnar. But that’s what happens when you’re the champ; you fight the best.

 The Lesnar-Carwin fight was exciting from beginning to finish and made up for some of the lackluster main events that had been plaguing UFC main events recently (Silva-Maia at UFC 112 and Evans-Jackson at UFC 114 most notably). Infact the entire card was easily one of the best MMA cards of the year, if not the best. All of the fights were exciting from top to bottom.

 In the co-main event The Ultimate Fighter season 1 veteran Chris Leben (21-6) defeated Korean superstar Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-2 w/ 2 NC) in a 3 round war that saw Leben submit Akiyama with a triangle with 20 seconds left in the fight. Leben also set a record that night having the shortest lay off in between fights with 14 days. Originally Akiyama was supposed to be fighting Wanderlei Silva, but Silva bowed out due to injuries. Leben had just defeated Aaron Simpson in a tough fight only 14 days before at the Ultimate Fighter 11 finale. He got the call to fight Akiyama the Monday afterwards and began preparing. Incredible win for Leben, who has slowly improved during his 5 year career to the point where he is becoming a legitimate force within the division. Hopefully he gets the chance to take on a big name within the division, he has certainly earned it after taking such an important and dangerous fight on such short notice and winning. I don’t think that a fight with someone like Nate Marquardt or Wanderlei Silva next should be out of the question for Leben.

 It was a great night as another TUF 1 veteran as Stephan Bonnar (12-7) managed to avenge a loss to Krzysztof Soszynski (21-10-1), end a 3 fight losing streak and save his spot in the UFC all in one night. It has been a rough couple of years for Bonnar. Bonnar, who is known for his legendary fight with Forrest Griffin during the TUF 1 finale, lost 3 fights in a row. Being defeated by Jon Jones, Mark Coleman and Soszynski. The Soszynski fight was stopped due to a cut on Bonnar’s head that was revealed to have been caused by a head butt. So a rematch was signed. It was an exciting fight, one that Bonnar was losing end of. Lots of striking exchanges between the two men exciting the crowd and made it a rival for fight of the night. Bonnar managed to catch Soszynski with a knee to the face during the second round that dropped him and Bonnar swarmed him with punches for the TKO victory.

 Although I doubt its in the cards, I wouldn’t mind seeing a rubber match between the two men. Bonnar would be well advised to changed his style up, he has good hands but he over relies on them in fights and it has caused him several defeats in the past. He was fortunate enough to hit Soszynski with a knee and TKO him, but he was losing the exchanges before hand and could’ve been TKO’d himself. He should look to use his Jiu Jitsu more in fights, otherwise his success is destined to be limited in the UFC. 

Chris Lytle (29-17-5) successfully defended his position as the number 1 gatekeeper in the UFC with a victory over TUF 7 alum Matt Brown (11-9). Both guys came out looking to strike, going back and forth with punches. Brown had more success and appeared to win the first round. But Lytle landed an uppercut early in the 2nd round that hurt Brown, Brown tried to pull guard but Lytle secures top position and goes for a guillotine choke. Lytle then transitions to a triangle mount and straight armbars Brown for the victory. 

Lytle is a fighter a lot like Bonnar in that he has the ability to do better than his record appears, but he instead forgoes his best discipline, his Jiu Jitsu, for his boxing and strikes every fight. Lytle does have a professional boxing background (a 13-1-1 record) and but in fights he forgoes technique and tries to land wild haymakers. Until he landed that uppercut in the 2nd round he was struggling with Matt Brown. Look how quickly he submitted him once he took the fight to the ground. If he had done that right from the beginning it would’ve been a much more impressive win. Lytle is a good fighter like Bonnar, but he also chooses to fight in a style that ensures he will never be a championship contender. 

In the opening bout of the fight, TUF 6 veteran George Sotiropoulos (13-2) continued his climb of the lightweight rankings with a decision win over Kurt Pellegrino (16-5). Sotiropoulos was able to control Pellegrino where ever the fight went. He used his stand up to knock Pellegrino down in the 1st round and he used his Jiu Jitsu to control Pellegrino and win the first two rounds. He was able to control Pellegrino for most of the 3rd round, but Pellegrino landed a knee that dropped Sotiropoulos in the closing seconds of the fight that stole the round for Pellegrino on one judges scorecard. But it was still a clear decision win for Sotiropoulos, who was had dominated wins in back to back fights against Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino. Sotiropoulos has a lot of potential in my opinion and I think he is going to be a major player in the lightweight division in the future. 

It was a great night of fights and one that the UFC truly needed at this point after some mediocre cards. It was a card filled with amazing fights top to bottom and it was an event that truly changed the landscape of the sport. George Sotiropoulos and Chris Leben both got a little bit closer to a title shot at UFC 116, maybe they’ll become contenders, maybe they won’t. We’ll have to wait and see. But tonight we did see a new king emerge in the heavyweight division; Brock Lesnar. The week before UFC 116 occurred, a heavyweight era ended. At UFC 116 a new era began. Brock Lesnar has emerged as the man to lead that era, although Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and possibly Fedor Emelianenko may dethrone him in the future, right now Lesnar is the #1 fighter in the heavyweight division.

Questions or comments,
Matthew at: mdegonzaque@hotmail.com
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