This weekend will see two of the biggest Heavyweights in MMA today square off in a – quite literally – HUGE main event. The undisputed Heavyweight Championship is on the line and following the recent defeat of Fedor Emalienko in Strikeforce, many are seeing this as a chance for the winner to rightfully claim the title of the number 1 heavyweight in the world. For Dana White this is immense as this means that ALL champions under the Zuffa umbrella (UFC and WEC) will be #1 ranked in the world of MMA. That is pretty huge.
Fedors loss also means that, IF being thought of as the #1 fighter in the world matters to him he HAS to fight in the UFC to get that crown back. It’s been said for a while now that Fedor needed to be fighting the guys in the UFC to really cement his Greatest of All Time status. Maybe, just maybe we will see that happen now.
UFC116 has suffered a fair few drop outs, the most hig-profile of which is the loss of “the axe-murdered” Wanderlei Silva. Silva was due to face off against Yoshihiro Akiyama but was injured and will now be replaced by Chris Leben who only fought 2 weeks ago. “Sexyama” isn’t too happy about the late change of opponent but hopefully he isn’t going to take Leben too lightly.
Let’s get it on!!
Jon Madsen 5-0-0 vs. Karlos Vemola 7-0-0 – Heavyweight
Undefeated Madsens last fight was a decision win over Vemolas London ShootFighters teammate Mustapha Al Turk. Vemola is making his debut in the organisation and also brings an undefeated record to the party. In his 7 fights career he has shown serious power and a propensity for the rear-naked choke. Madsen hasn’t exactly set the world alight with his performances thus-far with his last 3 fights all being decision wins. Vemola will not want his UFC career to go the way of his teammate Al-Turks and so won’t be throwing caution to the wind and leaving himself open for a stoppage loss on his debut. If he shows the firepower that has led to him taking ALL his 7 victories in the UK in ther first round then he could make a pretty impressive opening statement of intent in the UFC. Granted Vemola hasn’t fought the quality of opponents that Madsen has and some people have placed question marks over his willingness to step up to the plate when the situation demands it (James McSweeney has issues with him and he dropped out of a fight with UFC veteran Neil Grove on VERY late notice) but if Vemola has his head right he could take this fight. He has the advantage of having a teammate who has done 3 rounds with his opponent and I think all this adds up to a nice debut win for Vemola. I’m taking Vemola TKO rd 2
Daniel Roberts 9-1-0 vs. Forrest Petz 17-7-0 – Welterweight
Petz is a veteran of 24 fights and has a (heavily disputed) win over recent Welterweight Challenger Dan Hardy. The majority of Petz 7 losses have been via submission and that is a bad look for him considering the grappling credentials of his opponent. Roberts is making his 2nd UFC appearance after a KO loss to John Howard at the UFC Versus show. I don’t believe Petz has the KO power of Howard although he is a legit threat on the feet. I think overall this fight favours Roberts and although Petz is scrappy and his experience could see him through to a decision, I think Roberts has the grappling savvy to take any opportunity given to him to finish the fight. Roberts submission rd 3
Gerald Harris 16-2-0 vs. Dave Branch 6-0-0 – Middleweight
BJJ Blackbelt and undefeated fighter Branch makes his UFC debut against Harris who is on a 9 fight win streak with 5 of these coming by way of T/KO. Branch’s record is 3 tko’s and 3 submissions and he is no stranger to the striking game himself although given his background he clearly favours the ground. Harris supreme confidence is what got him signed to the UFC after he rang MMA junkie radio when Dana White was a guest and told Dana about his win streak. Dana – aware of Harris following his appearance on TUF8 when he lost to Amir Sadollah (the eventual winner) – told him to come by the office and he got signed. He is going to need to be very submission aware in this fight as I’m not sure he has come up against a grappler of the calibre of Branch, but he is very experienced and I’m picking him to come through this fight with the win. Harris TKO rd1
Kendall Grove 11-7-0 vs. Goran Reljic 8-1-0 – Middleweight
Both fighters are coming off a loss in this fight, Reljic to a decision against CB Dolloway and Grove to a TKO against Mark Munoz in a fight in which he was doing pretty well up until the TKO! Reljic hasn’t got the experience or fought anywhere near the calibre of fighter that Grove has been in with, but he does have legit grappling skills with a brown belt in BJJ and the ability to strike, as he showed in his fight of the night TKO of Wilson Gouveia in his UFC debut. Grove always poses a problem to opponents with his frame but he won’t have that much height advantage on Reljic who is 6’3″ himself. I see this being a pretty even contest with not much between the two fighters. Grove has a patchy record and has struggled to string a series of wins together since his fight career began (save a 4 fight strike beginning just before he won TUF3 ). That said he rarely has back to back losses. I think I’ll take Grove by a razor thin decision here but this fight could go either way.
Seth Petruzelli 12-4-0 vs. Ricardo Romero 10-1-0 – Light Heavyweight
Petruzelli steps into the UFC octagon once more after stringing together 4 wins recently and fills the void left by the withdrawal of former WEC champion Steve Cantwell. Romero comes into the UFC on the back of a superb run in the Ring Of Combat organisation where he held the heavyweight title before dropping down and also gaining the light heavyweight title. The only blemish on Romeros record is a DQ loss. Petruzelli is most famous for his KO of Kimbo Slice and most recently fought in the UK on BAMMA 3 against Ryan “the great” White. Taking the win with a smooth armbar to claim his only submission win in 16 fights . Romero comes into the UFC heavily touted as one to watch and with a very well rounded out game. Petruzelli has a tendency to spoil the coming out party of “future stars” though and so Romero will need to be on his game against the experienced “silverback” and avoid his heavy striking. While both fighters have decent momentum going into this fight, Petruzelli’s experience may be the telling factor here, coupled with the fact that Romero has never fought outside his native New Jersey. Romeros does have a high school and collegiate wrestling background and his best chance is to get this on the mat. For me though, if Petruzelli can avoid the ground then I think he can win this fight, possibly stopping Romero. I’ll err on the side of caution in this one though and take a Petruzelli decision
Brendan Schaub 5-1-0 vs. Chris Tuchscherer 18-2-0 – Heavyweight
Another really well matched fight by Joe Silva in this Heavyweight clash. Schaub is a beast and hasnt been out of the first round in any of his 6 fights, all his wins coming by TKO and his loss (to Roy Nelson) via the same. Tuchscherer has an impressive record but hasn’t been particularly awe-inspiring since coming into the UFC. He suffered a TKO loss to gabriel gonzaga in the first round of their fight, but did get whacked in the balls in a pretty bad way in that matchup. Tuchscherer is a former division 2 NCAA wrestler and he will need that against the heavy heavy hands of Schaub. Im torn for this fight between a Tuchscherer decision and a Schaub TKO and it genuinely could go either way. But I can’t sit on the fence, so I’m going to have a punt on Schaub to take the TKO here in round 2
George Sotiropoulos 12-2-0 vs. Kurt Pellegrino 16-4-0 – Lightweight
This is a mouth-watering matchup for grappling enthusiasts and is a potential fight of the night for me. Both men are BJJ black belts and have trained with the highest level of grapplers in the game. For thi fight Pellegrino is said to have been training with the greatest pound for pound no-gi grappler around currently – Marcelo Garcia. Sotiropoulos is one of, if not the best grapplers in MMA right now at the lighter weights for me and every fight his grappling seems to get better. He did a fantastic job against the veteran Joe “Daddy” Stevenson and is undefeated in his UFC career. Both men find themselves on a bit of a tear right now and this fight potentially has title-contention implications. They have to be up there with Gray Maynard sniffing around for the shot at the winner of the Penn vs Edgar rematch. With the grappling edge going to Sotiropoulos, Pellegrino doesn’t have any clear advantage at any range, except possibly wrestling. I’m not sure that will be enough and given his recent struggle against Fabricio Camoes, in which he was being dominated until pulling off the mother of all reversals somehow, I can’t see this going any other way except to Sotriopoulos. Sotirpoulos submission rd 2
Krzysztof Soszynski 21-9-1 vs. Stephan Bonnar 11-7-0 – LightHeavyweight
This is a rematch of their UFC110 match which was ended on a cut caused by an accidental clash of heads but was still ruled a TKO in Soszynskis favour. Krzysztof was winning the fight up to that point and despite the durability and desire in Bonnar, I believe he is a spent force in the UFC and if it weren’t for his history making fight against Forrest, he would probably not have been around the UFC to take the fight the first time these guys met. 2 wins in 7 would not be enough to keep anyone else in the UFC. Neither men are master tacticians in the striking game, but Soszynski seems to have the better movement judging by the last fight. He also has a great chin and is able to suck up pretty much everything Bonnar can throw at him. Bonnar is a purple belt under the late Carlos Gracie and has most of his wins by submission, but his opponents strength and wrestling prowess mean that getting it down to the mat is a hard task. I expect to see a similar fight to the last one, with Soszynski edging this on the judges score cards for a decision win
Chris Lytle 28-17-5 vs. Matt Brown 11-8-0 – Welterweight
Perenial fight of the night contender Chris Lytle faces off against “the immortal” in this fight. It is almost expected of Lytle now that he gets some sort of fight bonus from his UFC appearances after taking home 7 fight bonus awards in his last 9 fights. Lytle is an ex-pro boxer but has most of his wins by submission. Brown has most of his losses by submission – including one in 2007 to none other than Chris Lytle! – and the more you look at the facts and figures behind this fight the more you have to say it favours Lytle. Lytle likes to put on a show and I’m sure he enjoys getting the bonuses that have been swelling his bank account recently and hopefully he doesnt get too caught up with making the fight a great spectacle because one thing Brown does have is power. Lytle however is very hard to put away and in 50 MMA fights has only been stopped by strikes twice. I think on the mat this is all Lytle and on the feet he will do enough to take a decision. If this goes to ground Lytle will win by sub, if it stays on the feet Lytle will take a decision. Seeing as I have to choose one way or the other, I’ll take a Lytle decision
Chris Leben 20-6-0 vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama 13-1-0 – Middleweight
I would have MUCH preferred to see Wandy fight Akiyama but that was not to be, so we have to settle for “the crippler”. Fair play to him for stepping up, especially after only fighting 2 weeks ago but he is really up against it in this fight. Akiyama has only lost once in 14 fights and that was by KO to Jerome LeBanner who outweighed him by something like 50lbs in K1 heroes when they fought. Whilst his UFC debut was a much-maligned decision win over Alan Belcher, what he did show in that fight is that he can take punch. That will be enough against Leben because a punch is pretty much all he brings to the table. With his outstanding Judo pedrigee, if the mood takes him Akiyama can and will take this to the mat and from there Leben will offer very little off his back. When you also consider that Leben did a hard 2 rounds only 2 weeks ago the odds are really stacked against him. I can’t see Akiyama not winning this unless Leben lands a haymaker from Row Z, but I think Akiyama will be a little too smart to let that happen. Akiyama submission round 1
Brock Lesnar 4-1-0 vs. Shane Carwin 12-0-0 – Heavyweight Championship
This is one of the biggest fights in UFC history, literally. These men combined come in at almost 600lbs of smashing power. I hope they have reinforced the cage for this one! Debate has raged on the internet about who can win this fight and the answer is simply – they both could! To try and work out how this plays out we have to look at what we know.
First Carwin, he has sledgehammer hands and uses them to great effect. He has never been out of the first round and has taken a grand total of just over 7 minutes to lay waste to his last 4 opponents in the UFC. He shares a common opponent with Lesnar in Frank Mir and took 3 minutes less time to finish him off. He has shown the ability to take a punch and recover (against Gonzaga). He does NOT train full-time but works his training around a job
As for Lesnar, well we all know he is a genetic freak. He moves like a lightweight and could take down a cheetah at full sprint with his shot it is so fast. He has serious power in his fists too, but perhaps is a little less polished than Carwin in the striking game. He has only had 5 fights and while this makes his status in the sport that much more impressive, it also means he gets a little over-keen sometimes and if it wasn’t for the devastating force he packs he would be wide open to counter attacks. Something he cannot afford to be against a striker like Carwin. He practically lives in the gym and trains like an man possessed. The most telling thing though, is that Lesnar has had 12 months out with a very serious illness. Octagon-rust affects pretty much every fighter that has ever suffered a prolonged enforced absence and that is the biggest worry for me here. What Lesnar aces Carwin in is the wrestling game. Carwin recently said he is a better athlete than Lesnar but that is like me saying I could take Lesnar in a fight. Lesnar has the ability to adapt to pretty much any athletic activity: When he was even bigger than he is now, at the height of his WWE fame, he could moon-sault off the top rope and Carwin thinks he’s a better athlete?
Lesnar shows marked improvement everytime he fights and is learning at an incredible rate. Carwin hasn’t really needed to show anything more than his crazy striking power in any of his fights and we honestly don’t know what else he has in store. What we do know is that he trains with one of the top strategists in the game in Greg Jackson and this could be another ace up Carwins sleeve.
Sometimes I feel like i’m talking myself into saying that Carwin will take this, but then I keep coming back to the freakish nature of Brock and his insane wrestling ability. Carwin HAS to KO Lesnar because he won’t out-wrestle him. Brock HAS to out-wrestle Carwin because I don’t think he can out-strike him. So the key-questions are:
Should Brock be able to get Carwin on his back easily – YES!
Once there do I think Carwin can get him off? – NO!
Do I think Brock can take Carwins best punch? – NO!
That’s the dilemma in calling this fight: Both men have a very convincing argument about their “way to win” being the deciding factor. Ultimately it is going to be about who can get their gameplan off the best.
Lesnar is far from a stupid guy and will do what he needs to to win, assuming his recent health issues are not a factor then for the purposes of this post I’m going to pick him to TKO Carwin. I think it will happen early but part of me wants to see this fight play out over a longer period and not be over in the blink of an eye as it is going to be a hell of a spectacle seeing these two behemoths go at it. The trouble is with men this size trying to flatten each other is something has to give and the likelihood is there will be no need for the championship rounds! Lesnar TKO rd1
**************** UPDATED WITH RESULTS ***************
Madsen vs. Vemola – My Pick: Vemola TKO rd 2 Actual: Madsen decision
Roberts vs. Petz – My Pick: Roberts sub rd 3 Actual: Roberts decision
Harris vs. Branch – My Pick: Harris TKO rd1 Actual: Harris KO rd 3
Grove vs. Reljic – My Pick: Grove decision Actual: Grove decision
Petruzelli vs. Romero – My Pick: Petruzelli decision Actual: Romero sub rd 2
Schaub vs. Tuchscherer – My Pick Schaub TKO rd 2 Actual Schaub TKO rd 1
Sotiropoulos vs. Pellegrino – My Pick: Sotirpoulos sub rd 2 Actual: Sotirpoulos decision
Soszynski vs. Bonnar – My Pick: Soszynski decision Actual: Bonnar TKO rd 2
Lytle vs. Brown – My Pick: Lytle decision Actual: Lytle sub rd 2
Akiyama vs. Leben – My Pick: Akiyama sub rd 1: Actual Leben sub rd 3
Lesnar vs Shane Carwin – My Pick: Lesnar TKO rd 1 Actual: Lesnar sub rd 2