(We agree, Trevor.)
Fourth of July weekend kicks off with fireworks of a different kind as UFC 116 rolls into Las Vegas, Nev. and beams out to the world on Spike TV and pay-per-view live this Saturday night. The MGM Grand Garden Arena hosts literally the biggest fight in UFC history when enormous former collegiate wrestling All-Americans Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar clash to unify the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Here are FIGHT!’s picks for Saturday night’s bouts with odds courtesy of bodog. We are 67-38 with our picks in 2010.
A true battle of behemoths, Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin have come to represent new generation heavyweights: high level, agile wrestlers with rapidly increasing skills in all other areas of their game. In their last outings, both bludgeoned Frank Mir. Lesnar defended his belt for the first time, while Carwin took the interim strap in wake of Lesnar riding the bench due to intestinal illness.
Facing opponents of equal size and power is new for each fighter. Lesnar has the better wrestling credentials, capturing the NCAA Heavyweight Championship compared to Carwin’s division two title. Each combatant isn’t interested in staying on their back and the takedown challenge might be too taxing over five rounds, so look for the superior stand-up fighter to emerge undisputed.
FIGHT! Pick: Carwin
Chris Leben accepted the monumental task of fighting Yoshihiro Akiyama on less than two weeks notice just days after upsetting undefeated All-American wrestler Aaron Simpson with a second round technical knockout. Akiyama has had a year to train for his second UFC outing; however, the Japanese star of Korean descent is reportedly unenthusiastic about facing off with “Crippler.”
That will be kryptonite since the Hawaii-based fighter has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Fresh off a camp focused on takedown defense, Leben’s heavy-handed, iron-chinned attack should teach Akiyama slugfests aren’t always fun.
FIGHT! Pick: Leben
Matt Brown searches for retribution against Chris “Lights Out” Lytle in welterweight action. Brown tapped out to Chris Lytle in 2007, and since entered the UFC to post a 4-2 record. The gritty Ohioan is savvy enough to match Lytle and vows to be the first to stop or submit the firefighter. The former professional boxer has a submission edge on Brown, but since a slugfest is in the works, Lytle’s combinations likely earn Lytle the judges nod.
FIGHT! Pick: Lytle
Krzysztof Soszynski technically won his first meeting with Stephan Bonnar at UFC 110 in Australia via cut (head butt) although both were eager for take two. They have a chance to settle the score definitely in Las Vegas.
A war is Bonnar’s kind of fight. Soszynski’s clinch work and wrestling are the decisive weapons though as both struggle to put away a sturdy, charging challenger.
FIGHT! Pick: Soszynski
A lightweight tilt between Kurt Pellegrino and George Sotiropoulos is a early favorite for Fight of the Night honors. Pellegrino transitions well between boxing and wrestling, employing his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to threaten in scrambles and open up ground and pound. Sotiropoulos is the more polished grappler, but Pellegrino’s wrestling in a contest with guaranteed rough spots should make the difference.
FIGHT! Pick: Pellegrino
FIGHT! Pick: Carwin Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Yoshihiro Akiyama (-205) vs. Chris Leben (+165)
FIGHT! Pick: Leben Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Chris Lytle (-215) vs. Matt Brown (+175)
FIGHT! Pick: Lytle Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Stephan Bonnar (+190) vs. Krzysztof Soszynski (-250)
FIGHT! Pick: Soszynski Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
George Sotiropoulos (-180) vs. Kurt Pellegrino (+150)
FIGHT! Pick: Pellegrino Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT