Saturday, July 03, 2010

UFC 116 picks

I'm skipping picking the undercard since good lord, this is one of the least-interesting undercards I've ever seen. So, just the PPV itself will be covered in the monthly bag o'wrong known as my UFC predictions.

* Chris Leben over Yoshihiro Akiyama, knockout, R2
That's right, pulling the upset right off the bat. Leben stepped up on short notice to take this fight last week after Wanderlei Silva pulled out due to injury, and Akiyama was capital-P pissed about it. You see, fighting is barely in the top five of Akiyama's leisure activities. The man has numerous businesses in Japan, he's got several endorsement deals, a modeling contract (hence the "Sexyama" nickname) and is even a pop star. Akiyama hasn't fought since last July at UFC 100 --- not because he was hurt or anything, but rather simply because he was waiting to face Silva, who's still a big deal back in Japan due to his PRIDE glory days. With Silva out with injury, however, Akiyama did some bellyaching about how he might pull out of the fight since he wasn't "inspired" to fight Leben and several more complaints that I'm sure were soothed by a cash bonus to keep him from pulling out of the co-main event. The bottom line is, in pure MMA skill, Akiyama should beat Leben without much problem. But I'm picking Leben because I wonder if Akiyama's heart is really in this fight. One thing you can say about Leben is that he always brings it, and that will especially be true in this case since he has nothing to lose and everything to gain. If he wins, then that's a three-fight winning streak for Leben, including one win just a few weeks ago at UFC 115. If he loses, no problem, he took the fight on short notice, what do you expect? If Akiyama was a pro he'd just go in there and take care of business, but I suspect he'll end up getting caught by a Leben haymaker.

* Chris Lytle over Matt Brown, submission, R3
Speaking of haymakers, holy cow, this one could be a slugfest. Both Lytle and Brown are tough guys who love to stand and trade, so there's a decent chance the knockout of the night comes from this fight right here. It's actually a rematch from a 2007 fight that they had in the independent fight circuit, and Lytle won that one with a second-round guillotine. I expect this fight to ultimately end the same way since Lytle has the edge on the ground. Of Brown's eight career losses, six have been by submission.

* George Sotiropoulos over Kurt Pellegrino, decision
Big fight for Sotiropoulos, who I'll just refer to by his first name to save typing. If he wins, he probably gets elevated into a #1 contender's match in his next bout. (A fight against the unbeaten Evan Dunham, for instance, would be a pretty sweet matchup to determine the next LW title contender, presuming it's not Gray Maynard.) Pellegrino might be in line for a title shot too, though in spite of his nice record, he's one of those guys who's always struck me as a bit of a gatekeeper. Beating George will give him a five-fight win streak, though, so maybe I should just get over it and admit that 'Batman' is a quality fighter. Maybe I'm hung up on that dumb nickname. You should only get to name yourself after Batman if you're either a truly elite bad-ass or you're a part-time vigilante. It's too bad the UFC cut Jess "The Joker" Liaudin, that fight just promotes itself.

* Krzysztof Soszynski over Stephan Bonnar, decision
Another remach, this one from UFC 110 back in February. Consonants was beating Bonnar after two rounds (in my opinion) when Bonnar accidentally got head-butted. It opened up a cut that resulted in the fight being stopped and Consonants being given the TKO win, in spite of the fact that it was an illegal blow that caused the cut in the first place. Both guys wanted a rematch to settle things and here we are. I wrote in my UFC 110 preview that Bonnar was barely even a third-tier LHW at this point, and I doubt he's improved much in five months. Consonants wins again, this time without controversy.

* Shane Carwin over Brock Lesnar, knockout, R1
You might be noticing that this isn't exactly the most interesting UFC PPV in history, and that's because of the headliner. Dana White has discovered that Brock Lesnar sells so many PPVs on his own that the undercard is an afterthought. Hell, Akiyama vs. Silva isn't much of a co-main event even before the injury switchout. But still, here we are with this admittedly very intriguing main event. So many factors at play in this one; Lesnar hasn't fought in a full year due to a career-threatening intestinal injury, Lesnar's vaunted wrestling skill might actually be tested by Carwin (a former NCAA Division II wrestling champ), all 12 of Carwin's pro fights have been ended in the first round so you wonder about his gas tank if the fight lasts a while, Lesnar has never really had his chin tested so you don't know how he can react to Carwin's giant fists....the storylines just keep on going. While Lesnar has had the big layoff, Carwin himself has only had two fights since the start of 2009 since his original title shot was continually postponed due to Lesnar's illness. So even my pick of Carwin winning due to Lesnar's ring rust might be out of whack. But I dunno, I just have a feeling that Carwin is going to keep his first-round streak going and put Lesnar's lights out. We've seen B.J. Penn, Lyoto Machida and even Fedor lose in the last three months, so we're due for another allegedly unbeatable monster to go down. (Yeah, I haven't forgotten the Mir loss, but still.) The next time Lesnar is on a PPV, he'll have to sell buys as the co-main event.

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