UFC 116 staff picks

UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin” takes place this Saturday night, June 26, 2010, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., and airs live on Pay-Per-View at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT. Two preliminary card bouts will air live on Spike TV beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.

UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar comes back to defend his title after a year layoff. How will he look? Better, faster, stronger? Some say he has a new soft spot after recovering from a near career-ending injury. Has he lost the killer instinct? Has he lost that meanness that has taken him to the top in just a hand full of fights?

The staff shares their thoughts and predictions on the fight as well as the co-main event, Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Chris Leben, and the rest of the Pay-Per-View card including Matt Brown vs. Chris Lytle and George Sotiropoulos vs. Kurt Pellegrino.

We also give our predictions on the Spike TV televised preliminary card bouts, Brendan Schaub vs. Chris Tuchscherer, and Ricardo Romero vs. Seth Petruzelli. We want to hear your thoughts and predictions too!

Ricardo Romero vs. Seth Petruzelli

RICHARD MANN: Romero has been keeping it real in Lou Neglia’s Ring of Combat for a long time now. Should I pick the hot prospect coming out of one of the premiere MMA feeder shows, or the guy who destroyed the Kimbo hype. My choice is clear. Romero by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Petruzelli should win the war of the ring entrances (he’s rumored to have a midget as part of his entourage), but Romero will win the fight that counts, provided he can get over the big stage jitters. Romero has some solid submissions, and even though he may lose the first round, he’ll gather his composure and put Petruzelli away in the second. Ricardo Romero wins by submission in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: I forgot about the Spike TV fights.

JACK BRATCHER: I’m going with Petruzelli. He’s been in the big show. His only losses so far are against quality veterans, plus he knocked out Kimbo! I wish the UFC would have set up a rematch between he and Kimbo, but oh well. Petruzelli has two UFC fights on his record and that was a decision loss to Matt Hamill back in 2006 and a submission loss to Wilson Gouveia in 2007. Ten out of 12 of Petruzelli’s victories have come via knockout and that’s my prediction on this one. Romero does have a win over McSweeney and that’s a little worrisome, but in the end I think Petruzelli will get the job done.

Brendan Schaub vs. Chris Tuchscherer

RICHARD MANN: Normally, I love picking wrestlers to get on top and stay there. Tuchscherer has a decent wrestling game and will get takedowns. Schaub gets taken down relatively easy. However, Tuchscherer looks like Lennie Briscoe chasing criminals after about two minutes of fighting. Schaub will make Tuchscherer work and pick up a late stoppage. Schaub by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: Kind of an odd match to call.  Tuchscherer is going to have a weight advantage on Schaub and if he were to get Schaub down, he could likely lay and pray his way to a decision.   But Schaub is ready for that and should be able to stop it.   If you’ve been living under a rock, you may not realize Schaub trains with Carwin and Tuchscherer trains with Lesnar, so these two guys will likely be at the top of their games going into the fight, having prepped so hard for what is going to be the biggest fights of their training partners’ careers thus far.  Schaub will be quicker than Tuchscherer and should be able to use that speed to land some solid shots and score a TKO win.  Brendan Schaub wins by TKO in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: I forgot about the Spike TV fights.

JACK BRATCHER: Even though Schaub got flattened by “Big Country” Roy Nelson in the TUF 10 Finale, rumor has it Tuchscherer is still looking for one of his testicles that got kicked up inside him during the Gonzaga fight. Schaub should be able to stay off his back against the cotton top dump truck and my guess is he will end up finishing Tuchscherer via TKO in the second or third round.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Kurt Pellegrino

RICHARD MANN: This is probably the closest fight to a pick ’em on the card. However, it is kind of my job to pick a winner in fights like these. Pellegrino is an extremely overrated grappler, but I see him getting top position and stalling the action. Of course, Sotiropouloos could get the top position instead. I am torn. This is the worse prediction ever. Pellegrino by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Expect a solid fight from these two – Sotiropoulos is on a five fight win streak in the UFC right now, having most recently beat Joe Stevenson via unanimous decision at UFC 110.  Pellegrino is on a four fight win streak of his own, having most recently finished Fabricio Camoes via rear naked choke at UFC 111.   Sotiropoulos should enjoy a reach advantage over Pellegrino but be sure that Pellegrino will be waiting to snatch one of those arms and try to lock Sotiropoulos up in a fight-ending submission.  However, I think Sotiropoulos is going to continue his move up the lightweight ladder with a decision win over Pellegrino.  It’s going to be a tough fight, though, and should showcase an excellent ground battle.  George Sotiropoulos wins by Unanimous Decision.

DENNY HODGE: Sotiropoulos is on a roll, winning 6 fights in a row (5-0 in the UFC). His ground game is very good and he is a threat to submit Pellegrino. Pellegrino always brings a fast paced, in-your-face gameplan and this bout will be no different as far as gameplans go. Pellegrino will have no fear of taking Sotiropoulos to the ground, where he will take Sotiropoulos out with G&P.

JACK BRATCHER: Remember when Pellegrino got submitted by Nate Diaz and Diaz flipped off the whole world? That was cool huh? George hasn’t lost a fight since he got disqualified against Shinya Aoki in Shooto back in 2006. This will be a chess match between two grapplers and I predict George Sotiropoulos will emerge victorious via submission. It is kind of a toss up though and have no real logic to back up this prediction except George has a lot of momentum right now in the UFC and is still undefeated within the promotion.

Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

RICHARD MANN: Bonnar is truly cursed. Soszynski was looking better in their last fight until the fight was stopped. With this much time to prepare, I can only think that Soszynski will be better prepared and dominate the stand up game. Soszynski by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Could we see a TUF winner (well, TUF-contract-winner anyway) get cut after this fight? The answer is yes. Dropping this loss to Soszynski will make it 4 in a row that Bonnar has lost, and while the last one against Soszynski was called off (some believe too early) by the doctor, I’m still confident Soszynski was on his way to a win. This fight should be even better in the first as Soszynski will want to get a more dominant win and Bonnar wants to show he would’ve found some way to come back. Unfortunately for Bonnar it won’t happen, as Soszynski scores a late TKO or dominant decision win. Krzysztof Soszynski wins by TKO in Round 3.

DENNY HODGE: Dana has said the Bonnar will always have a job in the UFC, but if he loses his 4th straight, will that hold true? The first fight between Bonnar and Soszynski ended in controversy, but this one won’t. Bonnar will in fact be ready to “do or die” as he has said previously, winning a decisive decision victory over Soszynski.

JACK BRATCHER: Remember when Bonnar got thrown around the cage like a rag doll against Jon Jones? That was wild huh? Bonnar is like the spoiled rich kid who’s daddy bails him out every time he goes to jail. White has stated he will never fire Bonnar and considers he and Griffin “like sons” due to their TUF significance. How would you fight if you knew you were always going to have a job with the company no matter what? That’s kind of how Bonnar has been performing, so how can I pick him with any confidence? I can’t. Keep in mind Bonnar has exactly 2 (T)KO wins in his career, and he will not submit K-Sos. Soszynski via TKO round 2.

Chris Lytle vs. Matt Brown

RICHARD MANN: Anyone with the ability to throw straight punches should be able to beat Matt Brown. However, Lytle has show that he is more interested in bonuses than his health. So, look for this fight to be an ugly brawl that people think is fight of the year material until they watch it for the second time. Lytle by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Not too many people may know that Brown has already lost once to Lytle, back in 2007 at a United Fight League Show in Indiana, shortly before Brown went on TUF. Since that time, Brown has gone 4-2, and Lytle has gone 4-3. We could definitely see some fireworks in this fight as both guys have some great striking, but Lytle does have an edge on submissions. Brown is more skilled going into this fight than he was the first time they fought and he’s eager to bounce back from his submission loss to Ricardo Almeida. Definitely a fight of the night candidate. Matt Brown wins by unanimous decision.

DENNY HODGE: This bout has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Lytle has made a living off of fight-night bonuses, and Brown is the perfect opponent to get another one. There will be lots of action, plenty of blood, and at the end of the night, Chris Lytle will walk away with the win.

JACK BRATCHER: Can you believe with all the punching Lytle does, he only has 4 (T)KO’s under his belt after 50 fights? Brown has 6 after 19. Lytle does have better submissions than Brown and he showed in his last fight he’s not afraid to use them. He also choked Matt Brown out back in 2007 in a UFL fight. Lytle has 15 decision losses. He’s only been stopped twice and Brown won’t stop him. This definitely could be fight of the night. While Brown certainly could pull out a decision, I’m going to go with the ultra-veteran. Lytle doesn’t win against top competition so he should fare okay here? Lytle beat him by submission once and he should be able to do it again. Lytle by submission.

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Chris Leben

RICHARD MANN: People like to reference Akiyama’s judo accomplishments, but he has also become a pretty crisp striker. Look for Akiyama to stay out of the way of huge punches and land the better strikes. If he decided to take it to the ground he should have no trouble cutting up Leben’s guard. Also, I must say that a part of me died when Wanderlei Silva pulled out of this fight. Akiyama by decision.

BRIAN FURBY: Stepping in on late notice to fight someone like Akiyama shows that Leben has the stones to continue to fight anyone the UFC puts in front of him, but I don’t think anyone ever really doubted that. However, with someone like Akiyama, I don’t think it’s going to work too well for him. Akiyama’s ground skills are far more developed than Leben’s and even though Leben packs more power, stepping in on late notice after going through almost two rounds with Aaron Simpson just a few weeks ago could prove to be a bad move. Akiyama has faced guys with similar power before and managed to beat all of them except for Jerome LeBanner. If Akiyama can’t submit Leben after wearing him down, he will definitely outpoint him for a unanimous decision win. Yoshihiro Akiyama wins by unanimous decision.

DENNY HODGE: This will be Leben’s second fight in the last couple of weeks which is crazy, but Leben isn’t exactly the most sane and rational guy anyway. Akiyama has been out for nearly a year since his victory over middleweight contenter Alan Belcher. Leben has the power to end a fight at anytime, but Akiyama’s well rounded game will be too much for “The Crippler.” Akiyama by submission.

JACK BRATCHER: Akiyama has proved he can deal with some of the best strikers. Leben is tough, he hits hard, and he keeps on coming, but he might not be the sharpest tool in the shed. Akiyama is too sexy for Leben, and he is too athletic. He might just whip his ass and end the night crooning to the crowd. I would say Akiyama would submit Leben, but I think he’s going to have trouble getting him down. Leben still has momentum from his win over A-Train a couple weeks ago but I still say Mr. Sexy gets the decision.

Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin

RICHARD MANN: The first person who says “when two wrestlers fight it turns into a kickboxing match” is going to get fined $100. Lesnar is clearly the better wrestler and will be looking to get the fight on the ground. Carwin has the more dynamic striking game. He should also have a power advantage. However, if Lesnar can avoid big shots on the feet, he should be able to get on top and wear out Carwin. It does not really matter, because both of these guys will eventually lose to Cain Velasquez. Lesnar by TKO.

BRIAN FURBY: This fight is not only great for the UFC, it’s great for the sport of MMA as a whole. Two big tough dudes, two compelling stories, a clear good guy vs. bad guy motif, and some excellent marketing have ensured that UFC 116 is going to bring out some major PPV numbers. The main event won’t disappoint. Neither Lesnar nor Carwin’s chin have ever really been tested, but Gonzaga did slightly wobble Carwin before Carwin put him to sleep. Lesnar’s illness-induced layoff (almost a year) could play a factor, but I doubt it will have much of an effect. More important is who lands the first solid punch. Carwin absolutely stands a chance to take Lesnar down, but I don’t think it will happen here. For all of his bravado and arrogance, Lesnar has the strength and skills to back it up and at the end of this fight, we’ll see him with his hand raised yet again, even though Carwin won’t let him off easy. Lesnar by TKO in Round 2.

DENNY HODGE: My first question is…. will there be any modifications to the Octagon for this fight? Secondly, will this fight get out of the first round? The Octagon will be fine, because Lesnar will shoot within 5 seconds of the bout and take the fight to the ground. Carwin will have a hard time getting off his back with Brock on top and I foresee some vicious G&P finishing the fight and unifying the UFC Heavyweight belt on the waist of Lesnar.

JACK BRATCHER: If I were going to put money on the fight, with the odds against him, I would pick Carwin. But since I’m too scared to throw my money away on this fight I’ll go with Lesnar. The main difference between these two is the athleticism. Sure, Carwin can dunk a basketball and jump hurdles, but can he do a Shooting Star Press off the top rope of the ring in front of millions? Hell no. And that was years ago. Lesnar is going to be too quick for the man with big hands and slow speech. Look, I like Carwin, but if he becomes champion, he’s going to put people to sleep with his promos. He even admitted he should be sponsored by Nyquil. This is a great match, great for the sport, and Lesnar makes a heck of a champion, the best all-around HW champ in UFC history in my opinion because of his marketability, size, talent, etc. Lesnar by TKO round two.

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