The night had two amazing Fight of the Year Candidates, a main event that surprised on many fronts, and not a single bad fight on the main card. For certain, it was one of the best fight cards in recent memory.
George Sotiropoulos def. Kurt Pellegrino via Unanimous Decision
Sotiropoulos erased what few doubts remained as to his standing in the Lightweight Division with a fantastic performance over a tough and criminally underrated Pellegrino. After coming up short in season 6 of The Ultimate Fighter (where he lost in the semi-finals to Tommy Speer), Sotiropoulos has emerged as one of the more successful competitors in the show’s history. It’s been a slow, but steady climb, with his growth as a fighter on display at each turn. Tonight, he showed prowess both with his hands and his ground game. I have a feeling Sotiropoulos is going to find himself in title contention by year’s end.
Stephan Bonnar def. Krzysztof Soszynski via TKO, R2, 3:08
Bonnar come out of the bell of Round 2 completely dominating the fight after a rough first round and completely annihilated Soszynski in a gutsy performance that showed his story as a fighter wasn’t quite near its end as myself and others had predicted. He looked like a new man tonight, and more importantly, he gave the skilled and gutsy performance we had expected out of him when he fought Forrest Griffin at the end of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Bonnar had to win this fight to keep his career going, and boy, did it ever.
Chris Lytle def. Matt Brown via Submission (armbar) R2, 2:02
Another submission from Chris Lytle and more question marks as to where Matt Brown fits in the UFC. Lytle’s always been one of those fighters that has trouble putting a few wins together, so we’ll see if he’ll be able to climb that ladder. As far as Brown’s concerned, he needs to re-evaluate his approach, as another loss could spell an end to his time in the UFC.
Chris Leben def. Yoshihiro Akiyama via Submission (triangle choke) R3, 4:40
With the exception of Brown vs. Lytle, each successive fight had me thinking “no, THIS is going to win Fight of the Night.” Enter Chris Leben and Yoshihiro Akiyama, two fighters who may never be serious contenders for the Middleweight Championship, but who regardless go out there and fight with all of their hearts. For those of us who love Leben for all the right and wrong reasons, we got everything we wanted: a gutsy performance, quick comebacks from hard shots, and the debut of what the folks in John’s living room (we watched the fights at the residence of co-host Johnny Hustle of MANville) named the “Monkey Cymbal Method” – Leben, in the bottom with full guard, ineffectively hitting both sides of Akiyama’s head simultaneously. Ultimately it was superior conditioning that won the day, as Akiyama had worn himself out so much he literally almost fell off his stool after the second round. For his efforts, Leben goes from being in danger of getting cut by the UFC to winning two fights in as many weeks. How can you not love this guy?
Brock Lesnar def. Shane Carwin via submission (arm-triangle choke) R2, 2:19
With the win, Lesnar becomes the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion and, following Fedor Emelianenko’s loss last weekend, the undisputed #1 Heavyweight in the world. The litmus test for the fight came early, as Lesnar shot in for a takedown that Carwin – himself a Division II NCAA National Champion – stuffed with ease. After being dropped from a hard right from Carwin, Brock found himself turtling up as Carwin reigned down somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty unanswered punches. He did just enough on the ground to show referee Josh Rosenthal that he was not in any danger of being knocked out, and eventually Carwin punched himself out. Lesnar, sensing the diminishing power of Carwin’s assault, got out of the position and brought it back up to the feet to end the first. In the second round, Lesnar’s second wind brought with it his usual lightning speed and indomitable strength, taking Carwin to the ground with ease and eventually transitioning from half-guard to full mount, then to a side-mount arm and triangle choke that eventually ended the fight. Carwin pushed his elbow into a “telephone” position in an attempt to fight it off, but Lesnar switched his angle to gain more leverage and eventually the pure size of his bicep became too much for Carwin to withstand. With it, Brock showed growth as a fighter, and also proved that he had the one thing we weren’t sure he had or needed: resiliency. There’s no denying his place in the Heavyweight Division. The real question: can anyone stop him?
Brendan Schuab def. Chris Tuchscherer via TKO – R1, 1:07
Schaub showed great punching power, which he needs being a relatively small heavyweight.
Ricardo Romero def. Seth Petruzelli via Submission (armbar) – R2, 3:05
A decent fight in its own right. Petruzelli showed something in this fight, and in my mind did enough to warrant another chance to prove himself in the promotion.
Kendall Grove def. Goran Reljic via Split Decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
Gerald Harris def. David Branch via KO (slam) R3, 2:35
Harris finished Branch with a powerbomb reminiscent of the one Jackson gave to Ricardo Arona in the glory days of Pride. He’s a beast, but he also fought with a wrestler’s stance that had his head far too low. Against someone with better kickboxing skills it would have been easily exploited, and needs to be addressed before he moves on to the next level.
Daniel Roberts def. Forrest Petz via Split Decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Jon Madsen def. Karlos Vemola via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)