The UFC 116 fight card which is set to take place the day before our country's independence day is headlined by arguably the greatest UFC heavyweight bout of all-time. What better setting than the MGM Grand Garden Arena for this epic heavyweight fight? The real question is, does the rest of the card warrant a PPV purchase? There have been some major changes since the first UFC 116 fight line-up draft. Cheick Kongo had to pull out of his fight with Roy "Big Country" Nelson due to a back injury he sustained in training. Then there was the potential fight between Nate "The Great" Marquardt and Alessio Sakara but Sakara pulled out after his father passed away. Steve Cantwell was supposed to make his long awaited return from medical suspension but for unknown reasons, he was replaced by Seth "Slice Killer" Petruzelli. Then most recently it was announced that the co-headliner between Wanderlei Silva and Yoshihirio Akiyama due to a knee injury sustained in training. So let's preview the current UFC 116 card and we'll let you decide for yourself if this UFC 116 fight is worthy of your hard earned cash or not.
Although you won't see the preliminary bout, there are some interesting fights worth mentioning. A heavyweight showdown between two undefeated fighters pits UFC newcomer and Czech fighter, Karlos Vemola (7-0, 0-0 in the UFC), against TUF Heavyweight contender Jon Madsen (5-0, 3-0 in the UFC). Both men are wrestlers so it should be a very technical fight with the best grappler winning. Two American welterweights face off in what should be an exciting bout as both men have heavy hands and superb ground skills. Gerald Harris (15-2, 2-0 in the UFC) has won eight straight including his first two bouts with the UFC (last four by TKO). Bellator season one and two transplant, Dave Branch (5-0, 0-0 in the UFC) will be making his organizational debut at UFC 116. Branch is a talented BJJ specialist who trains under Renzo Gracie and has two brothers both of which are professional fighters. There are two other middleweight bouts on the UFC 116 fight card, TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove (11-7, 1 NC, 6-4 in the UFC) faces Goran Reljic, (8-1, 1-1 in the UFC) a talented BJJ artist out of Croatia. Grove has gone 2-2 in the UFC since 2009 and this is the last fight on Reljic's UFC contract so you know they will both be seeking impressive victories at UFC 116. The other bout is between Forrest Perez (18-7, 2-3 in the UFC) and UFC sophomore Daniel Roberts (9-1, 0-1 in the UFC) a well-rounded fighter with a solid wrestling background. Roberts fought just this past March (1st round TKO loss) while Perez is making his return to UFC's octagon for the first time since 2007 (split decision loss to Josh Burkman).
It will be interesting to see Seth Petruzelli (12-4, 0-2 in the UFC) back in the Octagon at UFC 116. When I say interesting, I mean in the context of why in the hell the UFC brought him back? He lost both of his previous UFC bouts and has only fought twice in the past two years. In any case, Petruzelli will be facing Ricardo Romero (10-1) on the first scheduled SpikeTV UFC 116 fight card. Romero is one of the talented stars over in Ring of Combat. He was 5-0 in 2009 with the organization, however this will be Romero's fist bout with the UFC.
Ex-NFL player and TUF heavyweight Brendan Schuab (5-1, 1-1 in the UFC) will fight Chris Tuchscherer (18-2, 1-1 in the UFC) in the second of the two scheduled SpikeTV bouts. Both men have a history of their fights ending in the first round. Every single one of Schuab's six fights have ended in the first round by knockout and 16 of Tuchcherer's fights have ended before the stoppage of the first bells. Looks like the UFC wants to spark some interest before the main card!
Australian Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and boxer George Sotiropoulous (12-2, 5-0 in the UFC) takes on Kurt Pellegrino (15-4, 7-3 in the UFC) in the main card's scheduled opening bout. Both men are on impressive win streaks in the UFC, five for the Aussie and four for Pellegrino. Look for a technical ground battle between these two lightweights as they have just two combined career knockouts between their thirty-three fights. Then we get to watch the re-match between TUF 1 runner-up and journeyman Stephan Bonnar (11-7, 5-6 in the UFC) fight against Canada's own Krzysztof Soszynski (19-9-1, 4-1 in the UFC). The last fight (February 2010) ended in the first round due to an inadvertent headbutt. With their UFC 116 fight we will finally get to see the end of this classic match-up between the striker (Bonnar) and the wrestler (Soszynski).
UFC Welterweights: Chris Lytle (28-17-5, 8-9 in the UFC) vs Matt Brown(11-8, 4-2 in the UFC)
Although Chris Lytle has posted nine losses in his UFC career, the BJJ fighter has been involved in some high octane fights. In Lytle's fight against Brian Foster in February he won submission of the night, and his last three fights also won fight of the night honors. Lytle is well versed as a striker which he demonstrated when he KO'd Kyle Bradley in just 33 seconds into their 2008 fight, however he is very inconsistent. Matt Brown on the other hand is looking to get back on the winning train after his most recent loss to Ricardo Almeida in March. Brown has excellent strength and solid Muay Thai and Judo skills that could prove detrimental to Lytle at their UFC 116 fight.
UFC Middleweights:Yoshirio Akiyama (13-1, 2 NC, 1-0 in the UFC) vs Chris Leben (20-6, 10-5 in the UFC)
Yoshirio Akiyama was hoping to be proving that he is one of the top middleweights in the world by defeating Wanderlei Silva at UFC 116. However with Silva pulling out, Akiyama was stuck waiting for a replacement. Akiyama was not happy to hear that he would be facing Chris Leben on just two weeks notice. Akiyama is a world class judo practitioner who has made his name fighting for K-1. Leben took this fight against Akiyama on just two weeks rest from scoring a KO of the night against Aaron Simpson. Essentially Leben has nothing to lose and everything to gain, so Akiyama should be upset with this match-up. Leben will more than likely come out swinging for the fences hoping to score a quick knockout. This easily has Fight of the Night potential.
Undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar (4-1, 3-1 in the UFC) vs. Shane Carwin (12-0, 4-0 in the UFC)
The showdown we have all been waiting for will finally be played out on the biggest stage come UFC 116. Two of the biggest heavyweights in the sport will be heading to war. There are some questions lingering in the air. For Brock Lesnar, will the year long lay off (last fight was his UFC 100 win over Frank Mir in July of 2009) cause cage rust? Will the significant weight loss (Lesnar who previously walked around at 275 - 285 is down to a daily weight of 265) help or hurt Lesnar? For Shane Carwin, can he handle the pressure of this fight? Will he be able to combat the first round "Lesnar bull-rush"? Then the general questions, Will the fight get past the first round and if so who has the advantage in the later rounds? I am fairly confident that this fight will not see past the third if second round but if it did, I really don't know who would could capitalize. One thing is certain, and that is both of these men have serious wrestling skills and strength however I can't imagine we will see a submission victory at their UFC 116 fight. So, strap yourself in, grab yourself a couple of Bud Lights (or Coors Lights if you are a Lesnar fan) and get ready for some early Independence Day fireworks!