Programming alert: I'll be part of an MMA Roundtable tonight with Brian Fritz of AOL Fanhouse and host of Between the Ropes, a weekly pro wrestling show in Orlando. Log on to <a href="http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/network/" target="_blank"><strong>SportsTalkNetwork</strong></a> in Cleveland at 8:30 p.m. EST to listen live.
Figure on UFC 116 being part of the conversation, where among the many things we learned is that there is simply no doubt and no argument that Brock Lesnar is the best heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world. Fedor Emelianenko’s mystique and loyal fan base remains intact, yet seven days prior to 116 he lost a fight he had no business losing. The biggest questions surrounding Lesnar against Shane Carwin were signs of a layoff not having fought in a year and recovering from a serious illness, and whether his chin could withstand one of Carwin’s haymakers.
Carwin entered the main event undefeated in 12 fights, all coming by first-round knockout. Before fans could take a deep breath he did something nobody had done to Lesnar, he decked him and set him straight to the canvas. He went in for the kill, landing an astounding 57 shots in the first round, 47 on the ground after he smashed Lesnar with an uppercut, according to CompuStrike.com. Blood poured from Lesnar’s face, one of his eyes were nearly shut, and there was a flagrant sense Carwin was pulling off one of the greatest victories you’ll ever see.
You stood there waiting for referee Josh Rosenthal to stop the fight, for Lesnar to go limp and out cold. It never happened because Lesnar’s chin passed its greatest test. Lesnar the fighter and the person proved he has an insane amount of heart and guts. Rosenthal let his head overrule his instincts by correctly seeing Lesnar not quit and find a way to survive. Before the fight he told Lesnar he had to show him he was “staying alive” and that’s exactly what he did.
“That just kept going through my mind, 'I've got to keep moving,’” Lesnar said after the fight. “I could feel Shane. Every punch was less and less and less and less. I knew that the worst was done. I really have to thank the referee for allowing that thing to go on."
Another factor turned the bout in Lesnar’s favor by the second round, Carwin was winded. Lesnar avoided a takedown attempt and showed shades of his Division I national championship form. Then he unveiled a new wrinkle to his game, lessons learned from his jiu-jitsu trainer Rodrigo "Comprido" Medeiros. He locked in an arm-triangle choke (you read that right), squeezing tight enough for even the equally game challenger to tap out and conclude the greatest UFC show I’ve ever witnessed.
Even in defeat, Carwin’s stature was elevated. It was inevitable an opponent would take him past the first round and hand him a loss because this is simply the nature of MMA. But the way he put a scare into the mighty Lesnar like no other keeps him among the world’s top five heavyweights and ticketed for another marquee fight. As for Lesnar, he defends next against the undefeated Cain Velasquez (8-0). UFC officials, in need of a main event for UFC 119, were hoping Lesnar-Velasquez would <a href="http://www.daytondailynews.com/dayton-sports/mixed-martial-arts/top-mma-heavyweight-undefeated-challenger-to-meet--797076.html" target="_parent"><strong>headline Zuffa’s debut in Indianapolis</strong></a>, reports Dann Stupp. Lesnar, however, is <a href="http://mmajunkie.com/news/19838/ufc-116-medical-suspensions-bonnar-soszynki-three-others-out-until-dec-31.mma" target="_parent"><strong>suspended until August 18</strong></a> with no contact until Aug. 3 for right eyelid and left eyebrow lacerations.
If Velazquez were to unseat Lesnar in a bout that could take place by year’s end – his strength, ground game and conditioning gives him just as good a chance as Carwin to do what’s currently considered inconceivable – the debate over the world’s best heavyweight can resume. Right now and for the foreseeable future there is none. Eight months after his career and life were at stake, Lesnar made sure of it while taking the next step of becoming the finest heavyweight we’ve ever witnessed by showing his amazing athletic ability – and twice the amount of courage.
Some quick hits from a wild night in Las Vegas:
• Chris Leben’s maturation is complete and his dramatic win over Yoshihiro Akiyama now classifies him as an elite middleweight. It’ll take longer than we thought (if ever) for Anderson Silva to clean out the division.
• Leben’s victory shared Fight of the Night honors with Stephan Bonnar’s thrilling second-round TKO of Krzysztof Soszynski. It was a huge win for The American Psycho – another loss would have been his fourth straight and possibly a pink slip – one that, said Bonnar, “better than sex.”
• George Sotiropoulos earned his way into the lightweight title picture with a masterful performance against Kurt Pellegrino. "[Sotiropoulos] is right there,” said Dana White. “He's fought his way into the mix. No doubt about it." If I were matchmaker: Sotiropoulos vs. Evan Dunham with the winner getting the next shot after either Kenny Florian or Gray Maynard. And don’t count out “Batman.” Pellegrino stunned Sotiropoulos with a knee to the head late in the third and with more time may have pulled off the win. It’ll be awhile before you see him fight again. He’s under medical suspension until at least August 18 and up to December 31 if his left knee is not cleared by an orthopedic doctor.
• Seth Petruzelli lost his first UFC fight since 2007 to Ricardo Romero. More accurately, Romero won the first fight aired on Spike and one Petruzelli took on a month’s notice. It was an impressive debut for Romero, who like Lesnar after him survived an early pounding before forcing Petruzelli to tap in Round 2 with an armbar. Both Petruzelli (elbow strain) and Romero (broken left lower jaw) are suspended medically. You’ll see Romero in the Octagon again and I hope the same goes for the Silverback. That “Kimboslayer” label is news older than Nature Boy Ric Flair. Kimbo Slice is out of the UFC and at age 30 Petruzelli, even in defeat, began creating a whole new identity.
<em>Follow Jon Lane on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MMAjunkieJon" target="_blank"><strong>@MMAJunkieJon</strong></a></em>.
Article originally posted on the FightLaunch.com MMA Blog.