Due to time constraints, I’m going to launch right into some quick picks for tonight’s main card fights, since we’re only a couple of hours away. The main card is full of what should be great fights, topped by a heavyweight championship bout that we’ve waited for since late last year. Let’s get right to it!
Kurt Pellegrino vs. George Sotiropoulous
Pellegrino, also known as “Batman” among…well, among Bruce Buffer, I suppose, will take on Sotiropoulous in a matchup pitting two grapplers with distinctly different styles this evening. Pellegrino looks to score takedowns early and often, and tries to advance position on the mat while avoiding big mistakes. However, trouble seems to find him as he often has to show off his apt submission defense before a fight is through, and Sotiropoulous will hope to take advantage of any technical mistakes he can get Pellegrino to make tonight.
The standup portion should be fairly even, though some would give Sotiropoulous a rather definitive edge there. I think the difference will be Pellegrino’s consistent takedowns and control. It will be a fast-paced fight, but I don’t expect a finish in this one.
Prediction: Pellegrino by decision
Krzysztof Soszynski vs. Stephan Bonnar
In the matchup that no one demanded, we’ll finally get a true winner for the controversial UFC 110 matchup, where Soszynski was handed a gift of a TKO after opening up Bonnar with an accidental headbutt between the two.
OK, I kid…it should be a fun fight, and Soszynski has shown loads of potential since his time on “The Ultimate Fighter”. For Bonnar, it’s the same old story of trying to put it all together and develop his skills to where he can put opponents in danger throughout the fight, rather than just edging out decisions.
Bonnar is as game as they come, but we already saw what I believe will happen tonight when the two first met. Soszynski’s southpaw stance and powerful shots were giving Bonnar trouble, and he was landing the better shots for the duration of the fight before the controversial end occurred. Bonnar has always been well-rounded, but doesn’t have anything that jumps out at you as a particular skill that he can use to finish fights. Soszynski, on the other hand, has power in his hands and can opportunistically seize submissions, as well. That’s why I favor him here.
Prediction: Soszynski by KO/TKO
Chris Lytle vs. Matt Brown
Lytle has long been a favorite of mine, as a regular guy who works as a full-time firefighter, raises his kids and competes in MMA at a high level. He also brings it every time that he steps in the cage, and tonight will be no exception against a very game Matt Brown. Brown and Lytle will no doubt have some fun moments in the standup portion of the bout, and though I expect Lytle’s power and timing to give him an edge there, it’s not where Lytle has the biggest advantage.
If Lytle decides to work for a finish instead of just having a good time slugging it out for the fans, he will find a way to get the fight to the mat, where his underrated submission skills will make relatively quick work of the mistake-prone Brown. That’s what I think will happen here, even if it takes a round or two to happen.
Prediction: Lytle by submission
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Chris Leben
I’m still a bit sad that we’re not going to see the promised Akiyama-Wanderlei Silva fight tonight, but Akiyama-Leben will be a fun fight, for certain. You don’t need to eavesdrop or tap Leben’s phone to discern his strategy for the fight: he’s going to try to turn it to a brawl, so that he can land as many powerful punches as possible. After all, he always has faith that if one lands cleanly, it will put his opponent down for good. Many times, he’s done just that.
We saw against Alan Belcher that Akiyama doesn’t mind a crowd-pleasing brawl every now and then. However, he will ideally stay clear of that situation here, as Leben can certainly knock him out with any good shot. Akiyama will be better served to fight a technically-clean style on the feet, as Leben has had trouble with that kind of look before. Furthermore, Akiyama should use his judo to get Leben to the mat, where Leben will be at his weakest. I think Akiyama will mix it up, stay out of trouble and eventually got the nod from the judges.
Prediction: Akiyama by decision
Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin
Many people think that Lesnar (and to a lesser extent, Carwin) should be the number one heavyweight in the world right now, and tonight, we will find out whether that is accurate. Let’s not forget that, with a loss, Lesnar drops to a pretty pedestrian 4-2, and all those who preached patience in handing the big man the top spot will be enjoying a hearty laugh at those who couldn’t wait to lift Lesnar to “best in the world” status.
Lesnar will get to answer many questions tonight, as will Carwin. Each will have the rare opportunity to test themselves against another big, athletic, talented wrestler with heavy hands. If this is a boxing match, you have to go with Carwin. Both have great power, but Carwin has turned his into a more consistent run of finishes than Lesnar has. Meanwhile, though, Carwin’s recovery may have looked great after being rocked by Gabriel Gonzaga, but you have to think that if Lesnar catches Carwin like that, he won’t get the chance to come back and turn the tide.
Still, I think Carwin has the slight advantage on the feet due to his technical advantages at this point in his career. However, I think the real key here will be Lesnar’s wrestling. I think he will put Carwin on his back, and while Carwin will certainly be better in that position than Lesnar would, he still won’t be able to hold off Lesnar’s ridiculous, savage ground and pound for long. That’s why I’ve got Lesnar winning this by KO/TKO, and probably fairly early.
Prediction: Lesnar by KO/TKO