UFC 116: The Review

Matt watches “the biggest heavyweight fight of all time” and writes about it, an exercise in self-flagellation given the results of yesterday’s predictions.


It was the UFC’s big summer card with their most recognizable star, and I’ve got a $50 birthday check from Grandma that sure as hell wasn’t gonna go toward bills, rent or my general quality of life. “Dear Grandma: Thanks for the cash. I’m 27 years old and I spent it to watch a bunch of sweaty white men act out complex dominance rituals. In short, I am making smart life decisions.”

Let’s get this thing started the same way I spend all of my Saturday nights: watching Spike TV until one of the Star Wars prequels comes on.

Seth Petruzelli vs. Ricardo Romero

Maybe I’m slightly biased towards Petruzelli because the gym he owns is across the street from my neighborhood supermarket (and that is totally a legit reason to be biased toward someone, fyi) but I really hope he sticks with the UFC this time around. He’s a character who knows how to entertain people, and you notice how rare that can be when you watch a lot of UFC.

“The Silverback” shows how his striking has evolved beyond his karate base, coming out firing in the first and dropping Romero near the end. Unfortunately, the second round displays a still-nagging hole in his ground game as Romero quickly transitions to a power position and then insists that Petruzelli’s arm start bending at a slightly different angle. Seth and Seth’s elbow reluctantly accept the proposal .

WINNER: Ricardo Romero via submission at 3:05 of the 2nd round.
Bruce Said: Petruzelli by split decision.
Matt Said: Petruzelli by TKO in the 2nd.

Brendan Schaub vs. Chris Tuchscherer

I am already wrong once on this fight as i forgot that Tuchscherer has fought once since Gabriel Gonzaga gave his Tuchscrotum the World Cup treatment. He’s made a lot of progress in between – it is not easy to lose ten pounds while maintaining your trademark Manzier-caliber b-cups.

Schaub comes out repping the sovereign nation of Colorado and sporting one of the ugliest sponsor banners I can remember. It looks like the ad page in the back of a comic book. Neither of that matters too much, though, because it doesn’t take long for Schaub to drop his Minnesotan foe. Herb Dean waits long enough to confirm that “the Crowbar” is done, then calls it off. Tuchscherer protests like a drunk at 2 a.m., falling down before he can get a full sentence out.

WINNER: Brendan Schaub via TKO at 1:07 of the 1st round.
Bruce Said: Schaub by KO in the 1st.
Matt Said: Tuchscherer by unanimous decision.

The rest of the card after the break…

Gerald Harris vs. Dave Branch

This was a great coming out party for Gerald Harris. Besides his funky stance (which comes off much better when you are pushing forward for a takedown instead of backing up from a head kick…go figure), he spent the majority of the fight shoving Branch around and deftly avoiding submissions. For his part, Branch played a great heel. He had 1970s-karate-movie-henchman sideburns, he tried dancing around a la Muhammad Ali (or more appropriately, like Anderson Silva) and he spent part of one round blatantly grabbing the cage so he could rest. It ends when Branch tries to pull guard and Harris shows two amazing feats of cage awareness back-to-back – first by putting his forearm in Branch’s chin before slamming him down, brutally driving his head into the canvas; and second, by cocking back for a follow-up punch and then stopping himself, knowing full well that Branch was KTFO’d already. That’s cruel to classy in .5 seconds…VERY impressive.

WINNER: Gerald Harris via KO at 2:35 of the 3rd round.
Bruce Said: n/a
Matt Said: n/a

Pay-Per-View time, ya’ll. I feel like you should know that, at some point during the Spike TV prelims, I broke a snow globe. Actually, it broke when it fell on my head. This story becomes less interesting with more details, so I’ll leave it there. The point is that I’m spending the rest of the night picking glitter out of my arm hair…in other words, it’s still just another Saturday night.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. George Sotiropoulos

Pellegrino is one of a few guys on the night who opts not to hug it out with his cornermen before getting in the cage, and I respect that. There’s nothing wrong with a little bro-on-bro contact, but it’s the shirtless aspect that skeeves me a little. The list of people I’d be comfortable hugging without a shirt on stops at 1) my girlfriend. If a close family member was like “I am dying of a mysterious disease and only your immediate embrace can save me from a painful demise,” I would still be like, “gimme a sec to button this up.”

And since we’re discussing my unresolved body issues, Sotiropoulos looks kinda weird, right? Is it possible to describe someone as having a strange torso? Because that’s what he’s got – the sort-of hunchback, the sunken pecs, etc. Did he take a cannonball to the chest early in life? If he is Iron Man as his theme music implied, then maybe someone needs to look into the MK III.

Regardless of his stature, the Aussie is tremendously entertaining to watch because he is ACTIVE. The striking is crisp and technical and he is probably one of the lightweight division’s best when it comes to scrambling – it’s a shame that he’ll peak long after BJ Penn has moved up to welterweight, because that could be really fun in a couple of years. The trouble with Sotiropoulos is that his pacing and constant pressure hasn’t been enough to break his last two high-level opponents. Like Joe Stevenson, Pellegrino took a lot of punishment but hung in there until the end and dealt his own damage along the way.

WINNER: George Sotiropoulos via unanimous decision.
Bruce Said: Sotiropoulos by split decision.
Matt Said: Sotiropoulos by submission in the 1st.

Stephan Bonnar vs. Krystof Soszynski

It may have taken 14 fights in the UFC, but I am finally on board with Bonnar’s “American Psycho” nickname. Not because of any vague resemblance to Christian Bale, but because he’s starting to exhibit behavior of a genuine sociopath. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and all, but he’s trying too hard in literally EVERYTHING he does, from his pre-fight interview to his post-fight pose-down. It’s like he’s constantly worried people will discover that he’s wearing someone else’s skin. He’s like the kid in school who eats bugs and occasionally yells out curse words in class – everyone kinda likes him, but only because they’re constantly afraid that he’ll do something crazy. Bonus points for using The Who’s “Eminence Front” as his entrance, though.

I like Soszynski – he answers my lifelong question of “What if my cool-ass pal Johnny Blue Jeans did steroids?” – but he doesn’t have the same train wreck value as Bonnar. Both men can fight like a railroad collision, though, and “The Polish Experiment” seemed to have the upper hand before one good knee leads to a Bonnar TKO (and aforementioned awkward pose-a-thon). On replays, the knee didn’t even look like it landed flush, but hell, ask me how I feel after that beetle-breathed maniac plants one in my jaw/chest/armpit area and I’d be singing a different tune.

WINNER: Stephan Bonnar via TKO at 3:02 of the 2nd round.
Bruce Said: Soszynski by KO in the 2nd.
Matt Said: Soszynski by TKO in the 1st.

Chris Lytle vs. Matt Brown

Who loves dragon tattoos? Chris Lytle loves dragon tattoos, son! He also loves rock music, not being choked out and ultimately denying a man’s years-long quest for vengeance (in other words, Frank Mir is not his biggest fan). Lytle spent the downtime between fights getting his shoulder wrapped in a Chinese dragon that looks more like an ethnically diverse version of Falcor from the Neverending Story. Matt Brown spent the downtime NOT coming to the realization that his beard looks wimpy.

In the first round, Chris Lytle does what he does best, which is get in trouble and somehow persevere. In the second round, Matt Brown does what he does best, which is lose by submission. That’s such a weird thing to be the best at, given his profession.

WINNER: Chris Lytle via submission at 2:02 of 2nd round.
Bruce Said: Lytle by submission in the 1st.
Matt Said: Lytle by submission in the 3rd.

Chris Leben vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama

I’ve been hot and cold on Leben – – but right now, he’s definitely trending favorably. The short notice appearance (coming off a great post-fight interview after TKO’ng Aaron Simpson) has really made his energetic, good-humored attitude shine in the brief lead-up to this one. The guy clearly knows how to milk it, too, by rocking the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Love Rollercoaster” cover on his way to the cage. On the other hand, Akiyama goes to the opposite extreme for an opera theme song and an entrance focused on Japanese tradition, an odd choice for a Korean-born man with a history of cheap tactics.

As I kind of suggested (despite picking the other way), Leben was able to drag Akiyama down into his preferred bar-room brawl format, and wow did it pay off. Both men start throwing (and taking) haymakers, and I am 80% sure that Leben fought part of the second round while unconscious. Luckily his cornerman kept his head in the game by screaming “HEART RATE DOWN!” in his ear between rounds. That is a very soothing technique, and something I often do to people on the street when I think they look stressed. I haven’t quite mastered it yet, though.

Akiyama did his best to keep throwing Leben to the floor, but every time he was there, he worked a submission. I still think Aki had a chance to grind out a win, but then Leben permanently put himself in my good graces (a very coveted spot, as you know) by choking Akiyama out with just seconds to spare! My jaw was hanging open, not necessarily because Leben won (ok, yes, mainly because he won), but because he worked so hard for it at the end. A lot of fighters in a losing position near the end of a fight lack that sense of urgency, but Leben was so frenetic at the end that he basically willed that submission. He was throwing elbows, punches, “Jumping” Jim Brunzell-style ear claps, everything he could, and finally the Platinum Club member of LA Tan’s Japan franchise couldn’t take it any longer. If you wake up on Independence Day and you don’t love Chris Leben, then turn in your American flag boxer shorts, your store brand hot dogs and your 38-pack of discount bottle rockets that you bought in the tent next to the supermarket after haggling with the carney behind the table for a half hour, because you don’t deserve ANY OF THEM.

WINNER: Chris Leben via submission at 4:40 of 3rd round.
Bruce Said: Leben by TKO in the 3rd.
Matt Said: Akiyama by split decision.

Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin

When you look back on it, Brock had this won from the entrance music. Carwin pulls out Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” without any notable hints of irony, so basically that calls into question every decision that Shane Carwin has ever made in his life. Listen, I went to Ozzfest in 2001. I watched a Drowning Pool show. I bought a t-shirt and never wore it. That I’ve moved on to bigger and better things and the discussion of whether or not Drowning Pool sucks and whether or not we’re talking about before or after that guy died, those are all beside the point. The point is that nine years later, Shane Carwin, a 30-something-year-old adult, is using a song about mosh pits for his UFC entrance music because the lyrics mention bodies hitting the floor. He made Lesnar’s traditional (if a man with a 4-1 record can establish tradition) “Enter Sandman” choice seem downright intellectual by comparison.

Here’s what the first round showed us: Carwin is capable of defending Lesnar’s explosive takedowns at 100%, and Brock’s chin isn’t made of granite. These are the things we didn’t know, per my prediction, and it looked almost certain that Brock’s “weakness” – ie, he is not impervious to being hit in the face by a battering ram – was going to prove the key to Carwin’s victory. Except it didn’t. After three minutes of WWE notables holding their breath and 88-pound weaklings wetting themselves as the bully got bullied, the bell rang. I missed the end of the round because the sight of Brock Lesnar in the fetal position completely shattered my world view, and I was out in the street burning cars in preparation for the coming apocalypse. I finally realized I was being too dramatic when the UFC called and asked if I wanted to replace Mike Goldberg on commentary.

The second round followed the script as tightly as the first. As suspected, Carwin’s cardio couldn’t carry him far. You know, if he wanted to work on that, he should train in high altitudes and work with a camp that is notorious for high-cardio athletes…whoops. It’s also notable that Brock’s pre-match claims of switching to a southpaw stance were straight BS. It didn’t matter, because once Shane’s tank hit E, Lesnar took him down with ease, transitioned to a choke and finished Carwin in less time than it took for me to finish this sentence.

WINNER: Brock Lesnar via submission at 2:19 of 2nd round.
Bruce Said: Carwin by split decision.
Matt Said: Lesnar by TKO in the 3rd.

So it turns out that we’re only slightly better at picking UFC fights than we are at picking the Oscars. Bruce totally rocked me on this one, though, because there’s a big difference between picking over and under .500. Plus he pretty much nailed the Schaub and Sotiropoulos wins.

FINAL TALLY: Bruce 4/7, Matt 3/7.

So there you have it. Once of the best top-to-bottom UFC cards in a while – I mean, any time they give out TWO Fight of the Night awards, it had to be a good show – and some gritty, star-making (or star-strengthening) performances.

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