Not only did UFC 116 turn out to be one of the best MMA events in recent memory, but it also provided some memorable storylines featuring fighters battling with adversity to come out on top on the night.
Below we take a closer look at five of those storylines.
1. Brock Lesnar Battles Back From Adversity Inside And Outside The Cage To Defend His Heavyweight Title.
In many ways it was remarkable enough that Brock Lesnar even stepped into the cage at all on Saturday night. Last year there were fears that he may never fight again after falling ill with the potentially fatal diverticulitis disease.
Six months after getting the all clear and returning to training Lesnar found himself lying in the octagon floor at UFC 116 bleeding, battered and within moments of losing his title as Shane Carwin continued to rain down fists and elbows on him.
Somehow he survived through to the end of the round though, and appeared to still have some fight left in him, perhaps having drawn strength from his successful battle back from illness.
In the second round he put a cap on what’s been a rollercoaster year that had started with a win over Frank Mir at UFC 100 last July, by turning the fight on it’s head and submitting Carwin to retain his title.
2. Chris Leben Defies Underdog Tag To Win Twice In Two Week
A little over two weeks ago Chris Leben went into his fight with Aaron Simpson at the TUF 11 Finale as an underdog who’s recent record of 1-2 and 2008 suspension for steroid use suggested he was on a downward spiral.
Two weeks later at UFC 116 Leben made history by becoming the first UFC fighter to fight twice in two weeks (one night tournaments in the early days of the promotion aside).
Not only that, but he managed to defeat two highly credible opponents in Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama in the process, leaving him on a three fight winning streak.
Along the way Leben was also awarded ‘Knockout Of The Night’ against Simpson and given ‘Fight Of The Night’ against Akiyama, earning him an extra $100,000 in bonuses.
3. Stephan Bonnar Breaks Three Fight Losing Streak And Claims Fight Of The Night Honors.
After losing his last three fights Stephan Bonnar went into his rematch with Krzyszstof Soszynski at UFC 116 knowing that another defeat could bring an end to his five year UFC career.
Many people questioned why the fight had even made the main card, with Bonnar’s famous back-and-forth stand-up war with Forrest Griffin, often credited as one of the most important fights in the history of MMA, apparently now a distant memory.
Two rounds with Soszynski later Bonnar emerged with his hands raised in triumph for the first time in 32 months after another tooth-and-nail battle that brought back fond memories of his finest moment from years ago.
The win earned him a cool $75,000 for the joint ‘Fight Of The Night’ award (along with his fellow TUF season 1 housemate Chris Leben), and left Bonnar to fight another day in the octagon.
4. George Sotiropoulos Seals Rise From Undercard Fighter To Lightweight Title Contender
Some fighters like UFC 116 headliner Brock Lesnar are fast-tracked to the top. Others like Australian fighter George Sotiropoulos have to work harder to achieve success.
Since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter Season 6, Sotiropoulos had put together a five fight winning streak in the UFC, four of them in the undercard of UFC events, leading up to his bout with Kurt Pellegrino at the weekend. His last fight was his first on the main card, an impressive win over Joe Stevenson in his own backyard in Sydney, Australia.
Could he become a genuine title contender at lightweight though? The fight with a veteran like Pellegrino was the perfect testing ground. A wrong step here could have broke all his hard work, but once again he passed the test with a unanimous decision victory, taking his UFC record to 6-0.
After the fight UFC president Dana White confirmed the Aussie had fought his way into the mix in the upper reaches of the 155lb division, and his future now looks very bright indeed.
5. Gerald Harris: From TUF Reject To ESPN’s Top Ten Plays List
Gerald Harris first came into the spotlight when he appeared on TUF season 7. After making it through the preliminary round Harris went on to be tapped out by eventual winner Amir Sadalloh and was not called back for the season finale.
Harris refused to give up on his UFC dream though, and after putting a winning streak together in other organizations the UFC came calling and signed him. His UFC 116 fight with Dave Branch was his third octagon appearance since January, and handed him his third straight win for the promotion.
The fight was in the undercard portion of the show, but Harris managed to get himself into the spotlight by claiming one of the most memorable knockout victories of the year, KO’ing his opponent with a brutal slam.
The memorable ending to the fight earned him the $75,000 ‘Knockout Of The Night’ bonus, helped ensure his win was chosen to be replayed on the Spike TV Prelims broadcast, and his slam later aired on ESPN’s ‘Top 10 Plays Of The Day.’