There’s no doubting what the main attraction of UFC 116 is – the heavyweight title clash between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin has captured all the headlines as you’d expect, and the prediction is that it’s set to break the million pay-per-view buys on the strength of what’s been billed as ‘the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history.’

Given the high-profile nature of the headline bout the UFC haven’t felt the need to stack the rest of the card with big names, but I think this could be another card where the less hyped bouts actually deliver some solid entertainment.

See below for our full preview and predictions for the card, and check back tomorrow night for live results as they happen from the event.

Main Card:

Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin

So the UFC’s biggest fight of the year and real-life ‘clash of the titans’ is finally upon us. As we noted yesterday in our featured article on this heavyweight title showdown, Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin may have slight advantages in certain areas, but for the most part are fairly evenly matched.

They are likely to each have a different approach to this fight though, and that could prove crucial.  Naturally Carwin will be hoping to get into a striking match given his uncanny ability to remove his opponents from both their senses and their mouthpieces in a matter of minutes thanks to his lunchbox fists.

It doesn’t look like his opponent is going to oblige in that regard though.  Lesnar already gave away his gameplan earlier this week when he stated he had reworked his stance to fight as a southpaw – a move designed to enhance his wrestling abilities.  All indications are that the champion is not going to risk standing and potentially getting caught with Carwin’s notorious KO power, and that’s a wise decision.

The fact that Lesnar is unnaturally fast and explosive for his size bodes well for his ability to get the takedowns he is clearly going to be looking for, and combined with his proven D1 wrestling credentials I believe he will be able to do so.

If he does prove successful in this regard then it’s very bad news for Carwin who is relatively unaccustomed to fighting from his back.  Of course he’ll have trained diligently for just such a scenario in the gym after watching Lesnar’s previous bouts, but there’s really no-one out there who can realistically replicate the size, power and wrestling ability that Lesnar possesses. I think if Lesnar takes him down, he’ll keep him down and make him pay with his brutal ground and pound.

So I believe it’s absolutely crucial for Carwin to be able to stuff Lesnar’s takedowns.  The catch is that to to do so will force him to be a more cautious in committing to his own strikes – something that will also be to Lesnar’s benefit.

Either way, whether Lesnar is successful in getting this fight to the ground, or Carwin is able to keep it standing I don’t think we’re going all five rounds here.  It won’t be a great shock if either wins but for my money it just seems that Lesnar’s strategy and skill-set is going to be more effective here, and I see him finishing Carwin via ground and pound in the second round to raise his stock to an all-time high.

Prediction: Brock Lesnar to win by TKO in Rd2

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Chris Leben

Chris Leben stepping in at short notice to replace Wanderlei Silva against Yoshihiro Akiyama may have disappointed some fans, but in truth Leben brings in a similar heavy handed brawling style and mentality as the PRIDE legend.

Leben will make history when he steps into the octagon since it’s only been two weeks since he last did so, against Aaron Simpson, making this the fastest turnaround for a fighter in UFC history. That’s bound to have a major impact on his ability to fight at 100% though, both given the bumps and bruises he sustained in that bout, plus the lack of time to prepare and train for an effective gameplan against an opponent of Akiyama’s stature.

Of course Akiyama will have to make some adjustments too, but not to the same extent, and fighting Leben perhaps only opens up more possibilities for the Japanese fighter to use his ground skills if he chooses to. The major doubt regarding Akiyama though is where he is at mentally for this fight. Just a few days ago there were doubts as to whether he would agree to the bout after apparently being disappointed at Leben being chosen as Silva’s replacement, and rumors that he had stopped training.

Overall though I think the odds are stacked in Akiyama’s favor here. Like Leben he possesses a strong chin, and he’s a very capable, compact striker as he proved in his win over Alan Belcher at UFC 100. I see him holding his own in the stand-up before eventually taking the fight to the floor in the latter stage of the fight to work in a submission as the TUF veteran begins to tire.

Prediction: Yoshihiro Akiyama to win by submission in Rd3

Chris Lytle vs. Matt Brown

Regardless of who Chris Lytle competes against the odds are that it’s probably going to be a ‘Fight Of The Night’ contender – he has four such awards to his name to prove it – and when he’s paired with someone like Matt Brown, it’s almost unfair on the other competitors on the card.

Incidentally, these two have actually fought before in August of 2007 outside of the UFC with Lytle emerging with his hand raised on that occasion thanks to a second round guillotine choke. Brown has certainly improved considerably since then though, making his way into the UFC via the TUF show later that year and so far going 4-2 in the octagon.

Both men are more than happy to engage in a striking war, ensuring this should be a bruising encounter.  Though he doesn’t always show it due to his love of swinging for the fences, Lytle actually has good boxing fundamentals and was in fact at one time a professional boxer with a 13-1-1 record, and that should stand him in good stead here.  Brown meanwhile is a decent striker with reasonable power, but he still relies on his all-round toughness to help overpower opponents.

The ace up Lytle’s sleeve  is his ground game which, at times to his own detriment, he chooses not to utilise.  He did in his last fight though and it led to a first round win and ‘Submission Of The Night’ bonus, and of course he’s had success over Brown in this regard before.  If for any reason he’s coming up second best in the stand-up exchanges in this fight then this should prove to be a handy Plan B to fall back on.

Overall I feel Lytle has more in his locker than Brown and though I don’t see him finishing ‘The Immortal’, I do think he’ll pick up a decision win.

Prediction: Chris Lytle to win by decision

Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski

Stephan Bonnar and Krzysztof Soszynski are all set for a rematch to their UFC 110 bout in Australia which ended prematurely due to Bonnar receiving a cut which video evidence later showed came from an accidental headbutt.

Before that the two had traded blows for the best part of three rounds, and I expect more of the same on this occasion.  It should be another closely fought fight where both men concentrate more on their offense than defense, and therefore regularly eat punches and shed blood on the canvas.

Bonnar desperately needs a win after losing three in a row, and winning only two in his last five, but there’s little evidence that his game has developed over the years and it’s hard to see him pulling himself out of his current slump.

I don’t foresee either claiming a definitive win inside the distance, but when the final bell sounds I think Soszynski will have edged Bonnar in the striking as he did in their previous encounter, and as a result will have his hand raised.

Prediction: Krzysztof Soszynski to win by decision.

Kurt Pellegrino vs. George Sotiropoulos

What should be an intriguing and closely fought encounter between lightweights Kurt Pellegrino and George Sotiropoulos kicks off the main card action.

Both men are ground specialists which will make this especially interesting if the fight hits the mat.  Sotiropoulos is a student of Eddie Bravo’s and utilizes his ‘rubber guard’ style and is an extremely slick guard-passer.  Pellegrino also holds a black belt in BJJ and combined with his wrestling and ground and pound he’s a serious threat, particularly from his favored position in top control.

I’m definitely a fan of Sotiropoulos’ dynamic ground game and I think he will have the edge on the mat whether on his back or on top, but he’ll have to keep his wits about him at all times as Pellegrino is relentless and crafty.  If the fight stays on the feet I feel Sotirpoulos again has the edge. He’s by no means a devastating or spectacular striker, but considering the ground game is his real forte he’s not going to be out of his depth in the stand-up and I believe he can pose Pellegrino some problems.

Overall it’s perhaps the closest fight to call on the card and a real contender for ‘Fight Of The Night’ honors, but I like Sotoripoulos to get the win and establish himself in the upper reaches of the 155lb division.

Prediction: Georges Sotiropoulos to win by decision.

Prelims: (Predicted winner highlighted in bold)

Brendan Schaub vs. Chris Tuchscherer

Seth Petruzelli vs. Ricardo Romero

Kendall Grove vs. Goran Reljic

Gerald Harris vs. Dave Branch

Daniel Roberts vs. Forrest Petz

Karlos Vemola vs. Jon Madsen