UFC 116 was, in a word, amazing. Let's run down the important points from the show (full results and recaps of each fight here).
- Brock Lesnar is the #1 heavyweight in the world. Between the combination of Fedor's recent loss and Lesnar surviving a round of abuse at the shocking power of Shane Carwin only to come out in the second round and not only be willing to engage but to get the takedown, pass guard and lock in an arm triangle choke for the submission the doubt is gone. No one has been able to get out of a round with Carwin (who entered the fight as the #3 heavyweight in the world), no one has been able to absorb his punches and no one has ever been able to beat him. Lesnar did all three of those things.
- Shane Carwin has nothing to be ashamed of. He hurt Lesnar badly and gave everything he had to try to finish the fight. Lesnar was able to defend enough in the moments that were needed to prevent referee Josh Rosenthal from stopping the fight in that first round. One of the things that makes Lesnar's win so impressive is the fact that I don't know if anyone else could have absorbed that punishment, defended and had enough left to come out and finish the fight in the very next round.
- Speaking of Josh Rosenthal, I've never liked him as a referee but he did an amazing job of paying attention to what was going on as Lesnar was being pounded, but also working to regain half guard or get his feet on Carwin's hips to create space. As Luke Thomas pointed out it was a performance of a lifetime by Rosenthal.
- How about Chris Leben? He managed to survive some tough spots of his own in his co-main event bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama and proved that he is improving as a fighter. On the feet the two men traded big shots and had impressive moments where they hurt the other but whenever Akiyama put Leben on his back Chris would threaten with armbars, punches and elbows that really stopped Akiyama from doing any meaningful work. In the third round Leben was flat-out winning the round off his back before locking in a slick triangle choke. This is not the same Chris Leben that we've all come to know, this is a mature brawler who can not only survive bad positions but find ways to win.
- Speaking of brawlers... How about Stephan Bonnar? The man absolutely loves to be in brawls. His rematch with Krzysztof Soszynski was as fun as it gets in terms of "two guys hitting each other in the face." Soszynski won the first round easily but not without starting to tire himself out as well as it becoming clear that when the two men clinched Bonnar was far more capable with knees and elbows. That would prove out in the second round as Bonnar landed a beautiful knee to the chin that crumpled "The Polish Experiment" and led to a flurry of fight ending punches. Along with Leben and Lesnar it was a trifecta of beautiful shows of heart and "finding a way to win." Bonnar is a fan favorite and once again he's a winner.
- Chris Lytle even joined in the "surviving" fun after almost being submitted in the first round. Matt Brown locked in a deep choke that turned Lytle's head purple but also wore out Brown's arms. Once Lytle got out of the choke and into the second round he dominated with yet another amazing submission win.
- George Sotiropoulos is a legitimate lightweight contender. He beat Kurt Pellegrino using his great jiu-jitsu game but also his very nice boxing technique which involves great footwork and head movement. It was a great, great showing and should put Sotiropoulos in the mix for a future title shot.