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Monday, June 18, 2018

UFC 116 Preview: Lesnar vs. Carwin

UFC 116 will feature two of the biggest and most powerful men in mixed martial arts going to war as heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar faces interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin to unify the UFC heavyweight title. This will no doubt be the biggest UFC event of the year and the main event has major implications across MMA. With Fabricio Werdum upsetting consensus #1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko last weekend, the winner at UFC 116 will become the number one heavyweight in the world.

Originally, Lesnar and Carwin were set to face off at UFC 106 but Lesnar had to withdraw to recover from intestinal surgery. Turned out Lesnar had a bad case of diverticulitis and he needed a hole closed in his intestine. During Lesnar’s absence, Shane Carwin defeated Frank Mir at UFC 111 for the interim title.

Coming into this fight, Lesnar, 32, is 4-1 in his MMA career (3-1 in the UFC – notable wins: Frank Mir, Randy Couture). He has shown incredible strength and near-impossible quickness and explosiveness for his size in his wrestling, top-control and ground-and-pound. Lesnar was a Division I national champion in wrestling for the University of Minnesota and has transitioned those skills very well into MMA. Since entering the sport, he has built up a strong training camp around him, hiring some of the best trainers and sparring partners in the business with the money he earned in the WWE.

Carwin, 35, is 12-0 in his MMA career (4-0 in the UFC – notable wins: Mir, Gabriel Gonzaga). Carwin has shown devastating knockout power, winning all four of his UFC contests by KO or TKO in the first round. In fact, Carwin has finished off his opponent in the first round of every one of his MMA fights. He was also a D-II national champion in wrestling for Western State College, although he has used very little wrestling in the UFC. Carwin trains with Greg Jackson’s camp — widely considered the best in the sport — featuring stars such as Georges St. Pierre and Rashad Evans.

What makes this fight so intriguing and so hotly-debated is these are two very large men. Both usually walk around well over the 265 lb limit and cut down to that weight for the fight. For this fight, Lesnar’s camp is reporting he will not need to cut much weight due in part to the weight-loss suffered during his illness and due to a change in diet. Both men have their MMA gloves custom-made; Lesnar wears a size 4XL and Carwin a 5XL glove. Not to mention, Lesnar is the biggest star in MMA due to his size, power, cross-over appeal and of course, his post-fight antics following his UFC 100 victory.

A fight like this is hard to predict because one minor mistake could get either of these guys knocked out. Where I see Lesnar holding the edge is in his speed, athleticism and wrestling. He has demonstrated the ability to go deep into fights and to use his wrestling to secure top-control, two things Carwin has not. Although Carwin is being touted as a knock-out machine, and rightly so, he does so through pure power, not through great boxing technique — he does not use his jab much and is often flat-footed, among other things. Lesnar does not have great boxing technique either, but has also demonstrated great power (although he prefers to use his wrestling as his go-to).

If Lesnar wins, and I believe he will, it will likely be because he is a superior wrestler and his explosiveness allows him to take Carwin down and wear out him out. Lesnar can finish the fight on the ground or standing. If Carwin wins, it will be because his wrestling is good enough to fend Lesnar off and buys him the time he needs to connect. He may also take advantage, making use of the clinch, using dirty boxing around and up against the cage.

If either man connects squarely at any time, the fight will be over and you will be looking at the baddest man on the planet.

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  • MMA
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