LAS VEGAS: And still heavyweight champion. And still the showman.
Brock Lesnar defended his UFC crown with an arm triangle choke against challenger Shane Carwin. He rose to his feet, shook his beaming head, punched his own chin, and declared: ”I stand before you a humble champion, and still the toughest SOB around, baby.”
But he looked far from the baddest man on the planet in the first round as Carwin teed off with his giant fists. Lesnar was dropped by an uppercut and collected numerous big shots while on his back. Cut and bruised, Lesnar somehow survived when many observers believed the bout could have been halted.
How different it was in the second, as Lesnar smiled and high-fived Carwin at the bell before wrestling him to the ground and applying the submission manoeuvre, forcing him to tap out.
Carwin, who had finished all 12 of his previous opponents in the first round, was finally defeated. Lesnar (5-1), following a year-long lay-off due to a debilitating digestive disease, and thinking he would die in hospital seven months ago, left no doubt he remains the benchmark in the topweight class.
The MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd had favoured Carwin but was left respectfully in awe, with guests including the original bad man Mike Tyson, and his great boxing rival Evander Holyfield – who told the Herald he’d be more than happy to travel to Australia to take on Danny Green. For Lesnar awaits Cain Velasquez, whose knockout win in Sydney in February secured his place as next in line.
Meanwhile, Australia’s George Sotiropoulos continued his charge towards a lightweight title shot with another dominant performance, this time defeating American Kurt Pellegrino via unanimous decision over three rounds. It was another pounding delivered by the Geelong product, although this time Sotiropoulos (13-2 in his mixed martial arts career) used excellent boxing skills to control the fight, with the three judges scoring the contest 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28.
B.J.Penn gets a rematch for the lightweight belt against new champion Frankie Edgar at UFC 118 on August 28, with contenders Kenny Florian versus Gray Maynard on the same card in Boston. Florian has already had two shots at the title so if he wins, there is a stronger case for Sotiropoulos to earn a shot at the winner of the main event. The Victorian is now 6-0 in the UFC, an equal-record run for a fighter without being given a title fight.
”I’m ready for anything. Of course I’d love a title shot but I’m in no rush, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Sotiropoulos said.
UFC president Dana White said he continued to be blown away by Sotiropoulos but only put him in the top five of the division.
Sotiropoulos floored Pellegrino with a straight left in the first and dominated the second with power and control. Pellegrino was forced to adopt a defensive approach to avoid getting taken down. Late in the last round, Sotiropoulos was floored by a knee to the head but avoided disaster by surviving to hear the final siren.
”I knew exactly what he was going to do in certain positions. He played into every part of my game,” Sotiropoulos said.