- Brian Knapp
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Lesnar weathered a violent barrage from Carwin in the first round, scored with a takedown in the second and trapped him in an arm-triangle choke that ended the UFC 116 headliner on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Carwin raised the white flag 2 minutes, 19 seconds into Round 2.
"This isn't about me tonight," said Lesnar, who made his first appearance in nearly a year. "This is about my family. This is about my doctors. This is about my training partners, my training staff. I am blessed by God. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you a humble champion. And I'm still the toughest SOB around, baby."
Carwin -- who had finished each of his first 12 foes in the first round -- had the champion in serious trouble inside the first five minutes, as he buckled him with a right hand, stuffed his first takedown attempt and had him reeling with a left uppercut. Lesnar, in his first appearance since an intestinal disorder nearly ended his career, went down against the cage and absorbed heavy ground-and-pound from Carwin, who let loose with heavy rights and lefts from the top. Lesnar defended well, but Round 1 clearly came down in Carwin's favor.
"I was going after the kill there," Carwin said. "Brock's a tough son of a bitch, man. He took that ground-and-pound like nobody else. I tightened up. My hat's off to him. He's the champion. I fell down the mountain, but I'll climb back up."
Lesnar knew Carwin was emptying his gas tank.
"I just had to weather the storm," he said. "He's got some heavy shots. I just had to hang back. I knew he was getting tired. Each shot was less dramatic than the other, and I thought, 'I'll just let him go.'"
Slowed by visible fatigue, Carwin lacked the steam he needed to finish what he started. Treading water as the second period opened, Carwin winked at the former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar but soon found himself on his back in the center of the Octagon. Lesnar set up the choke, moved to mount and tightened the submission from the side. Carwin defended at first, but Lesnar tightened his massive arms around his neck and solicited the tapout.
"I thought I had enough space to breathe and just keep working beside him," Carwin said, "but he sunk it on tight and I was going out."
Leben taps out Akiyama
In the co-main event, Chris Leben submitted the world-ranked Yoshihiro Akiyama with a third-round triangle choke, as he notched the most significant victory of his career. Akiyama, worn down by two grueling rounds of combat, met his demise with just 20 seconds remaining in the bout.
Akiyama mixed takedowns with accurate punches throughout the middleweight duel, but it was not enough to turn away Leben. The two men threw caution to the wind in the second period, and Leben appeared to be out on his feet for a brief moment.
Always tough to finish, Leben stood his ground and came out for Round 3 with renewed energy.
Taken down as time ticked away, Leben softened the judo black belt with strikes from his back and waited for an opening to present itself. It came in the final minute, as he cinched a triangle choke, tightened the hold and coaxed the tapout.
"Doesn't matter if it's on my feet, on the ground," Leben said, "when I get in here, I get the job done."
Afterward, Leben singled out injured Brazilian icon Wanderlei Silva, Akiyama's original opponent.
"Wanderlei was supposed to have this fight," said Leben, who notched his second finish in the last two weeks. "I want him next."
Lytle submits Brown
Chris Lytle endured once again.
Trapped in a tight first-round D'Arce choke, Lytle escaped and submitted "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 7 quarterfinalist Matt Brown with a straight armbar from top position 2 minutes, 2 seconds into Round 2. The 35-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has rattled off three consecutive victories since his controversial split decision defeat to Marcus Davis at UFC 93.
Brown did not go quietly, however, as he turned Lytle's face a deep shade of red in the first round and appeared close to finishing the Indianapolis native with the choke. Lytle weathered it.
"That was real tight. I knew I couldn't get out of it," Lytle said. "I was just going to sit there, try to keep my base and make him wear himself out, and that's what happened."
In the second round, Lytle clipped Brown with a stiff right uppercut and used a guillotine choke to move to full mount. From there, he transitioned to a topside triangle choke that left Brown unable to protect his right arm. Lytle hyper extended the limb for the tap out, as his opponent cringed in noticeable pain.
"That's my double submission," Lytle said. "I call that the 'Submission of the night.'"
Bonnar stops Soszynski in rematch
The end came 3 minutes, 8 seconds into Round 2, as "The American Psycho" put the breaks on his troubling three-fight losing streak.
A Carlson Gracie protégé, Bonnar peppered Soszynski with punches as the two light heavyweights exchanged wildly throughout their second encounter. Cut under both eyes, Bonnar went to work on his winded foe in Round 2. In close quarters, he unleashed a crushing knee that doubled over Soszynski against the cage. Bonnar pounced, landed heavy blows and latched himself onto the Team Quest standout's back. From there, the finish was within reach. Bonnar, "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1 runner-up, delivered a stream of unanswered blows and forced Mario Yamasaki to intervene on Soszynski's behalf.
"You know me. I like winning ugly, and boy do I look ugly right now," said Bonnar, who lost a controversial technical knockout to Soszynski at UFC 110 in February. "I knew I hurt him, and I just kept throwing punches. I just said to myself, 'You're not going to take this fight from me. No one's going to take this fight from me this time.'"
Sotiropoulos outpoints Pellegrino
With each passing appearance, George Sotiropoulos looks more and more like a potential title contender.
A semifinalist on Season 6 of "The Ultimate Fighter," Sotiropoulos outboxed and out-grappled Kurt Pellegrino en route to a unanimous decision, surviving a late flurry and third-round knockdown in a featured lightweight matchup. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Sotiropoulos, who remains unbeaten (6-0) inside the Octagon.
Sotiropoulos had Pellegrino on his heels inside the first 90 seconds, as he landed a right hook behind the ear and a straight left hand that put him on the ground.
"I could see he was open," Sotiropoulos said. "I was catching him with a lot of punches, a lot of jabs, a lot of hooks and crosses. When I dropped him in the first, I thought I'd be able to finish him, but I could tell he was dizzy. I saw his eyes rolling back a couple of times."
Pellegrino survived and scored a pair of first-round takedowns, but his opponent attacked effectively from his guard and landed compact left hooks at will when upright.
Sotiropoulos grounded Pellegrino in the second round, landing sharp elbows, punches and the occasional hammerfist from the top.
Pellegrino, faced with certain defeat, delivered a takedown in the third but did little damage inside Sotiropolous' notorious crafty guard. The two lightweights stood late, and Pellegrino capitalized. He dropped Sotiropoulos with a vicious knee and right hand, only to have the bell sound as he swarmed.
"They connected. They were hard," Sotiropoulos said. "I never lost consciousness, but I did get dazed. He rushed in, and I knew I'd be able to recover position."
Brian Knapp is a contributor to Sherdog.com.