This Saturday the UFC will put on their annual July 4 weekend spectacular in Las Vegas.
This weekend also marks the long awaited return of UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar after a year off due to an almost life threatening health issue.
Lesnar will battle the interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin in what must literally be the largest battle ever to take place inside the Octagon.
The rest of the card is made up of interesting match ups but very little star power.
Let's break it down.
Heavyweight Championship: Brock Lesnar(c) vs Shane Carwin
Lesnar is 4-1 with three wins by stoppage. He is a wrestler with brutal ground and pound.
He is the current UFC champion, has beaten some of the best in the game to get there, and has avenged his only loss.
Carwin is 12-0 with all 12 wins by stoppage. He is also a wrestler with very heavy hands. Carwin has beaten a couple tough opponents on his road to the title shot.
The UFC is going to have to reinforce the cage to hold these two animals. Both men cut to 265 and there could easily be close to 600 lbs. of beef in the cage by the time this fight goes down.
They are almost mirror images of each other. They both have very good wrestling backgrounds and both are still developing their overall MMA game. They are also both freakish athletes for their size.
With that said, this fight could very easily go either way. If Lesnar imposes his will on Carwin I can't see him lasting five rounds on his back. But Lesnar hasn't faced anyone with punching power close to Carwin's.
I'm picking Carwin's wrestling to be just good enough to keep it standing where he will touch Lesnar enough times to end this fight.
I'm picking Carwin to win by TKO in the First Round and become the new UFC heavyweight champion.
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs Chris Leben
Akiyama is 13-1 with 12 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler first with a solid striking game as well. Akiyama has faced some tough fighters with good results. In fact his only loss came in a K-1 open weight bout against a heavyweight.
Leben is 20-6 with 15 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with a decent grappling pedigree. He has fought a lot of tough fighters with mixed results.
Even though Akiyama has also been out for a year I don't see that being an issue in this fight. As long as Akiyama doesn't get stupid, and tries to stand toe-to-toe with Leben, he shouldn't have any issues in this fight.
Akiyama will want to use angles and speed to set up a take down where he can put the fight in his world.
On the ground Leben can only survive for so long before he succumbs to Akiyama's superior jiu jitsu.
I'm picking Akiyama to win by submission in the Third Round.
Chris Lytle vs Matt Brown
Lytle is 28-17-5 with 22 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with some boxing skills. He has fought a ton of tough fighters but with less than stellar results.
Brown is 11-8 with all 11 wins by stoppage. He is a striker with some grappling skills. He has faced some tough fighters with mixed results.
This should be an interesting match up as both guys are looking to improve their record. Lytle obviously wants this fight on the mat, while Brown will want to keep it standing against a grappler the caliber of Lytle.
I think Lytle's experience against some of the best in the game will help him get the job done here—as long as he doesn't get caught by a lucky punch.
I'm picking Lytle to win by submission in the Second Round.
Krzysztof Soszynski vs Stephan Bonnar
Soszynski is 19-9-1 with 18 wins by stoppage. He is a grappler with solid boxing. He has faced some tough fighters with mixed results.
Bonnar is 11-7 with nine wins by stoppage. He is a grappler who loves to strike. He has faced some tough fighters with mostly negative results.
This is Bonnar's last chance, much the same way Keith Jardine got one last shot a couple weeks ago. Bonnar is riding a three fight losing streak courtesy of embarrassing losses to Jon Jones, Mark Coleman, and a controversial loss on cuts due to a headbutt by Soszynski back in Feb.
This fight pairs the two up again to hopefully clear the air after such a controversial decision and to give Bonnar one last (fair) chance to save his UFC career.
I still feel that Bonnar would do himself a favor by trying to go to the ground, but I don't see him wanting to do that or being successful there.
So they will stand and Soszynski should get the better of the stand up. That's why I'm picking him to win by decision.
George Sotiropoulos vs Kurt Pellegrino
Sotiropoulos is 12-2 with eight wins by stoppage. He is a jiu jitsu fighter with a little boxing. He has faced some tough fighters with mostly positive results. In fact he avenged one of his two losses and his only other loss came to lightweight stand out Shinya Aoki.
Pellegrino is 15-4 with 11 wins by stoppage. He is also a grappler with some striking. He has faced some tough fighters with mixed results.
I get the feeling these two grapplers will cancel each other out on the ground leaving them to try and duke it out. This could go either way since neither is a noted striker but my gut feeling is that Pellegrino will have the edge.
I'm picking Pellegrino to win by decision.
Brendan Schaub vs Chris Tuchscherer
Schaub is still a young fighter and could make a stupid mistake against a veteran like Tuchscherer.
However, I also think Schaub is more talented than Tuchscherer. He certainly is in the striking department.
So between Schaub's talent and his athleticism I'm picking him to win by TKO in the First Round.
Seth Petruzelli vs Ricardo Romero
The Kimbo killer is back!
Petruzelli returns to the UFC for the first time since 2007.
Romero has a nice well rounded game but he's going up against his toughest opponent to date, while also making his UFC debut.
I don't like those odds even if the kid is virtually undefeated.
I'm picking Petruzelli to overwhelm Romero with strikes and grab the TKO win in the First Round.
Kendall Grove vs Goran Reljic
Neither of these guys look too good right now. However, while Grove hasn't been able to put anything consistent together in a while Reljic is still coming back from a major injury. So I think he looks much more promising to bounce back right now.
I'm picking Reljic to win by KO in the First Round.
Gerald Harris vs Dave Branch
Both of these guys have a lot of upside but neither has proven much at this point in their careers. Harris has faced tougher competition and has fought in the UFC before.
Both have well rounded games but I'm betting Harris' striking and wrestling is better while Branch has the better jiu jitsu.
I'm going to throw logic out the window on this one because Branch represents Brooklyn!
I'm picking Branch to stay undefeated with a decision victory.
Daniel Roberts vs Forrest Petz
This is an extremely tough fight to call.
Petz is your typical journeyman and hasn't fought in the UFC since 2007. Roberts was a good looking prospect until being promptly KO'd in the first round in his first UFC fight.
I'm going to stick with the promise of Roberts' wrestling and BJJ to get him through this fight.
I'm going to pick Roberts to win by submission in the First Round.
Jon Madsen vs Karlos Vemola
Both of these guys are wrestlers who have the ability to finish fights. Madsen has been riding a nice little wave since being on TUF 10.
I see that continuing here. I think Madsen probably has the better wrestling and also has some UFC experience.
I'm picking Madsen to stay undefeated with a decision victory.