Is Saturday’s UFC 116 main event bout between heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin the biggest title fight in UFC history? The organization is promoting as such and it might be right considering it marks the return of Lesnar to the ring after nearly dying from a rare illness. And at Bodog’s Online Sportsbook, we expect UFC 116 to draw the biggest handle of any MMA event so far this year if not ever.
Lesnar (4-1) is probably the most well-known fighter in MMA, at least to those casual mainstream fans – especially those who follow the WWE, Lesnar’s former home. And it’s those bettors who will turn out in droves for this fight because Lesnar is considered the main villain in UFC. Plus the fact it’s a holiday weekend in the U.S. doesn’t hurt in terms of drawing action. Lesnar, one of the great collegiate wrestlers ever and a former NCAA champion at Minnesota, has been sidelined since the fall with diverticulitis. After defending his UFC title against Frank Mir last July at UFC 100 – the biggest bout in terms of handle at Bodog in 2009 – he was supposed to meet the undefeated Carwin in November but fell ill in training. Lesnar lost nearly 40 pounds with that internal disease and was originally told he would need surgery and his colon removed – that would have likely ended his career. However, he opted against that and, thanks to a “miracle” recovery, is symptom-free and back to his pre-illness weight. Lesnar has never been a betting underdog in his short MMA career.
Carwin (12-0) has been devastating in all of his wins as he has yet to be even extended to a second round. The former NCAA Division II national champion wrestler pummeled Mir at UFC 111 and is the interim heavyweight title holder. Eight of his 12 fights have ended by strikes. Lesnar certainly hasn’t faced anyone in his short MMA career with Carwin’s power. And in reality Saturday’s winner will be crowned the best overall heavyweight in the world in the wake of Fedor Emelianenko’s shocking loss to Fabricio Werdum in a Strikeforce/M-1 Global event this past weekend.
Currently we have Lesnar as the -160 favorite at Bodog with Carwin at +130. This line opened with Lesnar at -185, so obviously the heavy action is coming in on Carwin and it has left the book a bit exposed on him now. However, we believe that at the current numbers the book will see enough action on Lesnar to compensate for the early rush on Carwin. Judging by the early action we believe that this bout will be the most wagered MMA bout in Bodog’s history, eclipsing that Lesnar-Mir event at UFC 100. Carwin is 2-0 in the UFC when entering fights as the dog, as he went off at +115 against Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 96 and +120 against Mir at UFC 111. Bodog will have several prop options on Lesnar-Carwin closer to the fight.
We really expected a huge card overall on Saturday night and still do, but that took a bit of a hit with the withdrawal of Wanderlei Silva – another Top 5 fighter in terms of handle we take at Bodog – for his scheduled fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama. In Silva’s place is Chris Leben, who knocked out Aaron Simpson in the second round of the recent “The Ultimate Fighter 11” season finale. In 26 career bouts, Leben has only been knocked out once — by Anderson Silva. Akiyama, the -205 favorite at Bodog, hasn’t been beaten since 2005. Yet the action has definitely been leaning heavily to Leben, despite the fact he will have only two weeks between bouts, as he has moved from +240 to +165 in just the past few days.
Other top undercard fights include Chris Lytle vs. Matt Brown, Stephan Bonnar vs. Krzysztof Soszynski, and Kurt Pellegrino vs. George Sotiropoulos.