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A Look Back At Brock Lesnar’s MMA Career
Brock Lesnar officially retired from MMA after suffering a TKO loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 & is back in the WWE. In just a short span of four years Lesnar conquered the world of MMA competing at the highest level and winning a world championship. Lesnar’s run in the world of MMA is nothing short of remarkable.
It is entirely possible that Brock Lesnar’s UFC career is over. Choosing not to get surgery is practically announcing his retirement. Even if Lesnar does get surgery, the operation is invasive and could put Lesnar on the shelf for over a year, missing a critical amount of time at this stage of his career. In all likelihood the world of MMA has probably seen the last of Brock Lesnar as an elite heavyweight.
So today I look back at one of the most amazing short careers in MMA history. His accomplishments should be recognized whether you like Lesnar or not as nothing short of great. Fighters train for years and accomplish much less than what Lesnar did. Here is a quick look back at the MMA career of Brock Lesnar.
I look at this Lesnar’s UFC audition. There were plenty of rumors at the time about Lesnar and the UFC. Dana White was hesitant to pull the trigger for obvious reasons. WWE wrestling fans were incredibly excited about seeing “one of their own” make the MMA leap. Min-Soo Kim would become the sacrificial lamb for young Lesnar.
Kim was an Olympic silver medalist in Judo so it was kind of odd to see Lesnar shoot in immediately on Kim. Lesnar dominated him on the ground and passed his guard with ease. Lesnar just started raining down strikes on the former Olympiad. Kim shockingly tapped out as Lesnar was beating the daylights out of him. To this day it remains one of the weakest tap outs I have ever seen in MMA, but any doubts about Lesnar’s potential in MMA were answered in 1:09 of Round 1. The word was out, Brock Lesnar was for real.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir UFC 81: Breaking Point, February 2, 2008. This was Lesnar’s UFC debut and let me tell you, the UFC weren’t shy about promoting Lesnar’s WWE past. A collection of WWE stars right out of Legends of WrestleMania were show in the building throughout the night building a WWE vs. UFC theme for the fight. Lesnar was even announced as a former WWE champion with old wrestling footage to boot. It was certainly quite a spectacle indeed.
What I remember most about this fight is that in the weeks leading up to it and in my writings on phillyburbs.com I never believed Lesnar could beat Frank Mir. I thought Mir was too experienced here and that Lesnar would go into the fight over confident. I remember getting into several arguments with callers on my radio show about it, yet I didn’t think it was a huge revelation. Well, in this case I was right.
Lesnar bull rushed Mir and opened up with the same ferocity he unleashed against Kim. Lesnar dropped Mir pretty quickly and the Las Vegas crowd went nuts. Could an inexperienced athlete beat a credentialed former UFC champion in his second fight? Nope. Mir was too smart for him and caught Lesnar with a kneebar. Mir showed a lot of guts looking for a spot as strikes rained down on his head. Mir tapped Lesnar in 90 seconds to a stunned crowd. Was Lesnar exposed as a fraud or did he just need more time to learn? The MMA world would find out six months later.
Brock Lesnar vs. Heath Herring UFC 87: Seek and Destroy, August 9, 2008. Quite honestly Lesnar should have fought someone more along the lines of Herring in his first fight, not someone as experienced as Mir. Herring is certainly no pushover as he came very close to beating Antonio Nogueira a year earlier. A loss here could have been devastating for Lesnar. I would argue that this was the biggest fight of Lesnar’s entire MMA career as anything less than a win or solid effort would have jeopardized his high UFC contract.
Like every fight in his career, Lesnar charged the Texas Crazy Horse early in the fight. He missed a flying knee but rocked him with a punch that busted Herring open. To me, he broke Herring’s will at that point and Heath was just trying to survive. Brock held Herring down and mauled him for the rest of the fight. Lesnar had Herring’s back for most of the fight but seemed content on just riding the Texas Crazy Horse out for three rounds. The fight ended with Herring making a last ditch attempt to run at Lesnar with Brock laughing in his face as the bell rang. It was pure domination by Lesnar.
The win was huge for Lesnar. For one, it answered a lot of questions about his cardio and stamina. Lesnar had only fought twice before this, with both fights ending in less than two minutes. Lesnar never gassed out, well at least enough for Herring to take advantage of. Two, Lesnar really showed what an intimidator he can be in the octagon. Three, he never had to look back from this point on in regards to being cut from his contract following a loss. Four and maybe most important, Lesnar established himself as a hell of a heel by laughing in Herring’s face and asking the crowd, “Can you see me now?” It wouldn’t be until Lesnar’s recovery from diverticulitis a few years later in which he would be accepted by the MMA fans as a babyface.
Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture UFC 91: Couture vs. Lesnar November 15, 2008. This was the shortest time between fights for Lesnar. Randy Couture returned after a lengthy absence to defend the UFC championship against Lesnar. Many hardcore MMA fans were angry feeling Lesnar didn’t deserve a title shot with one win and one loss. They were right but it didn’t matter as Brock Lesnar would become world champion with only a little more than one year of MMA experience against a man that had been fighting for eleven years.
This was a real physical mismatch on paper with Lesnar maintaining a 57 pound weight advantage over Couture. That is why fans were shocked and excited to see Randy Couture hold his own for the first round. The first round saw Couture get in some dirty boxing and an elbow, appearing to confuse the much bigger Lesnar. Couture got Lesnar’s back at one point in the first round and the crowd just went absolutely ballistic. The UFC hero against the WWE villain. At one point, Couture almost threw Lesnar towards the end of the first round. The round ended and the fight looked anything like the slaughter that most people were expecting.
The slaughter came in Round 2. They started out once again back in the clinch with each guy looking for an advantage. Couture drew blood and opened up Lesnar above the eye. At this point in the fight it looked like one of the greatest David vs. Goliath upsets in sports history. That was until Brock got mad. Brock rocked Couture hard with a shot and an uppercut. Lesnar nailed Couture who stumbled and allowed Lesnar to swarm in for the kill. Lesnar finished off Captain America and did the unthinkable, winning the UFC heavyweight championship.
After the fight Lesnar said, “He’s got a lot of balls to take a year off and fight a young buck like me. I believe in hard work and it pays off. I may come across as cocky, but I’m confident. The Lord gave me this body and my mind,” and the place still booed him. The fans hated to see this former pro wrestler walking around with their belt. Unfortunately it would be a long time before anyone would do anything about it.
Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir UFC 100: Lesnar vs. Mir II, July 11, 2009. This was the first and only real grudge match in Lesnar’s MMA career. Lesnar and Mir developed a very real rivalry between the two fighters that was exposed on UFC’s countdown show as well as pre-event press conferences. Mir dismissed Lesnar as a joke while Lesnar was enraged at the constant reminder of his first and only MMA loss to Mir. The grudge match would turn out to be the biggest fight in UFC history, shattering records that close to two years later still haven’t been broken.
I had this one all wrong. I thought Mir would take him out with a submission early or even stand up with him. Lesnar took Mir down early in the first round. Lesnar had Mir trapped with an arm locked, leaving his face wide open. Lesnar just unloaded on a helpless Mir for most of the round. Mir later said he was working for another kneebar here but he just looked defenseless. Mir could do nothing against the size and strength of Lesnar who seemed to take particular enjoyment with every brutal punch he dropped on Mir’s face.
Mir’s face already looked like a wreck going into Round 2. Mir went for broke and tried to stand up with Lesnar. The two went down and once again Mir was trapped. Lesnar used his power to dominate Mir against the cage. Lesnar punched Mir’s face until he knocked him out. It was the biggest statement made that Lesnar had ever made in his MMA career. Don’t screw with him or you are going to get hurt!
The action continued after the fight. Even the most bitter rivals hug after a fight understanding that hype=money. Brock Lesnar is no hugger. Lesnar immediately got in Mir’s face and said, “talk your sh*t now!” Lesnar had to be pulled away by several security guards. The live crowd went nuts with a chorus boos which was met by Lesnar telling the fans that they were all number one. Lesnar was certainly not going to win the 2009 Most Popular UFC Fighter award.
Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin UFC 116: Lesnar vs. Carwin July 3, 2010. This was promoted as one of the biggest fights in UFC history. Up to this point Lesnar had always greatly outweighed his opponents. In this fight, Lesnar would have no significant weight advantage. In addition, Lesnar just looked unstoppable in his last three fights. Carwin on the other hand was riding a streak of five straight knockouts. If styles make great fights, this one had the potential to be a heavyweight classic.
This was one of the most impressive wins you will ever see in MMA. Shane Carwin destroyed Brock Lesnar for the first round. Carwin caught him with an upper cut and just dominated Lesnar for the entire round. Carwin sat on top of Lesnar and dropped down hammers and elbows. Lesnar was cut bad and looked like he was out of it at one point. The onslaught gassed Carwin out by the start of Round 2. Lesnar finally got a takedown in Round 2 and dominated him on the ground. Lesnar was able to mount him and secure an arm-triangle choke on Carwin for the tap. This was a gutsy performance!
Carwin made himself a star that night. For the first time since Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar 1, Lesnar looked human. Even with his matching power and wrestling acumen, Carwin was still no match for Lesnar in the end. Carwin and Lesnar will likely meet again at some point. Shane Carwin is just too good to go on an extended losing streak so whether it is for the UFC title or not, I see a rematch between these two guys at some point down the road.
It was also a big turning point in the polarizing relationship between Brock Lesnar and the MMA community. Lesnar came into the fight and walked away a humble man after a career-threatening battle with diverticulitis. Lesnar’s comeback in Round 2 after being obliterated with strikes from Carwin was something even his biggest critics could appreciate. The crowd opened their arms to the UFC champion and the champ returned the embrace. A love affair was born.
Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Valasquez October 23, 2010. Who knew that this could very well be the final fight in Brock Lesnar’s career? Lesnar came into the fight a big favorite. The hardcore MMA fans were behind Velasquez, while the casual audience slept on the challenger. Most experts predicted that the only way Cain could win was to tire out Lesnar in a long, grueling, five-round fight while UFC fighters predicted a quick knockout by Velasquez. Sometimes those crazy fighters know what they are talking about.
This fight went exactly as most fighters predicted. Brock came out immediately and charged Velasquez. Lesnar connected on several shots and took down Velasquez. Velasquez stayed calm, returned to his feet, and waited for an opening. Cain Velasquez then started connecting on shots, dropped Lesnar, and won the fight via TKO at 4:12.
I wouldn’t call it a great fight, but I would call it one of the most exciting rounds in UFC history. This fight was very similar to Lesnar vs. Carwin. Lesnar was down absorbing a ton of punches from Velasquez. The only difference here is that you had a smarter fighter in Velasquez who picked his shots and didn’t tire out. Referee Herb Dean seemed hesitant to stop it and probably gave Brock more time than he deserved. All in all, Lesnar was dominated by the more skilled fighter.
Of course the fight is also memorable for a post-fight confrontation between Lesnar and WWE star The Undertaker. Many reports confirm that the WWE was planning to match Lesnar vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania 27. The match was scrapped when Dana White refused to give Lesnar permission to lace up the pro wrestling boots.
Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem December 30, 2011. This was one of those fights that you knew wasn’t going to last long and it didn’t. While you didn’t get your money’s worth inside the octagon, you certainly got your money’s worth in atmosphere and anticipation. This fight had something that the UFC has been missing for quite a while and that is the emotion in and out of the octagon of a big time fight. It wasn’t long but it likely will never be forgotten.
It is impossible not to relive these memories and appreciate what Lesnar achieved in such a short time in MMA. If it is the end of the road, Lesnar has nothing to be ashamed of. Like him or not, the sport will not be the same without him.