In part I of this article, we went over the furious first four fights of Brock Lesnar’s MMA career. In the second half of this world wind tale, discussion turns to the final four fights (before he makes his main event return on Saturday) of Lesnar’s original UFC tenure. And how the baddest man on the planet was weakened by an enemy from within.
Going into his fifth professional fight Brock Lesnar was at the top of the heavyweight heap. He was viewed as one of the scariest fighters in the world because of his uncanny agility for a man of his size, and his hulking power. But before he could claim total supremacy of the division, he first had to settle some unfinished business.
Opponent Five: Frank Mir
Frank Mir was the man that welcomed Lesnar to the UFC. And also handed the behemoth champion his first loss. Making for the perfect back story to their rematch. Furthering the intrigue, was that both men were better fighters than when they first fought. Lesnar won two fights in a row, including unseating former UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture from his thrown. While Mir followed up his Lesnar win with a massive submission victory over heavyweight legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, in an interim title fight. In its simplest form, the fight was a 2009 MMA version of the unstoppable force versus the immovable object.
The fight strongly resembled the first. With Lesnar securing takedowns and controlling Mir. The main difference was Lesnar had grown in his all-around ground game and made sure to place himself in safe positions away from the danger of Mir’s BJJ skills. This intense rivalry showed in Lesnar’s punishing ground-and-pound that mangled Mir’s handsome face. Lesnar made a resounding statement, literally and figuratively, that he was now without a doubt the top heavyweight in the UFC.
Opponent Six: Shane Carwin
This fight garnered great attention at the time. Many wondered what would happen if Lesnar had to pick on someone his own size. And Carwin was the rare individual who could answer that call. He was 12-0 with major knockout power in his massive muscular frame, and like his opponent, he also had to cut weight to make the 265 pound limit.
Yet the fight was made on two different occasions. It was postponed several months after Lesnar was diagnosed with the digestive disease diverticulitis. It was an ailment he had been suffering from since defeating Randy Couture and he had dealt with symptoms that included severe stomach pain. After treatment and a miraculous recovery, Lesnar was able to get back in action and defend his title.
Once the fight commenced it seemed that his run of dominance finally started to wane. Shane Carwin was the first man to finally put Lesnar in the position of being badly hurt from strikes and then having to find a way to survive.
Which he did. Though he was battered severely by Carwin on the ground, Lesnar weathered the storm and made it to the second round. And just surviving was all he needed to do. Because Carwin, in his excitement to defeat the champion, did not pace himself when going for the finish. And he completely sapped himself of what limited energy his body had to feed all his muscularity. Lesnar took advantage of this and secured a takedown on route to locking in a fight ending arm-triangle choke.
Lesnar recovered from diverticulitis (or so we thought) and from being put on the brink of unconsciousness by Carwin. He showed growth inside the cage by displaying his toughness and growing submission skills. However, the “Beast Incarnate” was starting to finally look very much human.
Opponent Seven: Cain Velasquez
In Lesnar’s second official title defense he was matched-up with one of the rising stars of the sport—Cain Velasquez. Even at just 8-0, many in the MMA community felt Velasquez had a legitimate chance at dethroning the champion. And that is exactly what he did.
While Lesnar came after Velaquez like a bat out of hell from the start of the fight (even recording a takedown), Velasquez stayed calm and composed and withstood the titan’s storm. He landed a takedown of his own and slowly took Lesnar apart on the feet. He earned a technical knockout victory in the first round and became the new baddest man on the planet.
This was by far one of Lesnar’s most disappointing performances. There was no shame in losing to Velasquez, a man that has gone on to be considered one of the best heavyweight fighters ever. What made it all the more frustrating was not only did Lesnar lose his championship belt, but six months later Lesnar was on an operating table receiving surgery on his colon.
While prepping for a bout with Junior Dos Santos, Lesnar’s greatest foe—diverticulitis—had returned, and he required surgery to remove almost a foot of his colon. Questions were no longer about would Lesnar reach his potential? Fans and experts now wondered if Lesnar would ever be the same again.
Opponent Eight: Alistair Overeem
It was over a year before Lesnar would return to the cage. And in his return, he would be welcomed by UFC newcomer (and veteran of the sport) Alistair Overeem. The bout was a classic striker versus grappler match-up. It was favorable for either man, mattering on how you looked at.
However, it did not take long before it was clear who the more dominant force in the fight was. Knowing the obvious weakness Lesnar had in his gut, Overeem worked the former champion’s body with leg kicks. By the third minute of the fight Lesnar’s abdomen had taken enough devastating kicks. After one final shot, the former WWE world champion keeled over in pain and the fight was soon ended.
It would seem that after recovering on two different occasions from his bouts with diverticulitis that Lesnar was no longer the force he once was. Or maybe the sport finally caught up to him, and he didn’t evolve quickly enough to keep up with his fellow competitors. But December 30, 2011 was the last time we would see Brock Lesnar in a UFC octagon.
Or so we had thought. This Saturday, Brock Lesnar makes his surprising return to the cage. In what is thought to be a one-off fight against “The Super Samoan” Mark Hunt. After a five year lay-off, Lesnar is not viewed as a favorite. And that is the way Lesnar likes it.
He was looked at as a fake fighter who took a huge risk and got into the sport of MMA. He eventually made it to the UFC and proved naysayers wrong and became one of the biggest stars in the sport. If you still doubt Brock Lesnar, you haven’t been paying attention to his career.