What Waits for Brock Lesnar

Aug 11, 2008
There he was, a veteran of more than 40 professional fights, battered, beaten and bloodied by a man who’d been written off as a sideshow attraction designed to lure in gullible fans.

But now that Brock Lesnar (Pictures) has proven his worth at Heath Herring (Pictures)’s expense, the talk no longer surrounds the converted pro wrestler’s legitimacy in the fistic realm but rather just how large a shadow his gargantuan frame will cast on the UFC’s heavyweight ranks.

With that question in mind, I’ve been recruited to do some prognostication on Lesnar’s chances of running through a thin, but still dangerous, heavyweight division. Who can he Hulk out on? Who will hit him right back with a no-sell? Read on and find out.

Cain Velasquez (Pictures)
Ht: 6’1”
Wt: 240 pounds
Record: 4-0
Age: 26
Fights out of: San Jose, Calif. (American Kickboxing Academy)
Key win: Stopped Jake O’Brien in July

For all the talk of Lesnar being the “next big thing” at heavyweight, there is another collegiate wrestling convert amidst the UFC ranks ready to entrench himself as the standard bearer for the next generation.

With a pair of dominant UFC wins already to his name, it’s a small wonder that Cain Velasquez (Pictures) hasn’t become the talk of the town. A bout with Lesnar would change all that and match two of the most promising ground-and-pound specialists in the game today.

Considering both men have sterling collegiate credentials, Lesnar’s unusual combination of massive size and disproportionate athleticism give him a purely physical edge that Velasquez lacks the experience to overcome. Of course, Velasquez may simply turn out to be a better wrestler than Lesnar, and we all got to see what Velasquez can do from the top position when he abused Jake O’Brien’s face the same way Jackson Pollack abused canvases.

Either way, this bout stands as one of the most intriguing matchups of wrestling converts the division has seen in some time.

Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures)
Ht: 6’1”
Wt: 242 pounds
Record: 9-3
Age: 29
Fights out of: Ludlow, Mass. (Team Link)
Key win: Knocked out Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) at UFC 70 in April 2007
Key loss: Was stopped by Randy Couture (Pictures) at UFC 74 in August 2007

It might be time to start reinforcing the Octagon with adamantium since this fantasy fight may soon become a reality. With more than 500 pounds and 12 feet of humanity rumbling inside the cage, the referee may need the Jaws of Life to pull these two off of each other.

Although some may be inclined to think that Lesnar would have no chance against a premier jiu-jitsu player such as Gonzaga, the style clash is a bit more nuanced than that. Lesnar could keep the bout on the feet, where he would be dealing on far more equal terms.

Not to say that Gonzaga would be pitifully overmatched standing up. He does hold a vicious knockout over Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, but we’ve seen Gonzaga struggle when opponents get right in his face and work him over from up close. Another concern for “Napao” is his suspect conditioning, which cost him dearly against Fabricio Werdum (Pictures).

The only certainty here is that Lesnar would be in need of a mental health evaluation if he so much as thinks of going for a takedown. Expecting such maturity out of Lesnar, who still seems far too certain of his own success, may be a bit unrealistic -- but a win from the Minnesota monster certainly isn’t.

Fabricio Werdum (Pictures)
Ht: 6’4”
Wt: 231 pounds
Record: 11-3-1
Age: 31
Fights out of: Porto Alegre, Brazil (Chute Boxe)
Key win: Stopped Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) at UFC 80 in January 2008
Key loss: Lost a unanimous decision to Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) at UFC 70 in April 2007

The jiu-jitsu train continues for Lesnar. From here on out, his most significant challenges come from those of the arm-snapping and throat-crushing persuasion. To make matters worse, his road to the title would almost certainly have to go through Fabricio Werdum (Pictures).

A premier grappler and a surprisingly effective striker to boot, Werdum is a nightmare on the mat for most anyone and can take his licks on the feet while returning fire of his own. However, Werdum’s ineffective wrestling has always been an issue, and that is a Chris Farley-sized liability against Lesnar.

It would be quite a stretch to think that Werdum could effectively out-strike Lesnar considering the Brazilian’s lack of power and the fact that Lesnar seems to score a knockdown with every punch he throws.

Again, this bout is in Lesnar’s hands. If his ego gets the better of him -- not at all uncommon amongst newcomers -- Werdum will be all too willing to take advantage and grab hold of whatever limb Lesnar dangles for him.

Frank Mir (Pictures)
Ht: 6’1”
Wt: 240 pounds
Record: 11-3-0
Age: 29
Fights out of: Las Vegas
Key win: Submitted Brock Lesnar (Pictures) at UFC 81 in February 2008
Key loss: Was stopped by Brandon Vera (Pictures) at UFC 65 in November 2006

Given the box-office potential that fistic sequels carry, odds are we’ll see Lesnar get a chance to avenge the loss Mir handed to him in his UFC debut.

While the knee-jerk reaction is to bank on Mir cranking and Lesnar tapping again, it seems as though Lesnar has come into his own in all of six months. Gone is the reckless fighter who botched an elementary kneebar defense, replaced with a disciplined but still dynamic wrestler who knows how to pick his spots.

This was a dicey matchup for Mir the first time around, and it looks as though he may have gotten to Lesnar at the perfect time. The fighter who dismantled Heath Herring (Pictures) on Saturday at UFC 87 presents a long list of issues for the one-dimensional style of Mir.

Considering that during their first go-round Lesnar had Mir in more trouble than John Edwards is in right now, it would be hard to imagine Mir doing anything more than serving as a stepping-stone for the altogether unexpected ascent of Lesnar.

UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira (Pictures)
Ht: 6’1”
Wt: 240 pounds
Record: 31-4-1
Age: 32
Fights out of: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Let’s assume Lesnar overcomes the steep learning curve of MMA, the cruel probabilities that play out at the expense of so many and the never-ending injuries that pile up and leave many a competitor broken. That still doesn’t change the fact that the current UFC heavyweight champion is all but custom-built to give him fits. Throughout his career, Nogueira has taken on larger opponents and suffered some horrendous beatings for doing so.

But for every blow he’s had to take square on the chin and every rough spot he’s had to will himself through, the Brazilian has consistently found a way to remain one of the very best heavyweights on the planet.

Against the enormous Lesnar, “Minotauro” would obviously hold a significant grappling advantage, but what separates him from the pack is his willingness to take an absolute thrashing in exchange for the precious few seconds he needs on the mat to work his magic.

When a guy thrives on overwhelming opponents like Lesnar does, perhaps the only thing that can stop him is someone who does his best work when “overwhelmed.” That’s Nogueira.
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>