Brock Lesnar is not the best kick boxer in the UFC HW division, nor is he the best submissions grappler, in terms of wrestling, he gets his man to the ground and has excellent credentials, but I've never seen him pull off technical throws or trips, the likes of which we see out of Jon Jones at LHW, or the crisp, clean swooping double leg of a GSP. Yet despite relative inexperience and an assumed lack of skill and technicality in several areas of the fight game, he is the one with the championship belt around his waist. Brock is at the top of the HW pile right now because, to put it simply, he was born to be. He has a natural athletic talent, the likes of which cannot be taught or acquired and is rarely seen in the arena of mixed martial arts.
What Brock Lesnar has achieved is as much to do with hard work as it is good genetics. For a man of his size, he is obscenely quick, unstoppably explosive and just down right ferocious when he fights. Speed, strength and explosiveness are certainly things that can be worked on, but to really excel at them and reach the levels of athleticism that he has, you really just need to be born with that stuff already in place.
Scary enough as it is that Brock has reached the heights that he has after only 5 fights, scarier still, is that he isn't the only one of his kind, I believe Brock will be the first of many. Traditionally, the most gifted athletes in the world, end up in professional sports where they can make good money, for example, pro football, basketball etc. However as MMA grows in popularity and PPV numbers gradually increase, the amount of money up for grabs will also grow. Thus enticing athletes that would otherwise have gone down a different career path.
This migration of "super athletes" has already begun and I don't expect it to stop. George St. Pierre is another great example, physically, in terms of all round strength, speed and explosiveness, he is more or less un matched at WW. He uses these attributes to totally dominate opponents and combined with a very high level skill and knowledge base, he has proved pretty much unstoppable. Another fighter to watch is Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis. Physically, the guy is just a beast. Athletes like these have physical attributes that give them a real head start in a combative sport like MMA and when they start to excel with the more technical side of things (see GSP), there really is no stopping them.
So where does that leave the traditional martial arts notion that skill will over come size and strength? Well I would agree, (and have seen with my own eyes) that Mr. skill will over come Mr. size and strength, IF size and strength is all you're talking about, but when you throw in Mr. athleticism, you have a different story. For instance, Hong Man Choi, Bob Sapp etc, those guys are really huge and really strong. But, they're not what I would call athletic, they move awkwardly, and do not have the same aptitude for physicality that someone like GSP does. Bob Sapp for instance used to get tired very easily, which would lead me to believe that his body is just not designed to carry that much muscle, but I know that I've never seen Brock look tired, and he sets a pace far beyond that which Sapp ever did. What I'm saying is that being athletic is different from being big and strong, they're not mutually exclusive, but it's a mistake to confuse the two. So does athleticism cancel out skill? to an extent, yes I believe it does, if somebody is just that much faster, stronger, more agile and responsive than you are, it doesn't matter how many black belts you have, even if they only possess half of the skill that you do, they may well just run straight through you.
Call me crazy, but I think the super athletes are coming to MMA, it will be a lengthy process but I believe that one day, when the money is there, MMA will be widely populated by Brocks, GSPs and young Herschel Walkers. It will permanently change the face of the sport and the way that people look at it.
Thanks for reading