True Lies: Protecting Brock Lesnar's Image Undersells UFC 141, Overeem Bout


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Perhaps Brock Lesnar is not the dominating force that we once believed.

As the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) has proved time and time again, no matter how imposing and unbeatable a fighter looks, a few seconds can change everything. For the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the damaging loss Lesnar suffered to Cain Velasquez hurt the image of their most marketable athlete at the worst possible time.

Now that the UFC is part of the Fox network, more and more causal viewers — many of whom are not educated MMA fans — will be watching each bout with curious interest. Each early fight will be a crucial test in how to hook and convert TV viewers to the UFC's brand and programming. In the case of Brock Lesnar's upcoming title eliminator with former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem, each fighter is being cast in the best light possible.

In Joe Rogan's rambling assessment of both fighters during the first UFC 141 video preview, you probably won't hear much about Lesnar's gun-shy reaction to volleys of accurate punches. Moreover, you likely won't hear about a single thing that references he actually lost to Velasquez, much less the events of his disastrous first round against Shane Carwin (but you'll definitely hear about the former champion's fight-finishing arm triangle at every turn).

Sure, it's understandable that the UFC doesn't want their biggest draw to look weak, but dancing around the fact that Lesnar's really a mere mortal has an equally bad effect — it turns out dry, generic pre-fight hype.

Instead of canned sound bites rehashing each fighter saying how much tougher they are than their opponent, the UFC is missing out on the opportunity to sell a much more interesting angle: Can Lesnar overcome ring rust, a battered body, and his biggest weakness in Overeem's stand-up?

Although Rogan touches on the fact that Overeem's stand-up makes a great style clash against Lesnar's wrestling, that's literally as far as the conversation goes. Heck, the video package for the preview even goes as far as reusing highlight footage of Lesnar rolling Heath Herring at UFC 87. Even though it's understandable that the casual fan probably has to be sold on a literal "monster mash" of a fight, it honestly wouldn't be a bad idea to throw in something a little deeper for the hardcores.

In fact, acknowledging Lesnar's weaknesses makes for a refreshing, alternate look at the fight, which is why a quick quote from Randy Couture says much, much more than five minutes of video reel:

If Brock closes the distance and gets his hands on Overeem, you're going to see Overeem on the bottom a lot. That's not a great place to be. If Brock's timid and allows Overeem to establish his range and throws those big knees, we've established that Brock hasn't made friends with being hit in the face yet. It's not flipping his trigger and letting him know the fight's on. Either way, it's a great fight and an exciting match-up, no doubt.

Brock Lesnar is teetering on the edge of a two-fight losing streak, he's coming off a second life-altering surgery in just two years' time, and to make things even worse, he's facing an opponent whose best asset is his greatest weakness. For a hardcore fight fan, that's a much more interesting narrative than each fighter weighing over 260 pounds. Brock Lesnar isn't invincible, and the UFC needs to stop protecting his image so desperately — the story of his daunting, seemingly impossible mountain of a challenge in Alistair Overeem is much more compelling than plain, lazy hype.

[McKinley Noble is a former staff editor at GamePro and an MMA conspiracy theorist. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]

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