Brock Lesnar made his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut under more fanfare – and scrutiny -- than any other mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter had or has since received.
While Mirko Filipovic and Quinton Jackson’s first dance inside the Octagon at UFC 67 was definitely part of the marketing for that event, it seemed like UFC 81’s hype machine centered entirely around the former WWE champion and the "Can He Fight?" tagline.
That question was answered in the first minute of his tilt with Frank Mir as the behemoth took his opponent down and hammered down a gaggle of giant forearms. An inadvertent shot to the back of Mir’s head caused a temporary stoppage and seconds after the restart, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist latched onto one of Lesnar’s ankles and forced a tap from a kneebar.
Lesnar lost the fight, but looked pretty good in the process. He would go on to dominate Heath Herring in his next fight before capturing the heavyweight strap by knocking out Randy Couture. A return bout with Mir -- the division's interim title holder at the time -- at the company's centennial event shook in Lesnar's favor.
A major intestinal illness would derail Lesnar about one year later, but now he's healthy and eager to assume his position atop the divisional hill.
Standing in Lesnar's way is another mountain of a man, Alistair Overeem, at UFC 141 this Friday night (Dec. 30, 2011) in Las Vegas, Nevada. With a win, Lesnar will get a chance to reclaim the title he lost. A fight with heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos has already been promised to the winner.
Title fights are nothing new for the beastly man -- he's already been in four in his short career. We'll take a look at what might be his most important, the rematch with Mir at UFC 100.
Are you ready?
Even though Lesnar was submitted in his Octagon debut, his performance was enough to impress even some of his staunchest doubters. Seven months later, he battered MMA veteran and former Pride FC title contender Heath Herring for 15 minutes, winning a unanimous decision. The performance even earned Lesnar one 10-8 round from each judge, likely because of a punch that not only floored "The Texas Crazy Horse," but also made him tumble and flip backward as he crashed to the mat.
It was also enough to earn the DeathClutch Gym product a title shot against returning champion Randy Couture. He met "The Natural" at UFC 91 and dropped him with a perfectly placed punch that temporarily destroyed the champ’s equilibrium. Couture crumbled to the mat and after a few hammerfists, Lesnar was the new UFC heavyweight champion.
A month later, the newly crowned champ was sitting cageside as he saw Frank Mir finish Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in similar fashion and snatch away the Brazilian’s interim heavyweight title. Mir hopped on top of the cage, motioned to Lesnar and said, "You’ve got my belt."
The giant man from Minnesota had a smile on his face and dollar signs in his eyes.
A week after Americans across the country celebrated their nation’s independence with hamburgers, beer and fireworks, UFC 100 took center stage in UFC’s hometown of Las Vegas. The card was appropriately stacked for the momentous occasion, including Georges St. Pierre defending his welterweight title against Thiago Alves. Despite "Rush" taking on who many felt was his last real test inside the Octagon and recently signing a huge mainstream deal with Gatorade, his fight was playing second fiddle to the big boys.
Lesnar and Mir’s rematch – the bout to unify both heavyweight titles and establish an undisputed champ – was closing the show.
Mir takes the center of the Octagon while Lesnar circles around. Interestingly enough, Lesnar begins throwing small leg kicks early on. Half a minute in, Mir dives in to close the distance and ends up on the business end of a huge Lesnar cross that elicits an audible response from the Sin City crowd. They clinch up and the champion is able to get Mir to the mat where the BJJ expert attempts to wrangle a leg just like he had a year prior.
Lesnar is able to keep his limbs safe and begins his ground attack. Smothering his opponent from above, short elbows bruise and bump Mir's forehead and open up small cuts along his nose. They give way to more powerful punches that begin to seep away at Mir's gas tank as well as his confidence.
Like a bigger brother picking on his younger sibling, Lesnar holds his opponent in a headlock while delivering unanswered punch after unanswered punch, first to the head, then to the body and then back to the head. At the end of five minutes, Mir's face is already a battered and bloody mess while Lesnar doesn't seem to have a scratch on him.
The second round wouldn't even last half as long as its predecessor. Less than two minutes into the stanza, Lesnar completes the job he started in the first. Mir had a brief moment in the sun, delivering two knees that would fell a normal man but Brock Lesnar simply shrugs them off. After the litany of huge punches that forced a stoppage to the fight, Lesnar went in all-out hulk mode complete with post-beatdown trash talk, rabidly foaming at a camera and flipping off the crowd.
Lesnar would go on to defend his title one more time -- against Shane Carwin -- nearly a full year to the day after his first bout with diverticulitis nearly put an end to his fledgling MMA career. At UFC 121, the champion lost his belt and suffered his second loss after being shellacked by Cain Velasquez in under a round.
He was given the opportunity to earn a rematch against the new champion when the UFC placed him and Brazilian knockout artist Junior dos Santos opposite each other on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 13. Filming began and ended and the two were poised to collide at UFC 131. But fate -- in the form of a painful digestive disorder -- once again intervened and the former heavyweight king was forced to drop out of the bout and have surgery.
Now many months removed from a video Lesnar posted where he declared he was healthy and ready to train, he'll welcome Overeem to the UFC. "The Reem" has all but been declared the champ by some, looking nearly unstoppable since moving up to heavyweight permanently. Lesnar would be coming off a 15-month layoff and a surgery that removed nearly one foot of his colon.
Has the sun set on Lesnar's time at the top? Does Overeem represent a new day and age?
Call it, Maniacs. Who will be facing "Cigano" when all is said and done?