In the end, perhaps the greatest trick Brock Lesnar ever pulled was convincing the MMA world he was in it for the long haul.
Leading up to what turned out to be his last fight – against Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 last weekend – Lesnar’s typically disgruntled rhetorical strategy essentially proceeded along two lines. One, that he didn’t understand why fans and analysts continued to question his desire. Two, that he didn’t understand why people kept saying he couldn’t take a punch.
Following his first round TKO loss to Overeem and subsequent retirement, the rest of us now understand perfectly, even if Lesnar still does not. Now that he’s gone – for good, he says – the massive former WWE star’s brief career at least answered those questions. After ruling the UFC heavyweight division for what will likely be remembered as a brief, but important time however, Lesnar’s MMA experiment leaves us with far more “what ifs” than tangible conclusions.
What if Lesnar had jumped into the world or legitimate fighting promptly upon winning the NCAA Division I national wrestling championship at the University of Minnesota in 2000? What if his MMA career had been allowed to have a more traditional arc, whereby he spent a few years honing his skills on the independent circuit before diving into the UFC? What if he hadn't been stricken by two sudden bouts with diverticulitis which, perhaps more than anything, hastened his retirement from the sport at age 34?
All tantalizing riddles – each of them ultimately unanswerable — from a guy who accomplished so much during his improbable rise to the top of the 265-pound division, only to ultimately prove incapable of competing with the best in the world.
Never were the shortcomings that first led us all to question his future and his chin more on display than during Lesnar’s two minute, 26 second loss to Overeem. During that truncated final appearance, he caught Overeem with a single punch that cut the former Strikeforce champion above the eye and tried for just one feeble single leg attempt before totally unraveling.
Many of us (including this writer) had picked Lesnar to win despite his underdog status, but the outcome turned out to be one of those that seemed obvious after the fact. Of course Lesnar couldn’t get Overeem to the mat. Of course once he lost confidence in his wrestling he crumbled under the pressure, eventually succumbing to a knee and then a kick to the body from his far more experienced opponent.
So now that it’s done, was Lesnar’s MMA career a failure, as his detractors (and there are many) have suggested in recent days? Was he nothing more than a flash in the pan? Was he all attitude and little substance?
Yes and no. To short-change him as nothing more than a sideshow attraction would be unfair and inaccurate. Point of fact, Lesnar is a great athlete and, regardless of his dislike of getting punched in the face, a tough guy.
It’s just that the “what ifs” eventually caught up to him. When it was all said and done the answers to those two original questions – his desire and ability to take a punch – were laid bare by guys who plan to make a life out of this MMA stuff. Now Lesnar will have to make a life elsewhere.
Photo Credit: Sherdog.com/