Brock Lesnar: UFC’s Polarizing Star
Declaring himself fully recovered from the surgery he underwent to deal with his second bout of diverticulitis, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar makes his return to the octagon tonight to battle former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In his short time with the UFC (and with all respect to Tito Ortiz), Lesnar has quickly become the most polarizing star in the history of mixed martial arts. Despite the fact that Lesnar was a NCCA heavyweight champion wrestler in college, a great deal of hardcore fans initially questioned his legitimacy due to his tenure with Vince McMahon’s WWE. His detractors believe he never paid his dues and that he got pushed to the top of the heavyweight division much too quickly, scoring a title shot in just his third fight with the company. And then of course there was his infamous post-match celebration at UFC 100, where after destroying his nemesis Frank Mir he went into full WWE “heel” mode by flipping off the crowd, running down the PPV’s primary sponsor, and proclaiming that he might “get on top off his wife after the show” (with his wife being “Sable” of WWE fame, can’t really fault him for this one).
It’s hard to say whether Brock’s meteoric rise is a result of his superior wrestling ability, the fact that he has simply been bigger and stronger than a majority of his opponents, or possibly a combination of the two. He moves exceptionally fast for a man with his freakish size and strength, and at this point in his career has been able to take down everyone he has been in the octagon with. Lesnar’s standup game is a little shaky, but it is amazing that he has been able to compete at such a high level against those who in some cases have had 10+ years of MMA experience on him. His success hasn’t come without setbacks, as in addition to the health problems he has endured he lost his title belt in decisive fashion to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121.
Love him or hate him, one thing can’t be disputed: people pay to watch Brock Lesnar fight. In just six fights with the UFC, Lesnar’s fights have eclipsed six million pay-per-view buys and he has headlined fights that generated more buys than anyone in company history except for GSP and Chuck Liddell. His UFC 100 clash with Mir is still the highest grossing PPV in UFC history, and in 2010 Lesnar was MMA’s highest paid performer. He has that Mike Tyson quality, as there is an indescribable excitement surrounding Lesnar fights; they just seem and feel big (in 2010 Lesnar fought twice, producing an estimated 2.1M PPV buys, and joining none other than Mike Tyson in becoming the 2nd man in history to have two shows top a million buys in the same year).
Never one for the press, media, internet, or society as a whole, Lesnar appears more ornery than usual heading into his fight with Overeem. He is tired of talking about his battles with diverticulitis, and seems miffed at implications that he has a suspect chin. Tonight’s fight should have some fireworks right off the bat; Overeem is a superior striker and is just as physically imposing as Lesnar. Going back in UFC history you’d be hard pressed to find a time when two larger heavyweights went at it. Unable to stand toe to toe with Overeem, Brock’s best bet is to shoot on his opponent early and often, because if he can get this big man on the ground he might be able to pound him into submission. Either way, few suspect this one making it past a round or two, and it has the potential to end the UFC’s year on a memorable note.
Personally I hope Lesnar pulls out a victory, for if he loses I fear he might just go back to his remote sanctuary in Minnesota and disappear from the public eye for good. Every sport needs a few men to wear the black hat, and although the Diaz brothers do their best no one in the UFC wears it quite as well as Lesnar.Follow us on Twitter:@PACsSports