Brock Lesnar: A Pre-Wrestlemania Look at His UFC Career
Brock Lesnar will meet the Undertaker later tonight at Wrestlemania, and it’s easy to fail to appreciate just what Lesnar accomplished in his four years fighting MMA. He ended his fight career with a 5-3 record, and outside of his debut, all against top names in the sport. That Lesnar came into the UFC and won the heavyweight title in his fourth professional fight is a feat we will never again see. With that in mind, let’s look back at Brock Lesnar’s UFC career.
Opponent: Min Soo Kim
Event: K-1 Dynamite!! USA
Date: June 2, 2007
Betting Odds: n/a
The Story: Lesnar was three years removed from the WWE at this point. In the interim, he had just missed out on making the Minnesota Vikings and was wrestling in Japan. He showed up at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in Vegas to announce his intention to fight MMA for K-1 Hero’s. K-1 scheduled him against Hong-man Choi, who was forced to pull out shortly before the bout. Choi would be replaced with Min Soo Kim, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist in Judo.
The Fight: Lesnar looked awkward and anxious on his feet, but took Kim down right away after the latter threw a kick. Less than a minute later, Lesnar took mount. Kim, rather than working to escape, wrapped his arms around Lesnar in an attempt to control posture. This didn’t prevent Lesnar from landing punches, and Kim ended up tapping to strikes.
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Opponent: Frank Mir
Event: UFC 81
Date: February 2, 2008
Betting Odds: -150
The Story: The story goes that Lesnar talked to Dana White about fighting in the UFC, and Dana would only bring him in if he took tough fights from the get go. Mir was the same guy he always was: a talent but flawed fighter. That Lesnar, with a single fight on his ledger and years removed from amateur wrestling competition entered as the favorite speaks volumes to either his physical freakness or Mir’s career at that point.
The Fight: Lesnar entered the arena second, which was unusual considering it was his UFC debut and Mir was a former heavyweight champion. Lesnar, just like the Kim fight, took Mir down right away after the latter through a kick. Lesnar pounced with strikes, and then Steve Mazzagatti – who refereed Lesnar’s MMA debut in Hero’s – happened. Lesnar had landed to the back of the head as Mir was turning away, and Mazzagatti, in one of the most bizarre decisions in MMA history, paused the bout and deducted a point from Lesnar.
Mir looked pretty shaken up during the break. When the action restarted, Lesnar hurt Mir standing with a poorly thrown punch, and the fight went to the floor again. Lesnar looked good here, defending a weird Mir armbar attempt from side control, maintaining posture, and being mindful of submissions.
Then he stood up.
Mir, slowly and deliberately, wrapped his legs around Lesnar’s and dragged the big man down into a kneebar. Lesnar, realizing he was trapped, slowly and deliberately tapped out. Steve Mazzagatti stared blankly, so Lesnar tapped again, and Mazzagatti finally stepped in.
Rogan called this a big win for Mir, who just beat a former pro wrestler in his second MMA bout.
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Opponent: Heath Herring
Event: UFC 87
Date: August 9, 2008
Betting Odds: -190
The Story: Lesnar, despite the loss in the Mir fight, entered the Herring fight as a near 2-1 favorite. At this point, we’d seen less than three minutes of Lesnar fighting MMA. Herring, perhaps, was a better candidate for Lesnar’s debut: a tough veteran of the fight game who hadn’t beaten a top name in years.
The Fight: Counter to his first two fights, Lesnar opens this one with a running knee that goes nowhere. However, he follows that up with a right hand that sends Herring backward somersaulting halfway across the mat. The majority of the next fifteen minutes is Lesnar calmly and confidently controlling Herring on the floor while throwing massive punches and knees. We also see Lesnar throwing effective knees from the clinch, which become part of his game going forward. Herring survives through all three rounds, but his face is a mess at the final bell.
* * *
Opponent: Randy Couture
Event: UFC 91
Date: November 15, 2008
Betting Odds: -130
The Story: After beating up Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74, Couture, the reigning heavyweight champion, “resigned” from the UFC in an attempt to break out of his contract in order to pursue a fight with Fedor Emelianenko. Couture’s legal efforts wound up going nowhere, and he signed a new three-fight deal with the UFC and was scheduled to defend his title against Lesnar.
The Fight: Couture weighed in for the fight at 220 pounds, and as Joe Rogan noted, looked some three weight classes smaller than Lesnar. He fought well, though, never looking like the small, old man in comparison to the young, massive Lesnar. At one point in the first round, Couture briefly takes down Lesnar, who grabbed Couture’s foot and flipped him over onto his back.
In the second, Lesnar lands one of his clinch knees, and Couture responds with a two punch combo, which may have caused a cut that appeared over Lesnar’s right eye. Couture’s hanging in the fight, and it’s starting to look like he may be able to take it if he can drag Lesnar into deep waters. That sentiment doesn’t last long, though, as Lesnar puts Couture with a right hand to the ear/temple area and follows up with a million Donkey Kong hammerfists.
Lesnar, in his fourth professional fight, is the UFC heavyweight champion.
* * *
Opponent: Frank Mir
Event: UFC 100
Date: July 11, 2009
Betting Odds: -200
The Story: Mir followed up the Lesnar win by taking the UFC interim heavyweight title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92, setting up the rematch at the UFC’s big centennial show. The books opened the odds as a pick ‘em, with Brock closing as a 2-1 favorite.
The Fight: Mir, perhaps taking a cue from Couture, came into this fight at a svelte 245 pounds. It wouldn’t do him any good.
Brock takes Mir down early on in the first round. The Lesnar gameplan is simple: Control Mir’s posture and take away his ability to utilize his hips. Lesnar enacts this beautifully, controlling Mir with head control and landing an intelligent (and brutal) mix of punches to the head and body. Brock controls him on the floor for the rest of the round, and Mir’s face is a mess at the bell.
In the second, Lesnar takes Mir down after a kick (is this getting familiar?), but oddly lets him stand back up. Mir lands a nice standing elbow and then hits the infamous Faber jumping knee from the clinch. And this is important, because it’s the last time we see Lesnar eating strikes without issue. The knee landed for Mir, but allowed Lesnar to take him down, and we’re back to what we saw in round one. This time, Lesnar has Mir against the fence, and starts unloading with massive right hands and Mir stops trying to defend himself.
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Opponent: Shane Carwin
Event: UFC 116
Date: July 3, 2010
Betting Odds: -139
The Story: The UFC originally scheduled for Lesnar to defend against Carwin at UFC 106. In late October 2009, Lesnar pulled out of the bout, eventually citing diverticulitis, a disorder of the intestine. Carwin would go on to defeat Frank Mir for an interim title at UFC 111, setting up a title vs. title match against a returning Lesnar in the summer.
The Fight: Lesnar took Carwin down early, but the latter counter with a whizzer that allowed him to stand right back up. Then a left uppercut from Carwin hurts Lesnar, who goes into backpedal mode immediately. He winds up on his back, and Carwin jumps on him with a barrage of punches. Lesnar defends well, keeping his head covered with his arms and responding to referee Josh Rosenthal’s commands.
Carwin is already slowing down with three minutes left in the round. With a minute left, Lesnar scrambles and gets back to his feet. The round ends with Lesnar holding a visibly tired Carwin against the fence.
Carwin’s cardio doesn’t look refreshed after the minute break, and Lesnar is able to drop levels for a very easy takedown. Carwin lays lazily in half-guard, practically handing Lesnar an arm. Lesnar takes it, hops into mount, and locks in the arm triangle before jumping to side control to finish. After a brief readjustment, Carwin taps and Lesnar remains heavyweight champion.
* * *
Opponent: Cain Velasquez
Event: UFC 121
Date: October 23, 2010
Betting Odds: -165
The Story: In retrospect, the betting odds on this one were wildly off. Velasquez was a blue-chip wrecking ball, having destroyed his competition in the UFC, including knocking out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110. Velasquez was only two fights removed from a dominating fight against Cheick Kongo, who landed a couple punches that wobbled Velasquez. It was this doubt, and Lesnar’s sheer size and athleticism, that led to Lesnar entering a favorite.
The Fight: Lesnar looked good early, aggressively taking the fight to Velasquez and putting him on the floor a couple times. Velasquez worked quickly back to his feet both times, however, and Lesnar retreated into a defensive shell, allowing Velasquez to back him down against the fence. A sneaky punch sent Lesnar twisting a turning across the cage. Velasquez worked his ground and pound, and to Lesnar’s credit, he defended nearly as well as the Carwin fight and worked his way back standing. A couple more punches put him down, however, and the ensuing followup led to the finish.
* * *
Opponent: Alistair Overeem
Event: UFC 141
Date: December 30, 2011
Betting Odds: -135
The Story: Velasquez suffered a torn rotator cuff in the Lesnar fight, putting the title on hold for a year. The UFC decided to pit Lesnar with Junior dos Santos as coaches on the Ultimate Fighter, with a bout scheduled for June. In May, Lesnar’s diverticulitis popped up again, forcing him out of the bout. He would eventually return in December against a debuting Alistair Overeem. Lesnar again, despite a second bout with diverticulitis and two straight fights where strikes put him down, found himself as the slight favorite.
The Fight: Whatever hope remained for Lesnar to return to his earlier form disappeared quickly. His footwork actually looked smoother than it ever had, but he often leaned away and allowed Overeem to walk him backward into the fence. Overeem battered Lesnar in the clinch with knees to the midsection, and a kick to the liver had Lesnar doing the Punch-Out!! body KO face. Crunched up against the fence, Lesnar took a bunch of shots to the arm from Overeem, who saw an opening to the body and landed there, forcing Mario Yamasaki to step in.
All odds courtesy of Best Fight Odds.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.