With a career MMA record of 5-3 including an impressive 3-1 record in UFC title fights, many are now wondering where Lesnar's three year run ranks. For me, the answer is a complicated one but one that will put Lesnar just a step below the truly great and UFC Hall of Fame-level fighters.
Despite just eight pro MMA fights, Lesnar captured the attention of not only the UFC fanbase but also the mainstream public viewers. His huge size and brash personality made him a very polarizing figure who caused fans to take their feelings for his record to the extremes.
However, to properly examine where Brock ranks you need to look at his career in terms of longevity, rivalries, interaction with fans and, most importantly, how he preformed in big fights.
Judging Lesnar's longevity is a bit shaded because he entered the sport at the age of 30 years old after a long stint in professional wrestling under the WWE banner. In his first calendar year, 2008, he competed three times, going 2-1, with his last a victory over Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight belt.
However, after heading UFC 100 he would twice have a break of nearly a year, with both delays coming because of his battle with diverticulitis. When looking at his UFC career as a whole, his eight fights in three years is a decent pace for a heavyweight and not something that can be held against when ranking Lesnar.
For a fighter to be a considered a legend he needs to be able to build a rivalry against another high-level fighter. With Lesnar, his chief rival throughout his short career has been former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir, the man he made his explosive but short UFC debut against. In that first fight Lesnar used his brute strength to control Mir before a questionable stand-up started a sequence of events that led to Mir catching the novice MMA fighter Lesnar in a knee-bar.
From there both fighters went on to elevate their profiles, with Lesnar dominating MMA veteran Heath Herring into "retirement" and then defeating UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, while Mir coached on The Ultimate Fighter before winning the UFC interim title against Antonio "Big Nog" Nogeuira.
That set up their rematch in the main event of the biggest UFC to date, UFC 100, in which Lesnar crushed the undersized Mir and settled the rivalry once and for all in many eyes. Since then Mir has sought a rematch, including saying he was ready if Lesnar's last opponent Overeem failed to be licensed.
That said, in my opinion there is no way Mir, even with his increased mass, could handle Lesnar's pure size, power and strength meaning that this rivalry is over and done with. So the question has to be asked: Does it qualify as a rivalry? Yes, because of the anticipation, the emotions and the entertaining value of their fights this definitely qualifies a quality rivalry.
To be a truly high-ranking legend of the sport you need to earn the respect of the fans, and that is something that Lesnar has not done in some eyes. He has always been a mysterious figure, one that prefers seclusion to interaction. For many fans that has been a huge turnoff to his career and made them root against the former champion. Sadly, his career interaction with the fans is something that will stand as a black mark on his record.
Finally and most importantly, Lesnar's career record in big fights needs to be closely examined to truly find his ranking. Every single one of Lesnar's fights can be categorized as a huge fight because every single one was billed as either the main event or the co-main event of a UFC pay-per-view.
However, when you limit it to just his title fights, you can be truly impressed by his 3-1 record, even if his wins were due to his size and pure force rather than skill and technique.
After defeating UFC legend Randy Couture to win the title and dominating rival Mir in his first title defense, he faced a man just as huge and powerful in Shane Carwin. Their fight at UFC 116 is one for the best in heavyweight history, with Carwin battering Lesnar in round one before the champion came back and showed his true resolve by submitting Carwin to retain his title. Three months later, Lesnar would lose the title to former UFC Champion Cain Velasquez, but his status as a true champion was cemented before this loss.
Overall, Brock Lesnar will always be looked as a true champion who used his brute size and strength to dominate smaller opponents, much like in his collegiate wrestling days. But because of his cold shoulder to the fans and his limited time in the Octagon, fans will always wonder what could have been and rank him as a great fighter, not an all-time great.
With Lesnar there will always be fans who disagree, no matter what you say, and he will always be known as the most polarizing fighter in UFC history.
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