Brock Lesnar is, as of right now, the most dominant heavyweight in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The combination of size, speed and athleticism is a rarity the likes of which are not seen much at all in professional sports.
With the recent announcement of Lesnar’s return to the octagon from a long battle with diverticulitis, the question is brought up about who the heavyweight champion will defend his title against, come summer.
Four fighters currently sit atop the rankings and each makes suitable arguments as to why they should be the next in line to take on the former WWE Superstar. Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez all stand as candidates to run for heavyweight gold.
Fans have varying opinions when it comes to who they feel should have the number one contender spot for the title but things will be hashed out within the organization in the coming months.
With Nogueira and Velasquez set to tangle at UFC 110 on Feb. 20 while Mir and Carwin are scheduled to fight on Mar. 27, the argument will shrink to two and the contender will be decided by match makers at that point.
Given the four potential matchups for Lesnar, there are a number of ways each fight can end. Each contender has his own special set of skills and they will need to utilize them if they are to have any shot of defeating current king of the sport’s heaviest division.
Lesnar vs. Carwin:
Lesnar vs. Carwin:
Leading up to their scheduled then cancelled fight at UFC 106, Shane Carwin was being held as the fighter for the people and given the nickname of “Lesnar Killer.”
Many had hoped that Carwin would be the one to end what many thought as Lesnar’s tyrannous rain as champion. At 6-foot-3 and 265-pounds, Carwin has a similar stature to Lesnar which makes for an interesting matchup, dynamically.
Never having faced an opponent with the same frame as him, Lesnar would find trouble attempting to physically dominate Carwin as he has done with other opponents.
If Carwin is to beat Lesnar, it would not be through his background in wrestling as they would negate each other. The two heavyweights are so close in stature and technique that a victory for Carwin would have to come through the heavy right hand he introduced to Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 96.
Let’s not take anything away from Lesnar’s power, though. The champion’s right hand is just as big and dangerous so, with the right timing and velocity, Lesnar could be the first to notch a digit in Shane Carwin’s loss column.
So, with both hands being as strong as they are, whose lands first? The answer could be debated to no end but in all honesty, it’s difficult to gauge which of the two would find their opponent’s chin quicker. Given Brock’s ungodly speed, it might be safe to say he would end up hitting first, however, Lesnar’s chin is yet to be tested and if Carwin’s punch lands it could put the champion down in an unfamiliar position…sleeping in the octagon.
Lesnar vs. Velasquez:
Lesnar vs. Velasquez:
Probably the longest shot of the group, Cain Velasquez stands as the ugly duckling of contenders vying for the title.
Regardless of being a long shot, Velasquez is undefeated in the UFC (5-0) with all but one of his wins coming by way of TKO. He, like Carwin, has some heavy hands that are capable of putting some of the biggest fighters down and out. The problem that Velasquez faces is being severely undersized compared to the champion at a ballpark 245 pounds.
Giving up 20 pounds of weight is never a good idea going into a fight, especially if that fight is with a man who’s physical specimen rivals that of a small rhinoceros.
Of course, having a size disadvantage gives a fighter other attributes that could help him in the long run.
Being smaller than Lesnar opens up the opportunity for Velasquez to stick and move against his opponent. His boxing will have to be his most precious asset if Velasquez is to have any chance of winning his title bid.
More than just punching, but the fluid motion of a boxer will prevent Lesnar from landing any haymakers. If Velasquez could keep the fight standing long enough, Lesnar may punch himself tired, opening up a shot for Velasquez to KO the champ.
This is all pending Lesnar is unable to take down Velasquez for the duration of the fight.
If Velasquez is put on his back with the massive champion on top of him, the fight is likely to end quickly with Lesnar stifling Velasquez using a brutal ground and pound assault. If this happens, Velasquez’s face might look a lot like Frank Mir’s did after UFC 100.
Lesnar vs. Nogueira:
Lesnar vs. Nogueira:
Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira is used to being the underdog since he has played the role for a majority of his career.
In most of his fights, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard is thoroughly handled on the feet despite having trained with the likes of the Cuban boxing team. Needless to say, he has held his own on the feet to do what he needs to do to win a fight.
Being matched with Lesnar is, believe it or not, in favor of Nogueira.
The most useful part of Nogueira’s repertoire is his undeniable ability to catch fighters slipping and capitalizing on those mistakes. Lesnar’s relative inexperience would be his achilles heel in this potential bout and Nogueira would be looking for every opportunity to take advantage of it.
Take Tim Sylvia, for example. Once the top heavyweight in the organization, he out pointed Nogueira for almost three rounds before being swept into guard, leaving his massive neck out to dry which led into the guillotine choke that ended the fight.
Much like Velasquez, Nogueira is undersized against the champion but if put onto his back it will serve him much better because it is where he is more comfortable. As much as Lesnar would look to pound the Brazilian on the ground, any floating limb would be a feast for Nogueira to attack and dine on for the submission win.
Nogueira does not have to physically dominate a fight in order to win it. As a matter of fact, it’s his opponents that look to overwhelm, only to get caught in a compromising position.
Given Nogueira is over his staph infection and his senses are up to par again, the Brazilian could keep his composure in a Lesnar ground and pound and pull off the submission upset. If he is unable to find a limb to grab for the submission, his gamble of fighting from his back would lead to him losing the fight by decision.
Lesnar vs. Mir:
Lesnar vs. Mir:
Can we say rubber match?
A third fight with Mir is arguably the most popular of the potential title fights for Lesnar. The heated rivalry has brewed ever since the champion’s UFC debut back at UFC 81 and was renewed during a teleconference when Lesnar made it clear he would love another shot at Frank Mir “The Stalker.”
As much as Lesnar wants Mir, the feeling is likely the same on the other side of the spectrum.
In his last fight with Chieck Kongo at UFC 107, Mir made a giant statement when he threw an over-hand that left that put Kongo on the canvas. The right hand came behind 10-15 added pounds of muscle, increasing Mir’s overall mass to 264 pounds.
The speculation is that Mir took on the extra weight to contend with his nemesis, Lesnar, and level the playing field.
Frank Mir has a distinct advantage over all the contenders to the title in his stand up being much better than all of them. In his two previous fights with Lesnar, Mir was taken to the ground at will by the champion. The added size might prevent Lesnar from taking down Mir so easily and force the former WWE Superstar to prove he can trade shots with his opponent.
A stand up feud is probably in Mir’s better interests since losing on the ground the last time he and the champion fought at UFC 100.
Look to have Mir attempt to find control on the feet and out-strike Lesnar. If the fight goes to the ground, Mir will look to put Lesnar on his back, where wrestlers are uncomfortable, and potentially pull of a submission or win by ground and pound.
So, with all the potential matchups for Lesnar, each of them have their own unique ways of ending. MMA fans anticipate knowing who the champion faces after UFC 110 and UFC 111 are all said and done.
For now, the soap opera that is the UFC heavyweight division continues to become a more tangled web while a polarizing figure sits atop leading the way to mainstream exposure for the sport.