The Ultimate Fighting Championship's president got an exemplary performance from his highly marketable heavyweight champion, an outstanding challenge from Shane Carwin as he went down with the big guns blazing, and quite a tasty appetizer via Chris Leben's third-round submission of Yoshihiro Akiyama.
In truth, the entire televised portion of UFC 116 was incredible:
—Gerald Harris shut the lights on Dave Branch with a power bomb worthy of Quinton Jackson. If this weren't a preliminary card pairing, it'd be an automatic Knockout of the Night (as is it will still probably win).
—Ricardo Romero spent most of his bout on the brink of consciousness before submitting Seth Petruzzelli in the second, possibly breaking "The Silverback's" arm in the process.
—Carwin's teammate, Brendan Schaub, salvaged a bit of Colorado's night when he obliterated Lesnar's training partner and friend, Chris Tuchscherer.
—A desperate Stephan Bonnar absorbed his customary beating, but manged to put Krzysztof Soszynski away and used a beautiful knee to the grill to begin the end.
—Perhaps the UFC's most underrated commodity, Chris Lytle, displayed his impressive ground game as he stopped the rugged Matt Brown with a slick armbar.
Of course, all of that brilliance will be an irritating little aside because of the big man from South Dakota.
And rightly so.
When the fur was really flying, Joe Rogan reported that Carwin's wife was sitting behind the UFC broadcasters and couldn't bear to watch, which is understandable. But I tell you she was the only one on the mixed martial arts planet who wasn't.
What an eyeful we got.
In seven minutes and 19 seconds, Brock Lesnar answered just about every single question there was fluttering around the blogosphere and watercoolers (or whatever the modern equivalent is).
It goes without saying that he answered them resoundingly in the affirmative.
Could the champ shake off what should've been a thick layer of ring rust? I guess so.
Does he have a good enough chin to take those big shots he likes dishing out? Yep.
Does the former make-believe wrestler have the intestinal fortitude (c'mon, laughter heals all wounds) to find his way off Queer Street in the face of a legitimately dangerous opponent? Definitely.
Is he adapting his fight game and developing its other areas? Looks that way.
Most importantly, have the illness and subsequent recovery changed Lesnar for the better? Absolutely.
There is but a single query that must be answered in the negative—he simply could not have picked a better intro song.
As good? Sure, but not better.
Let's start with the physical exhibition Brock put on Saturday night.
We already knew about the power, speed, and quickness; the only issue was if the layoff would dull any of those sharp edges. At first, it looked like a significant problem, but—once Lesnar weathered the early storm—he didn't look too worse for the wear.
As far as the in-Octagon developments are concerned, that might be the most ominous for future adversaries. It's no exaggeration to say the 32-year-old received a severe thrashing in the first round.
Even if you don't totally buy Shane Carwin's bona fides, only a fool or braggart would deny his nuclear hands. Seven knockouts in 12 wins means the brute has tremendous power, no matter the victims (within reason).
Consequently, Lesnar's ability to eat some of the Colorado native's biggest salvos and survive (with a sizable assist to referee Josh Rosenthal) has to make Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos a shade queasy.
Both were cage-side. Velasquez didn't look thrilled while the dust was settling, but the cameras didn't show a glimpse of "Cigano" that I caught.
Again, that's understandable.
Not only did the newly undisputed king demonstrate the physical and mental ability to recover his composure, he flashed an advancing skill set to top the night off.
Once the eventual victor secured the familiar takedown in the second round, he made Rogan look prophetic when he shot like lightning from "The Engineer's" half-guard to full mount and then into position to cinch in the decisive arm-triangle choke.
If ever you'll see a 265-pound pile of humanity move like a 170-pound welterweight, that was it.
In addition, that nifty little bit of grappling evidenced the further evolution of a very talented specimen.
Clearly, Lesnar has been putting in the time to improve the weaker aspects of his game, and the effort appears to be paying dividends.
Granted, the interim champion Carwin was utterly gassed at that moment, but you can pick apart any achievement if you work at it.
Fact is, you can no longer accuse the No. 1 heavyweight in the world of being purely a wrestler who relies on ground 'n' pound to turn his opponents into pulped and broken men.
Regardless of where they stand, the UFC's prized pony is adding toys to his arsenal.
However, the most refreshing moment for sports fans who've grown tired of the egotistical arrogance and boorish behavior that plagues many of our professional league came once Lesnar got the microphone.
I'd heard his travails with diverticulitis had fundamentally altered the mountain of a man. Something about the scowl being replaced with a determined clarity and, to be honest, I didn't really see hints of that in the run-up to the clash.
Well, it was clear as day once the former heel addressed the crowd. After thanking his family, team, and God, the suddenly gracious warrior dropped this gem.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you a humble champion."
Then he paused, a mischievous smile crept across his face, and Brock Lesnar proved he still knew a promotional opportunity when he saw one.
"And I'm still the toughest s.o.b. around, baby."
After UFC 116, I'd have to agree with him.
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