On July 11, 2009, Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir faced off to determine who is the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion. It would be the second time that these two would meet and the stakes were now a lot higher.
Lesnar came into that fight with the agenda of avenging his only MMA loss. The second time around Lesnar had improved his skill level dramatically to defeat Mir in what some would consider a vicious beating.
In what should have been a great night for Brock and the UFC, since it was the organizations 100th event, there should have been smiles all around.
However, that was not the case. Brock proceeded to talk smack to Mir even after the bout was over, practically needing to be restrained by security.
What made matters worse was that he then resorted to his old WWE tactics by flipping off the crowd and insulting one of the UFC's primary sponsors.
These actions drew major scrutiny from fans and fellow fighters, labeling Brock as more of a circus attraction than an MMA fighter.
So one year later, what has changed?
Why should you as a fan now care that Brock is back and managed to make some serious noise with his victory last night?
Let's see why.
Lesnar is a man with many gifts.
Physically speaking, he's probably the most gifted athlete in MMA besides GSP. In some cases, I would rank him slightly above Mr. St-Pierre simply because of the way that this man can move while being so large and so strong.
The thing that you must remember is that this was this physical specimen was not created overnight.
Brock works very hard to get in shape for his fights. He's so focused on training that he has his own training facility near his home in Minnesota.
This place is cut off from all the modern day trappings which allows Lesnar's training staff to simply train him in order to make him a better fighter.
Last night was a who's who of former WWE Superstars out to support their pro wrestling brother.
From The Rock to Stone Cold Steve Austin, it was a great treat to see these guys cheer on Brock as their friend and not a character.
It showed that he's actually a likeable guy and respected amongst his peers.
Lesnar has answered the question that we all have had since he started in MMA; how good is his chin?
His battle with Shane Carwin would be the first true test to see if he could stand and bang with a guy who was nearly as physically gifted, and had legitimate striking abilities.
Well folks, he weathered the storm during round one, maintained his composure, and was able to actually win the match with a submission! By the end of the match he looked like he'd been in a war.
I was really impressed with his durability during the fight.
The fact that Brock was able to secure a victory via an arm triangle choke was pretty impressive. Currently he's a BJJ Purple Belt, and is constantly improving in all areas of his game.
With only six MMA fights under his belt, he attained the crown jewel in MMA: the title of Champion.
In each of his fights, he keeps surprising us and we love it.
What a difference a year makes.
Last July Lesnar insulted sponsors, showed no grace in victory, and basically insulted MMA fans.
Last night showed a changed man. He was a humble, respectful, and confident champion.
He shifted the focus from him to those that helped get him back on the road to recovery after becoming incredibly ill towards the end of 2009.
I think that nearly dying changed him and made him see that it pays to be humble, which for many MMA fans might change the way they view the former WWE superstar.