There's little doubt that Brock Lesnar was rushed into a heavyweight championship match against Randy Couture.
Before taking the match against Couture, Lesnar had undergone only three MMA fights. His MMA debut was part of Dynamite!! USA where Lesnar would take on the 2-5-0 Kim Min-Soo. The fight lasted just over a minute, and Lesnar completely dominated him.
Dana White liked what he saw, which was that Lesnar more than just another competitive heavyweight. But White apparently saw something more. He saw someone that could pose a significant problem for any heavyweight if Lesnar succeeded in growing his skill, and he also saw a major investment.
Although many people were upset that White had given the go ahead to pit Lesnar against Couture after a mere three fights under his belt and having lost one of those to Frank Mir, Lesnar has grown to gain credibility among many MMA fans after his skillful wrestling expertise against Mir at Herring at UFC 87, Couture at UFC 91, and Mir at UFC 100.
After surviving a life-threatening illness, Lesnar also gained street cred by taking a beating from Shane Carwin that no other opponent had been able to handle.
Not only did he take the beating, but he brought the fight back to the standing position and exposed Carwin's cardiovascular weakness, thus taking the fight to the ground and beating him by submission.
After looking at Lesnar's career, 5-1-0 may not look impressive on paper. However, if you look at the adversity he has faced and consider the quality of his fights, it is evident that he has immense talent.
Still, many people persist in claiming Lesnar to be lucky. "Without his size, his skill would preclude him from ever being UFC caliber." However, there are a couple of flaws with this argument, both of which I want to address.
For one, martial arts is supposed to emphasize technique and skill over size and sheer power. In this case, there are two ways to look at Mir's UFC 100 loss. One possibility is that Mir's ground skills were not as good as Lesnar's, which is doubtful. The other possibility is that Mir's Jiu Jitsu was not enough to submit the big guy like he had in their first encounter since Lesnar's size was too great.
No matter how you look at it, Lesnar was the better fighter that night, and he was nearly the better fighter during their first meeting as Mir was beat up until submitting Lesnar more out of Lesnar's lack of Jiu Jitsu skill than Mir's expertise.
As Mir had stated, that swivel-to-knee bar was basic Jiu Jitsu, and had Lesnar been somewhat experienced with it and not arrogant, he could have easily avoided it by not allowing a world class grappler get a hold of one of his limbs.
Fans claim that Mir's Jiu Jitsu was not sufficient enough to defeat Lesnar at UFC 100 because Lesnar was too big, but that begs the claim that expertise martial arts, and in particular Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, is not useful in some cases. Being that people will likely deny that claim, as a result they must agree that Lesnar's wrestling skill set was definitely a factor in the second fight with Mir.
The second critique of the "Lesnar is only successful because of his size" argument lies in the quality of fighters he has faced. People often compare skill sets in a perfect vacuum. The fact of the matter, though, is that even in outer space, perfect vacuums don't exist.
Thus, to compare one fighter's skill set to another without taking their physicality into effect is misleading. The same goes with MMA mathematics and predicting how well one fighter would do against another fighter based on their paper statistics.
Lesnar's record is not massive, nor is it perfect. Lesnar has reached 83 percent success in his MMA career, but again, that's on paper. Had Lesnar faced six tomato cans, his record would be 100 percent, but would his actual skill set or MMA capability be different? No.
Again, to put a fighter's record in a perfect vacuum and assume that it completely determines how capable an MMA fighter is without comparing the quality of those fights is flawed reasoning.
For instance, Randy Couture is not the same fighter as your average guy you'd find on the street. He has proven to hold a skill set to defeat powerful strikers and other skilled wrestlers and grapplers. In turn, Couture's opponents' skills were developed from demonstrating positive ground capability, like Couture.
What does that mean? Positive ground capability is how successful you are at an attempt of ground control or submission in relation to how diversified your skill set is (such as being able to control someone in the mount, side control, passing guard, et cetera).
Negative ground capability would be similar to Keith Hackney vs. Joe Son. Hackney officially submitted Son, but he didn't even know what he was doing or how to choke properly. Plus Son tapped out because he didn't have any heart to continue after even minute breathing obstruction.
Should Hackney be viewed as a submission specialist from such a display? Absolutely not.
To sum it up, Lesnar has a distinct skill set, and combined with his size, power, coordination, conditioning, and drive, he qualifies as a tough, dangerous fighter that will likely prove to be champ for a long while.
To say Lesnar has been lucky and achieved such greatness due to size alone is to ignore the effectiveness of his skill as well as martial arts on the whole. And to say it's too soon to gauge whether or not he is a quality fighter is to ignore his accomplishments of beating world class grapplers and wrestlers.
This is not to say Lesnar is perfect. He is far from being an expert striker as Carwin showed.
But considering the fighters Lesnar has defeated, how quickly he learns from his mistakes, and how effectively he has expertly controlled some of the UFC's most skillful and dangerous fighters, to say Lesnar merely has a size advantage is ignorant.