UFC 131 Fight Card: Can Brock Lesnar Overcome Junior Dos Santos' Striking?

Elton HobsonCorrespondent IMay 9, 2011

LAS VEGAS - JULY 11:  Brock Lesnar holds down Frank Mir during their heavyweight title bout during UFC 100 on July 11, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

There's something that never sat quite right with me in the latest round of Star Wars films—and no, I'm not talking about George Lucas's complete inability to render believable human interaction on the screen. That's a dead horse anyways.

No, this is more of a storytelling problem. In Revenge of the Sith it's established pretty clearly that Count Dooku, played by Christopher Lee (and continuing the unfortunate Lucas trend of giving major bad guys names that sound like poop) is the superior jedi to Obi-Wan Kenobi, played by Ewan McGregor. This is established over multiple confrontations and is even mentioned in a line of dialogue.

So when Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker defeats Count Dooku and rather easily at that, it would seem to establish a pretty clear hierarchy: Anakin Skywalker>Count Dooku>Obi-Wan Kenobi. That seems pretty obvious, no?

So when Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker fight in the films climactic final battle, logic tells us that Skywalker should defeat Kenobi handily. Instead, spoiler alert, he is handed a crushing defeat.

What is the point of this nerdy diversion?

Just to say that styles make fights, folks—even in a galaxy far, far away.

When Brock Lesnar faces off against Junior Dos Santos at UFC 131 on June 11 in Vancouver, there won't be any mystery what the stylistic question is heading into the fight.

Can Brock Lesnar overcome Junior Dos Santos' striking?

Of all that Lesnar has lost over the last year—his heavyweight crown, his love of red meat, the respect of the Canadian health care industry—none has been more damaging to Brock then the loss of his "aura" of invincibility. And a good deal of that has been due to just how poor Lesnar has looked on the feet in his last couple outings.

It started against fellow man-monster Shane Carwin, who battered Lesnar to within an inch of his life in their UFC 116 tilt. Sure, Lesnar came back to win it eventually, but he sure looked shaky on the feet against Carwin that first round.

Of course, Shane Carwin is the hardest hitting fighter at heavyweight, so fans largely have him a pass on that one. Against Cain Velasquez, however, the free passes came to a halt.

Once derided for his "pillow fists," Velasquez absolutely shellacked Lesnar on the feet. What made it worse was Lesnar's reaction to said shellacking.

The moment fist touched face, Brock's poise and composure went out the window. The "Baddest Man On The Planet" stumbled backwards like a drunk elephant, desperately trying to cover up before flopping down to the canvas.

It wasn't exactly his proudest moment. And since that loss, the critics have come out in full force.

"Lesnar can't take a punch!" "Lesnar's chin is a myth!" "Brock hasn't been training his striking!"

These calls more than anything have hounded him since his one-sided title loss.

And they haven't exactly been helped by the swirl of rumors regarding his less than stellar striking training while in camp.

Case in point: Lesnar brought respected kickboxer (and high-fiver, to boot) Pat Berry into camp—supposedly with express instructions not to punch Brock in anything resembling his face. Seems kinda counter-intuitive, no?

Or how about the one where Brock fired respected MMA coach Greg Nelson—who's worked with Sean Sherk, Matt Hughes, Nick Thompson and Kaitlin Young—all because Nelson broke the vaunted "cone of silence" surrounding Lesnar's bout with diverticulitis.

Now Lesnar's camps are managed by Marty Morgan, who has proven cred as a wrestling coach, but not much in the way of striking acumen.

All of this has added up to paint an unflattering portrait of the man who was and very well could be again, far and away the biggest draw in MMA today.

So leading into the fight with Dos Santos, an explosive striker with hands like Tomahawk missiles, many fans have seemingly written off Lesnar. Dos Santos will simply exploit the weakness already laid bare by Carwin and Velasquez and pop Brock one right in the squash. The fight, presumably, will then take care of itself.

Well, in a strange way, those fans are absolutely right and absolutely wrong, too.

Is it safe to write off Lesnar's striking? In this fight, I think it is. That's not to say Lesnar can't improve his stand up game whatsoever, because that would be absurd. The man is a freak athlete with the dedication, time and resources to improve in any discipline he so chooses.

It's just that in this fight, such improvement would be incidental to the outcome of the fight. In other words, Lesnar could do nothing but train boxing with Freddie Roach, kickboxing with Duke Rufus, and front kicks with Steven Seagal every day from now until the fight, and he still won't have close to as good a striking game as Junior Dos Santos.

So if I were him, I'd throw that notion out the window all together. Since the dawn of MMA, those with mediocre stand up have compensated for it with monster wrestling. Lesnar is just the latest in a long line of champions cut from the same cloth as Mark Coleman and Matt Hughes.

Lesnar has been the inferior striker to every opponent he's ever faced. Frank "Mur" was the superior striker. Heath Herring was the superior striker (on paper, at least). Even Randy Couture was a superior striker, TKO victory notwithstanding.

In fact, that Randy fight may have done as much harm to Lesnar as any stomach virus, at least as far as mindset goes. It convinced him he could be competitive and even victorious on the feet. The crushing setbacks of his last two fights have hopefully convinced him otherwise. Knocking out a faded (and much smaller) Randy Couture does not mean you're ready to stand with a Carwin, Velasquez or Dos Santos.

Instead, Lesnar needs to dance with the girl who brought him: wrestling.

He's much bigger than Junior, and likely much stronger as well. Lesnar should implement a Couture-esque game plan in this one, standing on the feet just long enough to bull-rush Dos Santos to the cage and hold him there. From there, he can work dirty boxing, takedowns, grind Junior's gas tank down (we saw in the Roy Nelson fight that it's not exactly infinite) and stay out of trouble.

The question in this fight isn't, "Can Lesnar overcome the striking of Junior Dos Santos?" but, "Can Junior Dos Santos overcome the wrestling of Brock Lesnar?"


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