Brock Lesnar Returns: Why the UFC Must Hit "Reset" on His Career

Jonathon O'ConnorContributor IIISeptember 4, 2011

Earlier today, featured columnist Nick Caron posted a very interesting look at the most intriguing matchups for Brock Lesnar once he returns to the Ultimate Fighting Championship early next year.

As with a vast majority of Nick's pieces here at Bleacher Report, I very much enjoyed the list.  However, I must disagree with one point he made.  The one point in which we differ also just so happens to be the reason why my list would be far less interesting to read than his.  Unlike Nick, if it were up to me, I actually would have Brock Lesnar take on some mid-level talent when he makes his return to the cage.

Hear me out here, folks.

Since joining the UFC back in 2008, Lesnar has literally never had a tune-up fight.  In fact, he's never even faced anyone outside of the organization's top 10 heavyweights.  The closest argument against that would be his match against Heath Herring, which he won in one of the most dominant three-round decision victories we've ever seen. 

Sure, Herring was completely outclassed in the fight.  Since that night, he's also basically retired after his orbital bone was crushed by the much-ballyhooed "falcon punch" from Lesnar within the first 10 seconds of the contest.  However, that doesn't change the fact that he was still ranked in the top 10 at the time.  He actually was No. 10, if I recall correctly, but he was still present.

Lesnar's other opponents were Frank Mir (twice), Shane Carwin, Randy Couture and Cain Velasquez. 

Of those five fights, four featured Lesnar either competing for, or defending, the UFC heavyweight championship.  Keep in mind that, with only one professional fight under his belt prior to entering the UFC, Lesnar had very little experience.  Once he got to the big leagues, he only had two more fights (one of which he lost) before being thrust into four consecutive championship fights.  Simply put, other than Min-Soo Kim, whom he soundly defeated at a 2007 K-1 event in Los Angeles, Brock Lesnar has never had a "tune-up" fight in his professional career. 

In my opinion, seeing as how Lesnar is attempting to come back from his second bout with the potentially crippling disease of diverticulitis, now is the time.

I'm not saying that Dana White and company should throw Lesnar into the cage with someone who has absolutely no business in there with him, like K-1 did with Min-Soo Kim.  Far from it.  What I am saying is, now that Lesnar is neither the heavyweight champion nor the No. 1contender, maybe it's time for him to actually work his way up the ladder. 

Instead of starting him out at the top of the mountain, as was done the first time around, the UFC should put Brock Lesnar in the cage against someone like Cheick Kongo, and allow him to proceed through the ranks naturally from there.  There are plenty of big-money matchups for Lesnar within the heavyweight division, and not all of them have to be title (or title elimination) fights.

Regardless of his opponent, right now, Lesnar is still the biggest pay-per-view draw in the company.  However, if the UFC immediately tosses him into the deepest possible waters with regard to his opposition, his ability to bring in huge money could dwindle as a result.  That's not to say that he can't hang with the top contenders within the division, because no one knows for sure either way at this point, but what's the problem with letting him climb the ladder before we all find out?

If the UFC brass are smart, they'll do just that.  Brock Lesnar is 34 years old.  If his comeback is approached correctly, and assuming that diverticulitis hasn't ruined his natural athleticism, he could continue to be a major draw in the heavyweight division for five to six more years.  Let him have the big rubber match with Frank Mir.  Let him face off against other big-name gatekeepers like Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira or "Big Country" Roy Nelson.  Hell, I wouldn't even mind seeing him in the cage against Mirko Cro Cop. 

If he reverts back to his winning ways over the course of, say, four more fights, then put him in a title elimination fight against another top-ranked heavyweight.  If he wins again, then throw him into a title fight with whomever the champion may be at that point in time.

In closing, and in short, all I'm saying to the UFC matchmakers is this:  Handle Brock Lesnar's fight schedule as if he were any other fighter.  Obviously, he's a huge name, but he doesn't have to be fast tracked right back into title contention to remain a huge name.  If you're focused on keeping people interested in paying $60 to see him compete, then winning fights in general is the most important aspect.  Forcing him to the top before he's ready to be there again could theoretically have the opposite effect.  Don't line up the cans for him, just treat him like any other fighter coming off of a loss with a 5-2 record.

Start him back over.

Or in Brock Lesnar's case, give him room to develop as a fighter, and give him the tune-up fights that he was never given in the first place.  It's for his own good, it's for the long-term enjoyment of his fans and in the grand scheme of things, it's for the benefit of the UFC's bank account!


Thanks for reading, as always, MMA fans.  Don't hesitate to hit up the comments section and let me know what you think about both the article, and Brock Lesnar's upcoming fights.  Do you think he should face Cain Velasquez right off the rip when he comes back, or do you think he should be forced to work his way back up the ladder for his own good?  I'm looking forward to hearing from you!