Lesnar's career-ending UFC 141 uncharacteristic of MMA legend
The Brock Lesnar who fought at UFC 141 was not the Brock Lesnar we all know
Lesnar was dominated by a first-round TKO at the hands of Alistair Overeem
The retiring Lesnar did more for mixed martial arts than any other public figure
He went out not with a bang but with a whimper.
Brock Lesnar has been a man mountain, a monster, a meal ticket and more for the UFC in the four years since he used his fame as a fake wrestler to catapult himself into the world's leading organization of real fighting. He beat a mixed martial arts legend to become heavyweight champion in just his fourth fight, and reigned with a vengeance until illness and a one-dimensional skill set eventually caught up with him. In recent weeks, in the build-up to UFC 141, he proclaimed himself fully healthy and gravely determined to reclaim the title belt.
But it turns out that the Brock Lesnar who was making those claims was a myth.
Someone with the same crew cut and sword tattoo as Lesnar was beaten up in Friday night's main event in Las Vegas by Alistair Overeem, whose thudding kick to the body led to a TKO victory at 2 minutes 26 seconds of the first round. But while the big guy who crumbled to the mat and was helpless amid a barrage of finishing punches looked like Brock, he didn't fight like him.
And he will not fight again.
"My hats off to Alistair Overeem," the Lesnar look-alike began when he was interviewed afterward in the octagon by pay-per-view TV announcer Joe Rogan. You had to figure this wasn't the real Lesnar because there was no smirk, no bluster, no toughest-S.O.B.-around talk. Then again, maybe this was the real Brock. The real man, not the WWE-style myth he created and everyone around him -- from UFC officials to the fans of the sport -- celebrated and loathed. Indeed, the man's entire affect softened as he went on to drop a bombshell announcement.
"I've had a really difficult couple of years, with my disease," Lesnar said, his voice shaking. "And I'm gonna officially say, tonight was the last time you'll see me in the octagon."
Truth be told, Lesnar's performance had already made that announcement. As the bout began, PPV blow-by-blow announcer Mike Goldberg had said, "Watch for Brock to come out like a freight train." Well, instead, Lesnar came out like The Little Train That Couldn't. He didn't attack Overeem with one of his unnaturally quick takedowns, but instead stood upright and stationary, flashing out the occasional kick or jab, none of which Alistair, the reigning K-1 kickboxing Grand Prix champion, dignified with a response. This was all Lesnar had? Had 14 months out of the octagon robbed Brock of his fury, of his fight?
It's unfair to Overeem (36-11, one no contest) to diminish his utter destruction of Lesnar (5-3), which was even more dominant than the October 2010 beatdown by Cain Velasquez in which Brock lost his belt. At least the 2000 NCAA Division I wrestling champion was able to score a couple of takedowns in that fight before Cain took over. But Overeem, fighting for the first time in the UFC, never felt the cool of the canvas against his back. Lesnar had a hold of his leg a couple of times, but Alistair easily spun free.
And when Overeem attacked, he knew where to zero in. No headhunting for the muscle-bound Dutchman. He went after Brock with kicks and knees to the gut, the very area of the body that twice had sidetracked Lesnar's career. Eight months removed from colon surgery to address a life-threatening relapse of diverticulitis, Brock took several shots to the body that folded him over. Just over 2 minutes in, Overeem landed a left knee that sent Lesnar backing up into the cage. Moments later, "The Demolition Man" wound up with a left kick that caught Brock flush on the right side of his midsection. He staggered backward, his face contorted in pain, and he went down to one knee. Overeem pounced, landing a dozen punches before referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in.
"Today was all about bad intentions," said a smirking Overeem. "First or second round, I promised."
The body blow that ended the fight and Lesnar's fighting career? "A nice, little K-1 body kick," said Overeem.
As the former Strikeforce and Dream champ spoke, it was an odd scene in the octagon. Standing against the cage was heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos, wearing a suit and looking like he wasn't quite sure why he was in there, other than to remind fans that the win earned Overeem a shot at his belt. But no one was paying him much attention. Nor was Overeem getting quite the ovation he deserved. Most eyes were on Lesnar, still milling about in the cage, waiting for his turn at the microphone. Everyone knew the end had come. They had to.
Brock Lesnar -- or what was left of him as a fighter -- had just put on a performance that over 2:26 had made that very clear before a word was spoken.
And so it's over. The UFC will have to make do without its star attraction. Talk about Anderson Silva or Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre all you want, but no one has brought more attention to mixed martial arts than Brock Lesnar. He's been bigger than life, and his departure leaves a gaping hole in the Dana White Fight Club.
A striking difference: Donald Cerrone made his name as a kickboxer, Nate Diaz as a jiu-jitsu submission specialist. So if you were unable to watch their co-main event fight but did sneak a peek at the total strikes statistics, you'd probably think CompuStrike got its numbers reversed. But no, it's true that Diaz did indeed land 258 strikes, connecting with astounding 82 percent accuracy, a CompuStrike record for a three-rounder. Cerrone, meanwhile, managed to connect with just 66 strikes, at a not-good-enough rate of 33 percent. And that, along with the blood covering the face of "The Cowboy" and his lackluster pace as the fight wore on, told the story as well as the judges' scorecards, all of which naturally favored Nate.
12 seconds: When Jon Fitch stepped into the octagon, it had been 1,239 days since he'd last lost a fight. Johny Hendricks needed only 12 seconds to change that. Talk about one-punch knockout power. Hendricks dropped Fitch with the first punch he threw, a sweeping left hand that sent Fitch crashing to the mat, head snapping back, body stiff. When referee Steve Mazzagatti jumped in to stop the fight, Fitch was so discombobulated that he tried to wrestle with him. What a way for Hendricks, best known as a two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion, to show he has weapons other than takedowns and ground control in his arsenal.
"What did I tell everybody? Every interview, I said I have a left hand," Hendricks said afterward. "Everybody's been counting me out. I knew if I hit him with it, I could lay him out."
Quick work: For 2 minutes 8 seconds, Alexander Gustafsson did little to warrant the nickname "The Mauler." The Swede basically circled the octagon with Vladimnir Matyushenko, neither man committing to much that resembled a mauling. But then Matyushenko surged forward with a jab, Gustafsson jabbed at the exact same time, and Matyushenko ran right into it. The force of the punch lifted him off the mat, then planted him into it face-first. Over the next five seconds, Gustafsson leaped on him for some mauling, and at 2:13 he had his third stoppage victory of the year. "It was a good 2011," he said afterward.
Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the SI.com MMA mailbag, click on the E-mail link at the top of the page.
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