The Struggle with Diverticulitis
After Brock defeated Frank Mir at UFC 100, a long title reign for Lesnar was to be expected. Or at least the UFC expects him to be, as a dominant heavyweight champion will prove to be a major attraction especially on PPV. Thus, the UFC wasted no time scheduling Brock’s next title defense. His opponent: Shane Carwin: 265 lbs. with an undefeated MMA record and all wins coming by KO/TKO and ending opponents all at the 1st round. This would be the first time that Brock would meet a knockout artist as Brock’s previous opponents, tough as they are, were not really known for their striking prowess and KO power. This was also billed as the biggest heavyweight title fight of all time, playing to the fact that both fighters weigh at the 265-lb weight limit. However, before the fight even came into fruition, Brock had yet another major road block. He was diagnosed with diverticulitis. This life-threatening illness took months out of his MMA career and would only come back after a year’s absence in the Octagon, facing an equally scary monster in Carwin as well.
With this comeback fight after the illness, many questioned if this will have a huge impact in Brock’s performance. Will his conditioning be affected? How about his defense? Watching the 1st round of the fight might have answered these questions. Carwin blasted Lesnar with a flurry of punches that sent him covering in a fetal position against the cage. This was then followed by a barrage of ground and pound and some nasty elbows by Carwin. I was trembling in fear as I watched this fight on TV and I’m not even exaggerating. The fight could have been stopped right then and there and nobody would have complained, given the amount of punishment Lesnar has taken. Somehow, Lesnar managed to convince referee Josh Rosenthal that he was still intelligently defending himself, barely surviving the 1st round. The next round proved to be a different playing field however. Lesnar was brought back to his senses while Carwin seemed tired with the ridiculous amount of strength exerted in the previous round. With a wink from Shane and a nodding smile from Brock, the 2nd round took off. Lesnar took down Carwin with relative ease as if Carwin didn’t defend the shot at all. Lesnar transitioned from half guard to full mount with the greatest of ease. How Lesnar moves so swift given his bulk physique, I still don’t know. From the mount, Lesnar sunk in an arm triangle choke, improved position by moving into side control and boom, Carwin taps out. Brock has survived the 1st round onslaught, gave Carwin his first MMA loss and via arm triangle at that (Lesnar wasn’t known to have submission skills that’s why this shocked many fans). Truly the biggest highlight in Brock’s MMA career.
Brock: The Former UFC Heavyweight Champion
After Brock’s brilliant performance against Carwin, many crowned him as “The Baddest Man on the Planet”. And with good reason though as not only does he have one of the most intimidating physiques but he also backs it up with the championship title around his waist. Not to waste time after his long layoff due to his illness, he quickly stepped back into the Octagon only over 3 months after his last title. This time, he was against rising star and number one contender Mexican-American Cain Velasquez. There was no beef between Cain and Brock as this fight was promoted as one with respect of both fighters wanting to prove who the best is. Many fans didn’t think Cain would be successful in taking out Lesnar as the general idea was that if Carwin (a man who has finished all opponents) couldn’t knock Lesnar out, neither can Cain. We were stand corrected. Brock recklessly rushed through Cain with a shoot takedown which saw Cain bounce back to his feet quickly. After that was all Cain, feeding Lesnar with precision punches that sent Brock rolling twice (kinda funny actually) across the cage. The fight was stopped as Cain landed more accurate punches which led to a nasty cut on Brock’s cheek. Brock was no longer champion and it seemed that he was exposed more than ever. He falters when getting punched in the face.
His next stint was coaching on UFC’s reality show, The Ultimate Fighter, with fellow heavyweight Junior dos Santos. The idea was that after the show was over, dos Santos and Lesnar would meet in a coach’s showdown. But this wasn’t realized after news broke out that diverticulitis has once again crept into Lesnar’s body. Brock would then take another long layoff, 14 months to be exact. Alistair Overeem, the former K-1 and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, was then slated to be Brock’s next opponent for another classic wrestler vs. striker match. One would be concerned for Lesnar as his striking defense was what led him to lose his title to Velasquez. This fight was also a number one contender’s bout with the winner facing Junior dos Santos for the strap (Junior went on to win the title from Cain beforehand). Lesnar seemed physically fit as his physique at the weigh-ins was still in tip-top shape. The problem: so was Overeem, weighing in at 263 lbs., heavier than his previous fights.
Lesnar started the fight with a very awkward stance, reminiscent to his previous fights. He shot for a takedown that looked half-committed and was easily shrugged off by Alistair. The Dutchman then proceeded to school Lesnar on the feet, blasting him with punches and kicks. A kick to the liver visibly shook Lesnar as Overeem continued to overwhelm him with punches. The referee had enough and stopped the fight. Brock lost, again. By TKO, again. Once Joe Rogan had Lesnar for the post-fight interview, Brock humbly said his last words inside the octagon and announced his retirement from the sport.
Brock Lesnar’s Legacy
While having a 5-3 MMA record might seem mediocre, Lesnar made the most of his short-lived career. He had the toughest line of opponents and had a winning record despite that. He maximized his size and wrestling ability as well as his massive popularity to earn himself UFC gold and arguably being the biggest UFC draw ever. And no one can take those accomplishments away from him. I will miss seeing Lesnar in the octagon, as one couldn’t argue that his fights were always exciting. Nothing can match a Lesnar fight, in terms of intrigue, drama and spectacle. Brock has the ability to make you watch his fights whether you love or hate him. And for that, he deserves the respect of MMA fans. He brought more eyeballs into the UFC than any other fighter. He drew record-breaking PPV buys and led the sport a step forward into mainstream coverage and acceptance given his inexperience in the sport.
From the beginning, it was apparent that Brock wasn’t the most well-rounded fighter. He wasn’t the most resilient nor the fighter with the most patience and certainly not the fighter with the biggest “heart”. But his struggle with diverticulitis, in my opinion, proved to be the biggest difference maker. He didn’t seem like the Brock Lesnar of old: loud-mouthed, arrogant, hungry. It would seem that his sickness softened him up. After all, a life-threatening event would make anyone, even a monster of a man, change his views and priorities in life. It just so happened that these views were relatively unfit for a fighter competing in the highest of levels in a very unforgiving sport with equally unforgiving fans.
So enjoy your retirement, big man. You deserve it. -rod-