Talk about a wild weekend for mixed martial arts. Brock Lesnar, a former WWE superstar, is now the UFC Heavyweight Champion, or at least half of it. ESPN had an unprecedented amount of coverage of mixed martial arts, even if most of it was only online. One of the weakest UFC cards on paper turned out to be one of the most entertaining events of the year. And if that wasn’t crazy enough for you, apparently Fedor Emelianenko lost his Sambo match at the World Sambo Championships yesterday. To put that into context, last year, one of his opponents didn’t even show up because he was apparently too intimidated. So yeah, it was a wild weekend.
But it’s not over yet, hence this post. Some of you will likely call me as crazy as this weekend was, but hear me out.
Now that Brock Lesnar has beaten one of this sport’s true legends, it’s time to let the pro wrestler tag go. As you know, I had my doubts before, and as much as I don’t want to admit, you can now call me a believer. Brock Lesnar is a mixed martial artist and one that can clearly compete at the sport’s highest level. In the heavyweight division, his wrestling can’t be touched. We already knew he was massive, incredibly strong, freakishly quick for his size and has heavy hands, but now we also know his chin isn’t made of glass. Randy proved last night that Brock Lesnar can take a punch.
Of course, the man still has a glaring weakness—his jiu-jitsu. Brock doesn’t necessarily ever need to become a world class grappler to continue to succeed in this sport, but until he becomes proficient in submission defense, he will always be one tiny mistake away from losing to guys like Nogueira, Mir and Werdum. This has led many pundits and fans to believe that the only fights Brock Lesnar can lose are ones against a submission expert who can fight from his back.
Strikers like Cheick Kongo and Cro Cop (at least present day CC) wouldn’t have a chance because they would just be taken down and either pounded out or controlled for the entire fight. So are the only compelling fights for Brock Lesnar ones where his opponent poses a threat to submit him? I don’t necessarily think so.
One name I haven’t heard thrown out there yet for Lesnar is Chuck Liddell. Sure, Chuck has lost three out of his last four, but look at the ways he lost. Rampage caught him with a counter right hook, Jardine outpointed him, and Rashad popped him while throwing a lightening-fast combo. Lesnar may have demonstrated that he’s not someone you want to stand straight in front of and trade bombs with, but his striking certainly hasn’t reached the technical level of the fighters that Chuck recently lost to.
One aspect of this match-up that makes it intriguing is the wrestling. Is he going out wrestle Brock? Certainly not, but he wouldn’t try to. Let’s not forget Liddell has some of the best takedown defense in all of MMA, and when he does get taken down, he’s a master at getting right back up. Last night, Brock took Randy down a couple times, but it wasn’t easy, and he was able to get back to his feet. If Randy could do it, so could Liddell.
Back on the feet, Brock would be forced to play Chuck’s game. Lesnar has yet to face a counter-striker, especially one that circles around and comes in at odd angles. Lesnar may have “lunch boxes” for fists, and Liddell has gotten a little sloppy in recent fights, but I think the edge on the feet would have to go to Liddell. Brock proved he take a punch, but can he take a lethal combination like he unleashed on Tito Ortiz? Chuck made his name knocking out wrestlers, but could he beat the mother of all wrestlers? I don’t know the answers, but I would love to find out.
I’m certainly not trying to say a win for Chuck Liddell is a foregone conclusion. He could definitely lose, and Lesnar would in all likelihood be the favorite, but I think there’s enough uncertainty in the outcome that it would make for one hell of a compelling fight.
And financially speaking, if Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar was “the biggest fight in UFC history,” it wouldn’t be for long. What could possibly be bigger for the UFC than Lesnar vs. Liddell? Don’t think it’s not in the back of Dana White’s mind. If it isn’t, it should be.