The Long Road Back for Brock Lesnar

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Brock Lesnar has now suffered two defeats in his career, and many people wonder how and even if he will recover from his most recent loss at the hands of Cain Velasquez. To answer this question some are looking back to how he responded from his first defeat versus Frank Mir. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. His first loss came in his UFC debut where he had accomplished nothing and was in search of everything. When Brock tapped in his debut he only had one previous professional fight under his belt and a whole heap of expectations on his shoulders. Fast forward roughly two and a half years, four wins inside the octagon, the UFC Heavyweight Championship and the scene has changed drastically for the former professional wrestler. The one-sided beat down that Cain put on Lesnar at UFC 121 not only dethrone Lesnar (as Velasquez’s shirt prominently reads) but also removed him from possible consideration for an immediate or even not too distant future rematch with the champion.

Following UFC 121 it is clear that Brock Lesnar’s image as the heavyweight wrecking machine needs to be rebuilt and thrusting him into a rematch with Cain could have harmful ramifications. First, there is no reason to believe that a rematch with Velasquez would result in anything different then the first go around and secondly another defeat of that magnitude could damage both Lesnar’s in ring image and his confidence. In the post UFC 121 environment it is in the best interest of both the fighter and the UFC to build Brock back to his former status as top contender and main event headliner. In order to accomplish this Lesnar will need to be willing to work his way through a handful of UFC heavyweight contenders to both show he is worthy of a shot at the title and to help him to improve his current skill set. Before beginning this next segment it is important to note that I do not think that Brock should not have a handpicked series of opponents to help the UFC falsify Lesnar’s return to title legitimacy and that a potential title shot should be only granted after a challenger deservedly earns such an honour. Now without further delay lets breakdown the former champion’s path back to the gold.

The Opponent: In Brock’s first fight he will need an opponent that will allow him to test his stand-up skills but also give him the opportunity to use his ground skills should things go badly for him on the feet. Enter Cheick Kongo, Kongo is a UFC veteran that has constantly been pushing for a shot at the title but has been unable get himself the big win needed to claim the number one contender roll and a win over Brock could accomplish just that. Kongo is a talented striker with 19 career knockouts, but as demonstrated versus Cain Velasquez, he has difficulty dealing with a talented grappler with the calibre of skill that Lesnar possesses.

How it might play out: This fight could probably be billed as a co main event with a strong matchup as the PPV headliner. Marketing this as Lesnar’s return to the Octagon should be enough to drum up interest in the fight no matter who his opponent is. Now looking at the in ring breakdown I see Kongo being tentative in his attack for fear of being taken down and pounded by the superior wrestler. Kongo’s tentative approach to this fight should provide Brock with openings to work on stand-up skills in a real fight something that can be difficult to emulate in the gym. As mentioned before, if Brock were to begin to get the worst of the exchanges he should have no trouble putting Kongo on his back and working the ground and pound to either a decision or stoppage victory.

The Outcome: This fight may actually provide two important outcomes for the UFC. First a Brock win pushes his record to 6-2 and helps to rebuild his image as a contender. Secondly, Kongo seems to be one of the least favourite fighters in the eyes of the public and the UFC giving him his walking papers could be on the horizon. A one-sided drubbing will help to lessen Kongo’s status as a top heavyweight should he opt to sign with a UFC competitor and only one win in his last five fights would be motive enough for his release. With Kongo’s plummeting popularity this matchup would give Brock a chance to play the role of fan favourite and a win would help Brock to begin his assent and set him up for his next opponent.

The Opponent: Lesnar/Mir III is going to happen and not as a result of this articles, so it would be foolhardy not to include it as a part of this breakdown. A fight between Frank and Brock could be booked as either the main event with a solid set of fights to accompany it or it could again fill the role of co-main event with a title fight as the headliner. Either way this matchup will give all involved what they want; Mir will have his chance to fulfil his borderline obsessive want of facing Lesnar again, Brock will be given an opportunity to move up the ranks with another win, the fans will be treated to a third instalment of Mir/ Lesnar trash talking and finally the UFC will be able to remain another month after Lesnar, maybe Brockgust or Lestember.

How it might play out:
Well, we’ve had the two instalments to build this response on already so here goes. Mir will try to do as much striking as he possibly can before Lesnar takes him down and does his best impression of a 10-year old playing whack-a-mole at the fair. If Frank can’t submit him, but is able to get up or survive to the bell this process will be repeated again until Brock renders him unconscious. In the end I expect Brock will get another ‘W’ and put this trilogy to bed once and for all.

The Outcome: Mir looked disinterested in his fight with CroCop so if anything another shot at Lesnar should fire him up and if he were to get a win in this fight he becomes a legitimate title contender again. For Brock, an impressive high profile win over Mir coupled with the Kongo win should help the former champ to put the Velasquez defeated in the rear-view mirror. But this fight alone is not enough to make Brock the next title challenger. He will need at least one more win to put himself back in the hunt, and the more wins he secures prior to fighting for the title will offer insulation for a potential defeat in his next shot at the title.

The Opponent: Having just taken care of one rematch Brock will need to square off with another opponent from the past and this will be his biggest test since he lost his title. Shane Carwin was really the first fighter to expose Brock’s inability to take punch and this fight will serve as a measuring stick. Carwin too needed to undergo his own rebuilding project and if he has successfully accomplished this, a fight with Brock could be a booked as number one contender’s match and main event. This fight will serve as a measuring stick to see if Brock is truly deserving of his rematch.

How it might play out:
If Brock has not improved his and stand-up by bell time or at least his ability to avoid taking big shots this fight could be a repeat of the last, fortunately for him Lesnar won the last time these two met. Essentially it was Carwin’s stamina that decided the last fight as Brock locked in an arm trianlged on Shane who put up the resistance equivalent to that of a grappling dummy. This fight will be won by the fighter that has improved the most; Shane’s cardio versus Lesnar’s stand-up skills. I think that the more likely outcome will be Brock improving just enough to avoid Shane’s attack and keep the fight going long enough for Carwin to gas again. Furthermore, Shane will probably look to pace himself in this fight and avoid gassing out. A less aggressive Carwin could have openings for Lesnar to put him on his back and do some significant damage. If this plays out in this manner Brock will more than likely be put into a title fight with the current champ.

This is just a basic breakdown of how Brock might attempt to return to UFC prominence. In the end there are many other options that Brock could consider if he desires to continue his career in the world of combat sports or not. Seeing as that Brock would need to remove a limb or two to cut enough weight to get down to light heavy weight that’s not an option. Brock’s desire to be an alpha male on top of the biggest hill will probably prevent him from leaving the UFC to compete for a less popular organization (not to mention his UFC contract). Vince McMahon and the WWE should probably be ruled out based on both Lesnar’s distaste for the heavy demands of the WWE schedule and his want of real competition.

Brock could retire, but doing so on the downside of his title run will probably not sit well former champ. During the UFC 121 matchup between Gabriel Gonzaga and Brendan Schaub, Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan discussed the importance of training in a camp that will push a fighter to always improve. Brock is the top dog at his DeathClutch training centre, which tells me that in most situations Brock is not being pushed to improve as a fighter. Brock likes to train privately and in an environment focussed on him, he may need to change this is he wants to take his training to the next level. It could be difficult to find fighters to push a guy like Lesnar, but as shown last Saturday night they do exist. In the end the only person that can decide Brock’s fate is Brock himself. Lesnar is no doubt a gifted athlete with lots of skills; but the biggest detriment to Brock’s ability to return might not be his opponents but what lies between his ears.

Photos: FoxSports.com