(Trademarked by Mike Goldberg, but with less screaming)
Yes, I am talking about 2011, but I am also talking about Brock Lesnar’s MMA career…maybe.
2011 brought the UFC to the forefront of American television, with the company’s debut on network television in November. It also introduced us to the Zuffa-owned Strikeforce era, after the company was bought in March.
Those two stories highlighted the year in mixed martial arts.
However, another huge story that just barely slipped into 2011 was the return of Brock Lesnar at UFC 141, as he welcomed Alistair Overeem to the octagon for the first time.
With the purchase of Strikeforce, Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta have been given free rein to do pretty much whatever they want with it. That included the acquisitions of former Strikeforce champions Nick Diaz and the aforementioned Overeem.
In Overeem, they were bringing over arguably the best striker in the heavyweight division, and a literal larger than life character. We all know Dana loves those.
Heck, he brought over one of those four years ago in Brock Lesnar, a fighter with just one fight to his name. But Lesnar also brought guaranteed pay-per-view buys with his WWE experience, as he was one of the most popular wrestlers to ever participate in that organization.
Lesnar made his debut at UFC 81 in February 2008, taking on former champion Frank Mir in the co-main event. Ninety seconds later, Lesnar had his first career loss, and Dana had some explaining to do concerning his big acquisition.
Just nine months (and one win) later, Dana had even more explaining to do, as Lesnar was set to take on Randy Couture for the Heavyweight Championship.
As if it were not obvious before UFC 91, it was now, as Lesnar was the face of the UFC, at least in terms of dollar signs. While he certainly was not the best fighter in the organization, he garnered interest to a sport that was on the peak of breaking through to the mainstream of American sports.
Much like David Beckham did for Major League Soccer, Lesnar had people talking about a sport they were never talking about before.
Now just 47 months after his debut, Lesnar has graced the octagon for the final time.
After two stints with diverticulitis, but more importantly, two defenses of the heavyweight title, Lesnar leaves the organization where he attempted to confirm his desire to prove he did belong with the elite mixed martial artists in the world.
It all depends on what the criteria is.
If the criteria is an overwhelming size and athleticism combo the UFC had never seen before? Then he absolutely did.
However, even with an NCAA title in wrestling, Lesnar’s wrestling still left quite a bit to desire. He seemingly over relied on that athleticism and strength, which neutralized smaller opponents in Mir and Couture. But once he was put on his heels, instead of on his knees in the mount, he looked lost.
In losses in the last two fights of his career against Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, Lesnar’s defense was exposed, as he was put away easily in the first round in both fights.
If Dana White was given the option to go through the process of signing Lesnar again, I am certain he would do the exact same thing, and he would be correct.
Lesnar did as much for the sport outside of the octagon as Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre have done during their careers.
Biggest winner: Nate Diaz
The last few months have been very good for the Diaz brothers. In September, Nate easily demolished Takanori Gomi at UFC 135. The following month, his brother Nick dismantled BJ Penn, thus earning a welterweight title shot.
Then on Friday, Nate had the most impressive win of his UFC career. Not only did we see the return of the ‘double birds’ from Diaz, but we saw his continually improving boxing as well. This boxing pressure overwhelmed Donald Cerrone, who was perhaps on the brink of a title shot.
In returning to the lightweight division, Diaz certainly has a much better opportunity to contend for UFC gold.
Biggest loser: Jon Fitch
I would like to put Jacob Volkmann’s microphone skills, because, let’s be honest, that was beyond brutal. Never has a fighter brought such head-scratching performances inside the cage to his post-fight interviews, but Volkmann does it flawlessly with his lackluster humor and yawn-inducing fights.
However, even with that awful joke, this has to be given to Fitch.
It had been over nine years, or 3,304 days, since Fitch’s last loss to someone not named Georges St. Pierre. That all ended in 12 seconds, as Johny Hendricks ended Fitch’s 2011, and his hopes of garnering another title shot any time soon.
Biggest question: How big was UFC 141 for the featherweight division?
Both Jimy Hettes and Ross Pearson scored big wins on the night. While Hettes was much more impressive, Pearson is also a big contender in a division that lacks for depth.
Going into Friday, Hettes had nine wins, all by submission. But he showed improved striking, and dominated Nam Phan throughout the entire fight.
Meanwhile, Pearson took on a very competitive Junior Assuncao. The former Ulimate Fighter winner was making his featherweight debut, but he never showed the effects of the first time cut to 145 pounds.
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem: This one was pre-determined, as the Lesnar/Overeem bout was a number one contender’s bout. This will pit the superb boxing of dos Santos against the outstanding kickboxing of Overeem. The only thing that needs to be determined is the date of the match, as dos Santos recently underwent knee surgery.
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis/Joe Lauzon winner: This would more than likely be a number one contender’s bout for the lightweight title. Even if it is not, it is at least guaranteed to be one of the most entertaining bouts of the year, no matter who Diaz’ opponent turns out to be.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. ‘Shogun’ Rua: This is a bout that has been rumored to become official in the coming days. No better way for ‘The Mauler’ to prove he belongs the elite of the light heavyweight division than taking on the former champion in ‘Shogun’.
Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann/Thiago Alves winner: The scenario that likely occurs with the welterweight division is, if Jake Ellenberger defeats Diego Sanchez, he is likely to take on the winner of Carlos Condit/Nick Diaz. Seemingly, Hendricks is at least one, but likely two fights away from challenging for the title. Kampmann or Alves would be on a two fight win streak at the time of challenging Hendricks, who would serve well from a main event on an FX event.