If you were to create the UFC heavyweight champion in a laboratory the end result would probably physically look like Brock Lesnar. Standing 6’3 and cutting weight to make 265, Lesnar looks like he was chiseled out of stone.
Easily the most impressive physical specimen to ever step into the Octagon, Lesnar also double as the most polarizing fighter as well. Fans either love his brash behavior or loathe it; there’s no in between. He’s the antithesis to the fan who views MMA as more than a sport; anyone into traditional martial arts dislikes his penchant for talking trash and perhaps dislikes in particular him permanently for his post UFC 100 celebration after dismantling Frank Mir. Lesnar moves the needle with the casual fan; his fame in the WWF has given him a profile that makes people forget that he’s more than just a gym rat who moved up to the top of the UFC heavyweight division meteorically. And at UFC 141 he takes on the only man in the sport who can match him for size and athleticism: kickboxing champion Alistair Overeem.
Lesnar’s game plan going into the fight is going to be simple: ground and pound.
Lesnar’s not competent enough as a striker to make this into a kickboxing match with Overeem. It’s possible to stay even with him, like Fabricio Werdum did, over three rounds but through five is an entirely different story. With four ounce gloves Overeem’s nuanced striking becomes all that much more deadly. His chances to win decrease significantly if Lesnar chooses to stand and trade with his opponent. He has underrated power in his hands, something not too many discuss. It’s easy to forget the big punches he used to stop of Randy Couture for the title and the big overhand that nearly stopped Heath Herring, but Lesnar’s boxing is sloppy at best. He grew up wrestling and hasn’t spent the years working on boxing and striking to develop a well rounded game in the department.
At best you can say he uses the jab to set up his double leg takedown, which is what you can expect him to do this time around. Brock’s double leg has been vicious since he was in college; at the University of Minnesota he was known as the “double leg freight train” because of how well he used the technique. And that’s how he’s going to win the fight; by successfully hitting the double and getting Overeem down. Watch for Brock to use jabs and quick punches, nothing looping or power strikes that’ll expose him to power strikes from Overeem, to set up the double and get the fight to the ground. He might try an outside single leg and you can’t forget about the potential for a throw as well. Despite the bad loss against Cain Velasquez he took the former champ down twice. Velasquez’s butterfly guard and scrambling may have nullified both of them but Lesnar did get him to the ground. Lesnar was an NCAA Division 1 heavyweight champion and a runner up the year before, losing a close match to future world champion and New England Patriots guard Stephen Neal.
Lesnar’s wrestling is his key to winning because once he’s on top he can be lethal. He has to use his size to his advantage once he’s on the ground as well. Lesnar’s advantage comes when he’s in the guard or half guard of his opponent, who’s carrying the near 300 lbs. Lesnar will weigh around fight time. Lesnar’s top game is amongst the best in the division; his agility can be remarkable when given the opportunity. His pass from mount to side control on Shane Carwin that led to the fight ending arm triangle was really well executed, something lost on a lot of people. Brock’s use of the positional game is much more highlighted than his ground movement, which is a shame because his ability to be light on his feet and move around his opponent is strong.
It’s also the key to his striking game while on top. Lesnar doesn’t need much space and doesn’t rely on posturing like many ground fighters like Jon Fitch or Chael Sonnen do. He’s content to battle for position and use his weight to wear down opponents while throwing punches inside the guard. The position game, with his opponent having to carry his weight while trying for sweeps or submissions, is where Lesnar can wear out Overeem and potentially finish him with strikes on the ground. He has shown solid submission skills but don’t expect him to pull off a mounted triangle or a Granby roll into an armbar. If he does go for a submission it’ll be something like a kimura or an arm-triangle that allows him to use that almost supernatural strength in a quick directed way as opposed to him doing something a smaller man would do in setting it up. His submission game is more brute force than it is finesse and he won’t go for anything fancy in that department against someone with the BJJ pedigree that Overeem has.
Lesnar is unique enough physically that something like a guillotine won’t be nearly as effective; his massive neck almost acts like a counter that prevents all but the best of chokes being sunk in. And this might be his biggest advantage in the fight. Athletically Lesnar can’t be emulated to a sufficient degree. A guy with that size and the foot speed and agility of a much smaller man is rare. A sign of it that came during the era after he left the WWF, something that many MMA fans despise him for (despite embracing guys like Bobby Lashley and Josh Barnett who mix in pro wrestling matches in their fighting schedule). After not playing football since he was in high school at age 28 he was the last cut for the Minnesota Vikings despite coming into camp with a torn groin muscle. His strength hasn’t been developed in the gym, either. Lesnar’s background as the son of a farmer and doing the heavy manual labor associated with it is something that can’t be developed with weights.
For Lesnar to win this Friday night, he has to impose his game on the former Strikeforce and K-1 Grand Prix champion. If he can get the fight to the ground and use his top game to its maximum efficiency, Lesnar should walk out of UFC 141 with a title shot against Junior Dos Santos.
Tags: Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar, Mixed Martial Arts, UFC 141, UFC Heavyweight Division