Let me get this straight, I am in no way claiming that I am not excited to see the return of Brock Lesnar this weekend at UFC 200.
Even though I won’t get my usual adrenaline spike when I hear the opening riff of ‘Enter Sandman’, according to reports that suggest he’ll enter the Octagon to his signature WWE theme, I admire the former heavyweight champion’s decision to return to the sport after a nearly five-year hiatus.
There is an unparalleled excitement that comes along with the WWE crossover athlete’s appearances under the UFC banner. His physique and sheer size are entities that some superheroes can’t even match. Of course, it was for that exact reason that his USADA exception was vehemently disparaged when it was first announced ahead of his return. Later, faith was slightly restored when it was reported that USADA tested Lesnar five times in two weeks.
It is not small part down to his physical prowess that every time he has taken to the Octagon it has been a memorable experience – win, lose, or draw.
After a year on the sidelines due to diverticulitis, Lesnar returned in July 2011 to put on one of his most impressive showcases. Meeting interim champion Shane Carwin, Lesnar unified the heavyweight titles with a second-round arm triangle over his fellow heavyweight goliath. Yet, after Carwin and continued suffering from diverticulitis, his form began to fail him as he took two losses to Alistair Overeem and Cain Velasquez.
On his media comeback trail, Lesnar has outlined his belief that he has overcome diverticulitis.
“I’m happy with everything,” he told Fox Sports. “Yes, since I left the Octagon after I got beat by Overeem and kind of forced out of the cage because of my illness, it haunted me for a long time. Here I am and before it’s too late, I want to get back in the cage and have some fun with it. This is all about having fun.
“I’m not looking past this fight. I’m just taking one day at a time. One training session at a time. Looking forward to July 9. I’m grateful that Mark Hunt took the fight, it was short notice for me and him so we’ll see what happens on the 9th.”
While Lesnar is confident he can give a better account of himself than he did in his last outing, there are a number of reasons why I am expecting the worst version of the former champ to appear at UFC 200.
Too Much Time Away
One of the main reasons why I’m so pessimistic about Lesnar’s return is due to the lack of functional MMA training he has had since his exit. When the possibility of his return was discussed back in October, he said that he had put himself through a camp to see where he was at physically. In the end, he opted to re-sign for WWE.
Although some reports have suggested that Lesnar had been contacted by UFC back in April to replace Conor McGregor on the marquee card, the heavyweight outlined that the deal was an “11th-hour” agreement, which would only give him four or five weeks to prepare fully.
“Hell, I’ll fight whenever the money’s right, and we took it to the 11th hour, and that’s where we’re at,” he said on the UFC 200 conference call last Thursday. “It was short notice for me and for him, so we’ll see what happens on the 9th.”
Lesnar is now 38, and although that number isn’t completely out of place in terms of the heavyweight division, it’s hard to believe that he will be the same physical specimen that he once was.
He has insisted that he has continued to hit pads and practice jiu-jitsu during his time away from MMA, he recently obtained his blue belt, but that is still nowhere near the amount of preparation needed to get back in there with such a dangerous opponent, which leads to his next potential stumbling block.
There are a number of people that believe Mark ‘The Super Samoan’ Hunt is the worst matchup available to Lesnar. Based on how he did against Alistair Overeem, another decorated striker, I would tend to agree with them.
Overeem’s kicking attacks would presumably leave him open to takedowns against Lesnar, but due to the kickboxer’s assault on his opponent’s body, the American succumbed to strikes just halfway through the first round.
Hunt is far more of a puncher than Overeem, and that will only provide Lesnar with fewer opportunities to take him down to the canvas. To add to that, the New Zealander is built like a fire hydrant and has proved incredibly difficult to take down as he grown into MMA over the last six years under the UFC banner.
Given his time away from the sport, there is no worse opponent to get punched in the face by for Lesnar. Hunt’s KO power has stopped the most durable opponents, like Roy Nelson and Ben Rothwell, and it’s very difficult to see Lesnar’s return reaching any other conclusion on July 9.
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