UFC: Brock Needs To Up His Game
5 Things He Needs To Fix To Regain Title
When the 'Baddest Man on the Planet' suffers a devastating TKO in the first round of a title defense, you know that there is something wrong. Questions have to be asked.
The moment Brock Lesnar's legs capitulated beneath him for a second fight in a row, those paper thin cracks that people were talking about pre-fight were suddenly very visible. Against Shane Carwin, at UFC 116 in July, Lesnar's flawed game was dramatically exposed for the first time.
Despite receiving the worst beating to date of his career at the hands of Carwin, Lesnar managed to overcome the odds to retain his title by beating Carwin in the second round via a surprising arm triangle choke. What should have been a stark warning was seemingly ignored, as Lesnar's flaws were still evident at UFC 121, and Cain Velasquez pounded the champ into oblivion.
So, what went wrong for the former NCAA Heavyweight Wrestling champion and what can he do to put it right? The most obvious defect in Lesnar's arsenal is his striking. Earlier in his UFC career, Lesnar's inferior striking was often masked by his opponent’s weaknesses.
Against Heath Herring - one of the poorest UFC heavyweights at the time - Lesnar smashed Herring in the first round with a vicious straight right, shattering his orbital bone. He went on to win by unanimous decision. In his next fight, Lesnar outmuscled and out-powered diminutive heavyweight Randy Couture to lift the title from the MMA legend.
For his first title defense, Lesnar tried to exact revenge over the man who first tarnished his MMA record - Frank Mir, in a bout to determine the undisputed champion.
Mir , despite his various pre fight promos where he oozed confidence about his skillset, is a poor striker. It showed in his fights with Shane Carwin, Mirko Cro Cop and indeed Lesnar. A submission specialist was the perfect foil for Lesnar as it made his striking look sensational at UFC 100.
However, at UFC 116, Lesnar could not hide his deficiencies any more as Shane Carwin smashed the myth of Lesnar, with thundering hammer fists as he grounded 'n' pounded Brock for the entire first round. What cannot be questioned is Lesnar's heart and this saved him in the Carwin match.
In the Velasquez fight, he not only exposed Brock's weaknesses, but he depleted him of his strengths and ultimately broke his will.
Work On Striking
Brock Lesnar is a wealthy man. There's nothing flashy about the Minnesota native. Living in the woods, Lesnar does not lavishly spend his earnings on technological gadgets or supercars. By being prudent with his cash, he's able to build his own gym right outside his house on the farm where he and his family live. We are constantly reminded that he flies the best trainers and coaches in to work with him in his training camps. Therein lies the most obvious question. If Lesnar was working with the best coaches and training partners in the world for his last two fights, then why has his striking not improved?
Lesnar does not like to lose. He is a fierce competitor, with freakish athleticism and a burning desire to be the best at what he does, no matter what that is.
Something tells me his striking coach may have to find new employment in the future because whatever he was doing was certainly not working. In the Herring, Mir and Couture fights, Lesnar looked more than comfortable striking, when he was controlling and dominating.
This is where Lesnar is at home, being aggressive and dictating the pace; but when accomplished strikers like Velasquez and Carwin started to have their way, Lesnar looked like a different animal. He cowered beneath his hands in both fights from exploding ground 'n' pounds and does the same when he's on his feet having his face assaulted inside the Octagon.
If Lesnar is to win back the title, from either Cain Velasquez or the equally dangerous Junior Dos Santos, he will need to improve his striking.
Velasquez is a product of top gym, AKA so perhaps Lesnar needs to look at hiring the likes of a Marc Dellagrote or Trevor Whittman to improve his striking in the future and become more versatile with his punches and kicks. Along with this, Lesnar will need to spar with a better-ranked sparring partner than Pat Barry, who went public about being drafted into Lesnar's 121 camp prior to the Velasquez fight.
Stick To Wrestling
It works for Jake Shields, Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans, so why doesn't Lesnar stick to what he knows best? As a former NCAA Champion, Lesnar has the credentials, size, athleticism, cardio and savvy to outwrestle any heavyweight in the division. I am not advocating that Lesnar stoops to the lay 'n' pray techniques that have bothered fans as of late, but to take the Chael Sonnen route and work from the mount.
It is possible that Lesnar underestimated Velasquez's wrestling in their encounter. Twice he took Cain down and twice, he got back up, almost instantly; something which disturbed Brock. It rocked him and dented his confidence. He had to revert to a striking game, something which was his downfall. He shifted away from his comfort zone and went for the jugular. It failed.
In future, Lesnar should perhaps stick to his wrestling roots, go for the takedowns, avoid the shots which floored him as of late.On the ground, he may not have the explosiveness that fans love to see from him, but he may get the all important victories that he desperately craves.
Lesnar raced out from the traps against Velasquez, delivering two flying knees and shooting for a takedown. By the end of the round and with the help of a relentless beat down from Cain, he looked exhausted. For a man of 265 lbs, despite his unnatural athleticism, Lesnar needs to slow down inside the cage.
Against Herring, when he floored him, he showed the speed of a cat to get on top of him and it is in moments like that when he should reserve his speed and pace for. But jumping the gun from the outset is not the way for Lesnar to go in future. He needs to use the fighting brain he obviously has and know when, where and how to use that blend of speed, power and size.
Never Stop Evolving
Lesnar needs to learn from this loss. The Shane Carwin bout did not teach him any lessons, as he emerged victorious, christening himself as 'The Baddest Man in the Planet'. Lessons were not learned. Lesnar had a chink in his armor, but still thought he was bulletproof. In retrospect, he was lucky that Carwin ran out of steam.; Velasquez didn't. He picked his shots beautifully en route to getting the UFC title wrapped around his waist.
All Lesnar needs to do is look at the massive cut on his face for the next couple of weeks, an instant reminder of the brutal lesson he received from Velasquez. His inability to learn from this will be a bigger mistake than anything else he has done in his career.
When fighters need to rekindle their magic or work their way towards a title shot, there is one man that they call. Greg Jackson. The MMA guru, who works out of New Mexico, has turned unknown fighters into the world's best. He has taken fighters from the brink and back, earning praise and criticism along the way. Imagine a Lesnar that is drilled with instructions, covering the last detail from Jackson? Jackson would control Lesnar's explosiveness, getting him to use it when it can be at its most devastating and Lesnar would also have access to some of the world's best fighters. It is like a match made in heaven, but the only problem for Lesnar is, a man by the name of Shane Carwin got to Jackson first. Still, there is always room at team Jackson for fighters in the same weight class. Just don't mention it to Dana White.