Despite my best efforts, I nor anyone else in the prognostication game can always get it right. As long as I'm correct more than the average MMA fan, I'll have earned my keep.
So I must confess to being wrong in my forecasting of the Lesnar vs. Herring bout and about Brock Lesnar in general. While I can't say I was shocked by what transpired, I can confess to overselling Herring's abilities. I did not expect Herring to stop Lesnar's takedowns, but I did expect more offensive manuevering on the feet and the ground. Herring stayed turtled virtually the entire bout as Lesnar hit side control and leg rides to prevent Herring from recapturing guard. It's a static game Lesnar played, but one played with perfect execution.
What I won't cop to, though, is the principle of "wait and see" with MMA prospects being unhelpful or some sort of hindrance to more clairvoyant thought. That principle didn't work at this instantiation of it, but more often than not, you'll save yourself some grief if adhere to the rule: in MMA, until someone is tested and proven, you are gambling on the unknown. That rule doesn't have to be perfect to be effective. Even though I was very wrong about Lesnar, I still feel comfortable being reserved in predictive situations like the one many of us faced prior to Saturday night. The fact of the matter is that while some took a leap of faith on Lesnar, there were, in fact, quite a few unanswered questions before his fight with Herring. It was a healthy skepticism that didn't make accomplishment for Lesnar impossible, just improbable until more information was made available.
And Lesnar gave us a great deal of information on Saturday. While I believe Lesnar's offensive gameplan was largely a game of static nullification, it's clear Lesnar is significantly improved. Most notably, he already has a much better sense of positioning. He knew with a leg ride or in side control with a "seatbelt" arm to control Herring's back that he was best suited to use his existing abilities. He demonstrated he was building out of his existing skill set rather than trying to be something he is not at this early stage - a very risky proposition.
Lesnar also proved to have good cardio. The match wasn't a pitched back-and-forth battle nor was it particularly damaging for Lesnar, but he still looked fresh after three rounds of tangling with an experienced and very large heavyweight fighter.
What I also liked about Lesnar's gameplan was that it reminded me of the wrestler's creed: when you're not attacking, you're defending. He did spend a large portion of the fight merely controlling Herring, but he was first with his strikes on the feet and immediately bull rushed his opponent. From there, he kept constant pressure on Herring, controlling every position while he found his spots to unleash damage. He never let Herring capture any real offensive opportunities.
Most interestingly, the power behind Lesnar's strikes caught my eye. I've never been impressed with Lesnar's striking technique, but his blistering reflexes and ability to find open shots through control were extremely effective. Once again, he's building in offensive opportunities through his existing skills and assets, something I find commendable and is quite likely partially due to his training with a world-class team/instructors. With the power that Lesnar has, he doesn't need a lot of time or strikes to make his opponent suffer. Even without the damage Herring had suffered on the ground, the two knees Lesnar landed in the clinch against the cage in the third round were stunning. Had he been a little more comfortable and risk-taking in that position, he very well could have stopped Herring there.
So, while I was a skeptic, Lesnar did what I needed him to do all along: prove himself, then I'll believe. Ok, I officially believe Lesnar has what it takes to compete at the highest level of MMA. There are some stiff challenges ahead for him to be sure, but with continued diligence in building his skills and executing a gameplan, he poses a significant number of challenges for anyone in the UFC heavyweight division.