(Writer's note: Based on feedback from yesterday's post, the gifs were causing some computers to slow down. It was suggested that I use smaller ones. I intend to do that. Unfortunately, these gifs had already been made beforehand. I then thought that I could just post the link to the gifs, but when I just pasted the link, the pictures showed up anyway. So I apologize in advance for any potential slowdown. However, there are only 4 gifs in this article which is much better than yesterday's.)
On Tuesday, the 2nd in my series of posts in the week before the UFC 116 Heavyweight Title fight between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin, I broke down Lesnar's strengths and weaknesses. For the challenger Shane Carwin's versions, here is his Break It Down as well as his Art of War which analyzes his fights. Brock Lesnar only has 4 fights period in the UFC, 3 wins and 1 lose, which he later avenged. Using the actual fights in which Lesnar competed, I intend to further flesh out the points I made in my previous article about him.
Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir, UFC 81
Brock Lesnar makes his debut in the UFC against former World Champion Frank Mir, a well-renowned BJJ player. Lesnar comes out and his stance is great. His hands are up, he's on the balls of his feet and his torso is in the right position. And as soon as I say that, Lesnar takes him down with a nice double and ends up in half guard. Mir being the skilled BJJ player that he is turns his up, so that's he's actually on his left side and not flat on the mat. Mir reaches under Lesnar's leg "looking for a sweep" according to Joe Rogan but despite Lesnar's assumed inexperience on the ground, Mir's not going to be able to sweep a 265 pound giant that easily. Lesnar peppers Mir with small hammerfists and Mir turtles up (we all know Frank Mir HATES to be hit) , Lesnar with more shots and here comes Mazagatti to call the fight at 0:26 of the 1st round. What a debut by Lesnar.
Apparently, the fight isn't over.Mazagatti stands them up and deducts a point for the shots to the back of the head without a warning. After the break, they stand up and Mir comes with a leg kick which Lesnar "checks" in the most liberal interpretation of the word. Mir comes back in a Lesnar drops Mir with two quick right straights. These rights are purely arm punches as he doesn't even cock his fist back. These are technically terrible punches, however he knocks Mir down so obviously Lesnar is working with some power. He drops into side control and I use the word "control" in the loosest sense of the word as he really has no control over Mir's body, he's just pounding away at his face. Some positional jockeying by Lesnar as he switches to the other side and Mir catches him in an armbar that Lesnar rolls out of. While Mir is getting punched (which he hates), you can see that he senses all types of submission attempts (which he loves). Lesnar plays in Mir's guard again, escapes another weak armbar attempt and Mir clinches his body. Lesnar throws a nasty elbow but holds his arm up and Mir swings those hips and attempts another armbar. Lesnar plays with fire here as repeatedly going into a great BJJ players' guard is not something a top fighter would do.
What Lesnar should've done would be to stand up, back up and let Steve Mazagatti get Mir off his back. Lesnar hears me from the future and stands up, however he just stands there. Back up man, back up; and now he's allowed Mir to snake his leg under Lesnar's leg, effectively getting one hook in. Lesnar helps him out by pushing Mir's other leg over and Mir grabs the leg and grapevines his legs around Brock's right leg. Mir grabs the foot and Lesnar plays hopscotch and jumps right into the kneebar. If Lesnar doesn't jump, his thigh is at the fulcrum of the kneebar and there's no way he taps to that. There's a great replay after the fight during the Mir interview where you can see how Lesnar's jump pulls his knee from out of Mir's chest to right in the sweet spot for a perfect kneebar once Mir tightened it up. Lesnar taps and Mazagatti looks at him like "Are you sure?" Lesnar apparently sees Mazagatti looking at him like that and emphatically nods his head and taps more and the fight is over at 1:30 of the 1st round.
What did we learn: Brock Lesnar is one hell of a wrestler. Brock Lesnar hits hard. I could've told you that before the fight. We learned that Brock Lesnar either doesn't have the know-how of body control or plain forgot everything he was taught when the bell rang. I will go with the latter. Lesnar's strength and power helped him escape a couple submission attempts, but let's be honest, you're not going to armbar Brock Lesnar. However, technique is going to win out eventually and while you can roll out of armbars, it's much tougher to do the same with a leglock and learned this lesson the hard way. Brock needs to learn pacing and patience in the cage or it will cause him more results like this in the future.
Brock Lesnar vs Heath Herring, UFC 87
Lesnar opens up with a flying knee, A FLYING KNEE!? Let me comment again here on Lesnar's stance. His hands are up in perfect positioning, his torso at a great angle and he's on the balls of his feet. He shows great lateral movement and then unleashes a right hand from his farm in the outskirts of the city and it connects on Heath Herring's face. Herring does a backwards roll to the fence and raises his head just as Lesnar's 280 lb body comes flying at him. I'll go back to the punch in a second. Lesnar here could've actually got in trouble. He runs after Herring and stupidly lowers his head like a football tackle. If Herring doesn't duck, it's a clash of heads and the fight is over.
In lieu of a big gif, I decided to go with still shots to show you the effectiveness of this punch. First thing you'll notice in the above still is Lesnar's stance is still excellent. His legs are a little far apart, but that doesn't look to be a problem which you'll see later. Even though Brock has a spectacular reach, in this picture, it is clear that Lesnar is out of range. Herring isn't expecting a punch.
In the above picture, you see Lesnar throw a feint jab which is what I call a distractor. Lesnar is throwing it with no real plans on it landing or doing any sort of damage. It's intent is to get your eyes averting in that direction. We've seen this happen before in the Chuck Liddell/Rashad Evans fight where Evans threw a feint jab and followed it up with an overhand right. Chuck was in the midst of throwing an uppercut, but it was too late and Evans KO'd him. That's pretty much the same intentions that Lesnar threw this punch with. Notice that while Lesnar's right foot barely moves, his left foot has moved a couple feet bringing him within range.
Before this still was taken, Lesnar's right hand was still at his waist and he doesn't bring it back before he fires it. Also that hop that Lesnar took has brought him into range much faster than Herring expected. Herring is unable to put up a defense as Lesnar's hand connects with his left cheek breaking his left orbital. Not to get into much more detail but two things stick out to me, 1) if Lesnar learns to throw accurately, he will be a vicious striker and 2) it takes a very keen mind to know exactly what your range is and to move into it from such a far distance in one quick leap. As you can see in the picture above, Lesnar's arm is fully extended which is ideal for maximum power.
They end up against cage and Brock has a front chancery on Herring who is bleeding already. The next thing I notice is Lesnar is slowing down. He's not rushing, even though his opponent is hurt, and he's pacing himself. He could drop down into an arm-in guillotine if he was so inclined, but I'm sure Brock didn't want to take the risk. Herring with body shots but them seemingly have no effect on Lesnar who is taking a defensive position with the chancery while leaning on Herring making him carry his weight. They break and Herring tags him with an uppercut. Lesnar throws the same punch that floored Herring a minute earlier, but the wily vet ducks. Brock shoots in with another technically sound double and puts Herring on his back. Lesnar has learned from his Mir fight as he does not stay in Herring's guard, he stands up, throws Herring's legs to the side and gets side back control as Herring turtles up. Lesnar is intent of controlling the body and not taking risk while Goldberg echoes my inner thoughts wondering if Brock will throw knees.
Lesnar continues to throw hard punches on the ground utilizing good control of Herring by putting his weight on his back and controlling the head. This pretty much goes on for a while Lesnar controlling while pounding Heath with shots, the highlight being Lesnar hitting him on the ear and Herring complaining to the ref about the back of the head. That's such a WWF move. Luckily for Herring the ref is Big Dan and it works. I mean doesn't Herring have the perfect hairstyle for determining if it's a back of the head hit? If you hit skin, you're good. Lesnar mixes in some good strikes with great control not taking any risks for submissions despite getting Herring's back. With 10 seconds left, Brock grants me my wish and throws several knees to the body as the round ends. Herring is in bad shape here and the worst is yet to come as Herring's cornerman blatantly cops a feel. Didn't he see what Herring did to Nakao?
In the 2nd round, Herring respects Lesnar distance closing capabilities and keeps his guard up. After a brief exchange, Lesnar shoots in for a double and Herring defends it. Lesnar tried to set it up with a one-two combo but after the right, he hesitated and Herring picked up on that and was able to defend the shot. If you're going to use your strikes to set up takedowns, you've got to be fluid in your transitions. Lesnar backs up, circles and throws a leg kick.. I mentioned in my Break it Down, that Lesnar's technique here is incorrect. He keeps the leg stiff and not loose and doesn't get that torque from the hips like a more experienced striker would.
Lesnar is throwing decent punches, they clinch and Herring tries a trip but it fails and Lesnar gets his back which he transitions into side control. Notice I didn't put control in quotations like I did with Mir. Lesnar actually had control of Herring's body using "chest on chest". Lesnar controls the arm and actually could hook up a submission, but again, he's not taking risks and as they roll around on the ground, Brock ends up in the mount. But Brock is too high and Herring turns to his side and then on all fours. That's something that will come with time as Lesnar got too high in the mount to control Herring's body. Lesnar throws knees to the body as Herring keep rolling trying to find a favorable position. Herring is able to catch Lesnar off-balance and uses that to get to the cage and stand up.
Herring with body shots and Lesnar gets separation and hits him with a knee to the body. He follows that one up with a powerful knee to the ribs and that's the one that cracked them. Here's my problem. Lesnar's hooks are not tight here. Herring is able to get his hands free and get shots in. Brock also uses wrist control which can work out in some situations, but if it is broken, it leads you wide open for strikes. Just as I say that Lesnar almost eats an uppercut from Herring as the round ends.
Herring's game as they come out and Brock uses that leg kick which is thrown the same way as earlier which isn't proficient. He's using his jab well here. Herring rushes forward with strikes and Brock keeps his guard up and his footwork quickly gets him out of the way of Herring's punches. They're against the cage and Herring is hitting him with body shots. I'd like to see Brock exert more cage control. It's amazing as right when I think that Brock establishes hooks and muscles Heath against the cage. Herring is tired as his hands are completely down. I would have liked for Brock to recognize this and strike punches. Brock trips him and they're back to the mat. I'm going to save you a lot of reading (and me, a lot of typing) and tell you to read a couple paragraphs ago as the exact same thing happens here; Herring scrambling and Brock content to control, ride, and throw shots. Herring scrambles up and in the clinch, he hits Lesnar with some good uppercuts. Where is Brock's defense? I don't know either. He needs to either control those hands or tie up those arms. Lesnar takes him down perfectly again and is content to ride out the clock with control and shots.
What did we learn: Brock Lesnar REALLY hits hard. Brock Lesnar is a really good wrestler. Brock Lesnar knows how to technically punch and use his reach to his advantage. Brock also can throw knees, both standing and on the ground. Brock is willing to throw a leg kick, but his technique is not good. Lesnar learned patience from his last fight. He opened up with a big strike and after an initial potential error, he slowed down and took his time. On the ground with Heath Herring, Lesnar reverted to his NCAA days and decided to take it slow and be methodical so as not to get caught in any submissions or give up his favorable position. His top control had a couple of technical lapses, but overall it was proficient as Herring is no rookie to the ground game and has rolled with some of the tops in the game.
There were a few points where Lesnar could've been more aggressive and attempted to finish Heath, but didn't. It was said that Lesnar's camp decided to ride it out, be careful and go for a three round decision rather risk another loss by being careless. Lesnar is going to need that finishing spirit in order to be successful in MMA especially as he moves up the ladder. Lesnar's cardio in this match was stellar. At no point did he appear to be fatigued (outside of normal three round fights) and he kept a decent pace up. Lesnar will however have to work on his cage control. If he's apt to work against the cage, he needs to learn how to control his opponent's hands or he will be subjected to strikes.
Brock Lesnar vs Randy Couture, UFC 91
It should be said that Couture is coming off over a year without fighting in the cage. Did that layoff affect his performance in this fight? Was it age? Or was Brock Lesnar simply the better fighter on this night? I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I don't think age was a factor at all, not with Randy Couture. I do, however, believe that the layoff did affect Randy's performance somewhat. To what extent is unknown. I also believe that even if Randy wasn't coming off a long layoff, he still would've lost this fight as Lesnar was simply better and had a size and strength advantage.
Lesnar comes out and his stance is good. Randy strikes and Lesnar initiates the clinch, kneeing Couture while Lesnar is being pushed against the cage. Randy is a master at the cage clinch and the first thing I notice is a big difference in Brock's defensive skills on the cage. He has his right hand on the back of Couture's head/neck and his left is controlling Randy's left wrist. Not only is he able to control Randy from throwing any strikes, but he's pulling down on Randy's head making Couture carry his weight which will wear him down. He switches from that to an underhook with his left and wrist control with his right hand. At this point, Lesnar has established full control of the clinch despite being the one with his back against the cage. Lesnar then demonstrates that control by kneeing Couture a few times in the thigh, actually lifting Randy off his feet. Couture tries to push Lesnar back up against the cage, but Lesnar establishes an overhook on his right side and uses that to push Randy against the cage. They jostle and Randy tries to squeeze out that second underhook, Lesnar knees and pushes off, eating a shot in the process. This was actually a smart thing to do even though it looked like he was in control as Randy was close to getting that second underhook which is dangerous.
As they seperate, Lesnar actually shows some head movement and evades Randy's strikes after hitting him with a double jab. Brock tries the "Heath Herring" combo and hits Randy with a nice cross, but Couture's been watching tape and is able to manuever away to not take the brunt of it. Brock shoots for a double, switches to a single and let's go of the takedown all together as Randy defends it perfectly. Brock wants for Randy to try and knee him and when he does, Lesnar grabs his hips and takes him down easy. That was smart of his to wait for Couture to give him an opening rather than try and create one hisself. Brock smartly gets Randy over to the cage but makes a critical error. Randy is not flat on his back when Lesnar decides to try and pass to mount. There's simply no room for Brock's large body which allows Couture to get his legs under him and stand up. A better course of action here would've been for Lesnar to pull Randy away from the cage and then pass to the mount.
Once up, they scramble against the cage and Randy grabs Brock's ankle, pulls it out and Brock is on his butt. He gets up immediately but Randy takes his back. As he tries to get a hook in, Brock grabs the ankle and wheel trips him to the ground ending up in half guard. Lesnar learns the lesson from earlier and pulls Randy away from the cage and turns him into proper position. Brock smartly has Couture's leg figure-four'd so Couture can't try and scramble or establish guard. Lesnar tries to isolate Randy's left arm against the cage, trapping it with his head, while pinning the right arm against the mat by putting his left knee on it. I am not a fan of that move and sure enough as soon as Lesnar's head moves a bit, Couture frees his hand He's able to land some good shots, but what he's actually done is trap his right arm against the cage.
Couture is able to use both of his arms to control Brock's one arm. Randy's able to then turn and eventually get back to his feet. Randy pins Brock against the fence and Brock is breathing deeply, Randy senses this and leans in on Lesnar with his shoulder in his abdomen. They exchange small knees for a bit and Randy grabs a single. Lesnar is grabbing on Couture's wrist instead of using his arm on that side to get a hook in and try to break Randy's grip. Randy starts the takedown and Lesnar quickly grabs the fence here. Randy puts some effort into the single to try and steal the round and gets Lesnar hopping but a hand on (not in) the cage and the Bud Light pad save Lesnar's ass as the round ends and FINALLY Brock gets that hook in to break Randy's grip.
50 Cent (don't download it bitches) is shown as Brock comes out and jabs and tries a clinch. I guess that Lesnar's gameplan coming into this fight was to clinch against the cage with the "Godfather" of clinching. Randy comes in again and Lesnar's reach is too much. Lesnar is smartly using that left to keep Couture at bay. Lesnar then engages and unleashes a right elbow to Randy's jaw. Couture staggers back and Lesnar runs at him to clinch. No, Lesnar, no. This is where you finish him on the feet. He's hurt and his hands are down. Brock allows Randy to clinch against the cage and get his bearings back. When they break from the clinch, Lesnar hits a nice Muay Thai knee to the chin of Couture who answers with two nice shots to Lesnar, one on the chin and one right below the eye, cutting him.
They circle out and Lesnar throws a left straight, staying out of Couture's rang and he comes in with an uppercut that misses. Lesnar notices the blood and wipes it away. Lesnar lands a left hook while Couture attempts an overhand right that misses completely. Lesnar again used his reach to keep range and then used his head movement to get out of the way. They clash again and Randy's punch is blocked by Brock's left arm, but Lesnar hits Randy with a nice uppercut. Brock initiates a clinch, but Randy gets the underhook and pushes him against the cage. Randy attempts a double, then a single, but Lesnar fends them off and smartly walks over to his corner to hear what Eric Paulson has to say. He tells him stop the takedoen (which he had) and break. Lesnar listens and on the break, he hits Couture with a nice knee. Lesnar throws a one-two combo and Couture tries to slip it but Lesnar's reach is able to catch him right on the temple, dropping Couture and a ton of baby hammerfists and elbows as Mario Yamasaki steps in to stop the fight at 3:06 of the 2nd round and we have a new UFC Heavyweight champion.
What did we learn: We learned a lot; mostly good things. We learned that Lesnar worked on his cage-clinching game from the Herring fight as he did not allow Randy to strike him at will like Herring did. We learned that Lesnar can finish someone. We learned again that Brock has good standing technique, though he needs to throw more on the feet. We learned that Brock can take a couple good shots and get cut and not panic. We also learned that good technique can overcome the size advantage that he has and Randy, despite weighing 45 lbs less, was able to gain control in the clinch at times. We learned that Brock can be taken to his butt, but will quickly scramble up from that. We learned that Brock needs work on his top control. The isolating Randy's arm move was not smart and not efficient and caused him to lose dominant position twice. He needs to learn how to better control his opponent and not rely on moves of purely strength.
Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir II, UFC 100
This will be an interesting look into whether or not Lesnar has learned from his submission loss to Mir. In that fight, Lesnar's overaggressiveness and lack of true control cost him dearly. Mir is also coming off his destruction of Minotauro Nogueira, so his striking has improved and he has a new found confidence. Mir is the prototype fighter to beat Lesnar as he poses a real threat on the feet due to his skills and size. He also poses a greater threat on the ground, especially off of his back where a fighter will most likely end up due to Lesnar's wrestling.
The first thing I notice is
Lesnar's great stance Lesnar's horrible new stance. Why did he change this? His feet are too wide apart, he's standing completely upright and his left arm is extended far away from the body in a "pawing" position. This new stance now opens Lesnar up to all sorts of problems especially with a striker like Frank Mir. Lesnar opens with another technically bad leg kick and follows that up with one more leg kick. These slow leg kicks could leave him open for a counter left as Brock tends to drop his right when he throws them. Mir comes in and hits Brock with a power left straight that jars his head. Lesnar gets double underhooks, attempts a trip and Mir tries to roll into a leglock but Brock ends up on top in side "control" exactly where he was in the first fight with Mir being perpendicular to the ground.
This is where we will see if Brock has learned anything from his previous loss. In that loss, he was wild and aggressive, not controlling Mir's body and hellbent on throwing strikes. Lesnar throws a couple of strikes, but Mir has both wrists controlled. Brock with a rape hold on Mir as he controls Mir and places him flat on his back. This video technically and visually describes Lesnar's techniques better than I could.
BE.com member KJ Gould contributes more here in his fanpost about the technique shown by Lesnar against Mir in the first round and demonstrated in the above video:
The position is actually a Stocks or Stockade. It's not used so much in today's scholastic wrestling but of it's ancestor, Catch Wrestling or Catch As Catch Can Wrestling. This is again a likely influence from trainers Greg Nelson and Erik Paulson....Lesnar used the stockade while in half guard, but it can also be used as a point of side control for both striking with the freehand or attempting a neck crank or after a modification side-stretch on the opponent.
Just great technical analysis by Mr. Gould and by the instructor in the video. For the duration of the round, Lesnar controls Mir with the half-nelson or stockade, as we now know it, and alternates shots to the body and head as the round concludes. It is clear to me that Lesnar and his camp clearly upgraded his conrtol game from the Couture fight. Instead of risky control moves, such as trapping your opponent's arm under the weight of your knee, Lesnar opted for a more technically saavy and less risky approach which paid dividends as Mir had nowhere to go in that first round.
Round 2 begins as Lesnar moves in and Mir counters with a one-two that Lesnar avoids with head movement. Mir moves in for a leg kick which Lesnar catches and takes him to the ground, however, he gets right back up. When I first watched this fight, I thought Lesnar was trying to avoid the guard which was a smart move on his part. However in my repeated viewings, it's clear that Lesnar's grip on Mir wasn't that great and Mir merely slipped out of Lesnar's grasp. Lesnar uses his footwork to avoid Mir's four-punch combo but a lapse in cage awareness has him end up against the cage and Mir throws a nice Muay Thai elbow to the jaw of Lesnar, following that up with a hard knee, Lesnar grabs that leg and Mir hits Lesnar with the Faber knee. Lesnar holds on to the leg, pulls Mir off the cage and falls into half guard.
Was Lesnar rocked? That is a the question. Lesnar himself says that he saw a "tweety bird for a second...maybe half a second, but that's all". What can we make of this? My interpretation is that the punch hurt, but did not "hurt" him. He ate a knee right before that that was just as hard and was thrown more proficiently. The fact that he had the ability to pull Mir off the cage (remembering the lesson from the Randy fight) and fall directly into half guard lends credence to this belief. Some will argue that he fell as a result of the knee, however, if you watch the sequence, there is a small delay from the knee to Brock going into guard as he brings Mir off the cage.
Lesnar sits in half guard trying to get Mir in the same position as the 1st round, but Mir is wise to this and prevents Brock from achieving his goal. Mir is in a good location for himself as he is by the cage door where there is a shorter space of pure cage and Mir is able to use the pad to keep from being put on his back completely. Brock moves Mir away from the door and flattens him. Frank puts his leg on the cage to push off and create space which causes his shorts to fall and you can see the large welt from the leg kick in the 1st round. Geez. Lesnar hits Mir with shots while trapping Mir's right arm in between their bodies. This is not technically sound as Brock ends up actually isolating his arm against the cage when Mir turns to free his arm. As I stated yesterday, Frank Mir hates to get hit. The crowd chants "Stand them up" as Mir takes more shots to the face, but Big Dan is not the ref. Mir turtles up and Lesnar hits him with short power shots. The worst part is that this takes place right in front of Mir's corner as his dad yells "You got nothing" as Lesnar. Brock, not one to back down from a challenge, shows that he actually has "something" and renders Mir unconscious. The ref steps in and deducts a point from Brock calls the fight at 1:47 of the 2nd round.
What did we learn: We relearned that Lesnar is big, strong and a great wrestler. We learned that he can create power in small spaces. We learn that Lesnar worked on his on top control mistakes from the Couture fight and worked on an effective technique to stymie his opponents. We learned that Lesnar can take some decent shots, especially the knee Mir threw in the 2nd round. We learned that Lesnar is an evolving fighter that seemingly gets better each fight. There are still holes in his game, especially this new pawing stance which can and did cause problems in the fight. Brock also needs to work on not being still in the half guard as a ref easily influenced by the crowd will stand him up and he will lose his advantageous positioning. From this fight, I would've liked to see Lesnar throw MORE strikes, especially the leg kick as the one kick that landed caused visible damage to Mir's leg.
(Writer's note: This is the 4th in a week-long series in the buildup for the UFC Heavyweight title fight between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin. Tomorrow, the final post covers the head to head matchup and includes my prediction has to how I see it playing out and the eventual winner.)