A lot has been made about the skill - or lack thereof - in the heavyweight title fight between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin at UFC 116. Leading up to the event, Josh Barnett summed up this argument when he claimed that Lesnar and Carwin wouldn't be as successful as they've been if they weren't so big. And Josh is 100% correct.
I take issue with it, though. When people credit Lesnar and Carwin's success on their size (or when they call for the inane 225-pound cruiserweight class under the guise of "fairness"), they fail to understand a critical fact: being big is a skill.
It's not easy being big. You have to ingest enough calories to sustain your weight. You have to work that much harder in the gym to maintain your musculature. Becoming a 275 pound athletic monster isn't something that just happens.
And, as we saw on Saturday night, carrying that size has its drawbacks. It's going to be very difficult for someone like Shane Carwin to outcardio a Cain Velasquez, no matter how much time he puts in the gym. Without severely changing his complexion, it simply becomes a physiology equation: Shane requires that much more oxygen through his system to maintain effectiveness.
The point is this: being bigger or stronger or faster shouldn't be seen as a knock against a fighter. "Skill" isn't just about your martial arts technique. It's about your overall package, size and strength included.
With that said, leap past the jump so I can show you all the little details that caught my eye during the Lesnar/Carwin bout.
This clip usually goes on longer with Carwin landing his uppercut left and Lesnar stumbling back into the cage. This ignores the very awesome parry the Carwin utilizes with his left land to block Brock's straight right. This is something I'm more akin to seeing from Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida, not hulking 265 pound bruisers.
Say what you will about Carwin's level of exhaustion at this point (and Shane, I'm sorry, but "full body cramp" sounds like gassing out to me), but he had no shot defending this takedown. Brock throws a left jab (so much for that southpaw talk) which gets Carwin into counter punch mode. The only problem is that by the time Carwin's thrown his straight right, Lesnar has already changed levels for the double leg. Also notice Brock readjusting and getting deeper on the double to finish.
This isn't a minor detail, but I think this whole sequence has really been undersold in the wake of the event. First off, the quickness in Brock's positional movement (and again, regardless of Shane's condition here) is very scary for a man his size. What impressed me most, though, was Brock's recognition of the arm triangle. He set this up while in half-guard when Shane allowed his left arm to dangle. Brock cinched up the arm and moved into mount. Here's where he impressed me again. First, he committed to the submission instead of posturing to throw punches. That shows me he's confident in his jiu jitsu game (or at least this aspect of it). Second, instead of jumping right into side control to finish, he makes sure he establishes himself and the hold before jumping over. That sort of patience is huge.
This is a little conjecture on my part. I'm not sure who or what Brock is looking at, but it damn sure appears as if he's taking advice from his corner. I'm a huge mark for teams who do this well. Being able to communicate effectively is a tremendous value-add for a fighter. It's one thing to shout combo numbers or "Keep your hands up!" It's another thing to correct a flaw in technique that leads to a finish. And hey, if Brock knew how to adjust on his own, that's another feather in his cap.