Josh Gross thinks Brock Lesnar chose a bad game plan against Cain Velasquez at UFC 121:
It's hard to know what kind of impact this had on the outcome -- and based on how things played out it probably didn't -- but Lesnar's decision to bullrush Velasquez from the opening bell can't be considered anything but a major tactical error.
Velasquez expected an early onslaught, yet even he was surprised by the ferocity with which Lesnar attacked at the start.
"I felt surprised how much pressure he put on me," said the new champion. "I definitely did. I tried to take it all in, relax and do my thing."
If the decision to fire out of the gate was the plan from the beginning, it was a major gamble. The adrenaline dump alone would have made it impossible for Lesnar to keep up any kind of pace. Forget five rounds. He wouldn't have lasted two at that rate. Perhaps Lesnar (5-2) and his camp hoped by going after Velasquez they could slow down the challenger, make him defend and struggle under someone bigger and stronger -- that was the assumption -- who knew how to wrestle. Instead, Velasquez parried and jumped to his feet after Lesnar's two takedowns, and the early energy output, as well as the challenger's accurate punches, forced the big man to wilt.
Jamie Penick agrees:
Lesnar's strategy was baffling. He's fought slowly and methodically in some past performances, and that slow and steady pace has allowed him to keep control of the fights he's been in. When he took Velasquez down early in the fight, he tried to advance his position quickly and land a number of strikes, and as he failed to do that he also let Velasquez back up to his feet.
Denny Burkholder piles on:
Lesnar was every bit the oversized, overly grumpy and freakishly strong athlete in this fight that he had been in his victories. But another of his more pronounced personality traits is his lack of patience. That came through in a series of awkward mistakes, such as swatting, backfisted jabs and an almost comical stumble across the cage to escape from a takedown.
You can't make mistakes like that at the championship level and expect to remain the champion. Especially not with a guy like Velasquez ready to capitalize on every error. Not only did Velasquez make the best of Lesnar's mistakes, but he also negated the things Lesnar did right. The result was a Brock Lesnar fight in which Lesnar, for the second time in as many fights, played the role of the punching bag.
Lesnar came out fast with fists and knees, including an uncharacteristic flying knee. He established a breakneck pace in the opening seconds against an opponent that figured to have the clear endurance advantage. First mistake.
All three writers comment on Lesnar's deep seated aversion to trading punches as perhaps the larger factor, but it's important to note Lesnar's bad game plan played a big role as well.
This actually gives me more hope for Lesnar in a rematch against Velasquez. If he hadn't wasted so much energy rushing for a take down and attempting flying knees early on, he would have been better prepared to survive Velasquez' onslaught.