On Saturday night, Brock Lesnar lost his second consecutive MMA fight, and after the loss, announced his retirement from the sport. While Lesnar’s MMA career lasted just eight fights and 4 1/2 years, he was the biggest draw in the sport from the minute he showed up in the UFC. During his brief career, the sport and organization experienced exponential growth.
Picking his 7 most important UFC fights was easy – he only had 7 fights in the UFC. Don’t mistake brevity for lack of importance. Brock Lesnar will go down as one of the biggest stars the UFC may ever see, possessing attitude, freakish athleticism and a haircut you could set your watch to. Lesnar had unequaled drawing power as his 7 fights sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 million pay-per-view buys.
7. First UFC Victory – Birth of a Star
Opponent: Heath Herring
Event: UFC 87 [Video]
Date: August 9, 2008
Having lost to Frank Mir in his UFC debut, Lesnar was scheduled to fight veteran Heath Herring in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In what would turn out to be Herrings’ final fight, Lesnar dominated from start to finish. Herring, a 33 fight veteran who had won two of his last three fights in the UFC. Say what you want about Lesnar’s skill set or his aversion to adapting and growing as a mixed martial artist – he never fought a scrub. Herring was on the verge of retirement, but he was a veteran who had battled some of the legends of the sport. Brock Lesnar was the up-and-comer.
6. Submission of the Night – Doesn’t Like Getting Hit
Opponent: Shane Carwin
Event: UFC 116 [Video]
Date: July 3, 2010
Shane Carwin hits like a truck. Carwin was undefeated with 12 wins that were all first round stoppages. All four of his fights in the UFC had ended in knockout, including the interim title fight against Frank Mir just a few months earlier. While Mir was able to submit Lesnar, Carwin was the first person to put Lesnar on the ropes. Lesnar would recover and take Carwin to the second round where he was able to work for a submission. Nobody saw that coming.
5. No Comeback – Beginning of the End
Opponent: Cain Velasquez
Event: UFC 121 [Video]
Date: October 23, 2010
Lesnar has missed more than a year because of his first bout with diverticulitis – a word that no one had ever heard of three years ago, but now all MMA bloggers can spell from memory. 8-0. 7 of those wins by knockout. Cain Velasquez was the new breed of UFC heavyweight. He was younger, almost as big, had a similar wrestling pedigree, was twice as fast, and did everything else better. Where Carwin was able to stun Lesnar, Velasquez finished him. We had seen Lesnar upset (Mir I), we had seen him vulnerable (Carwin), and fighting for his life (diverticulitis) but we had certainly never seen him get his ass kicked. Lesnar was able to offer nothing and we wouldn’t find out until his next bout with his disease that he might not have ever been fully recovered.
4. UFC Debut and First Loss
Opponent: Frank Mir
Event: UFC 81 [Video]
Date: February 2, 2008
When Brock Lesnar took up mixed martial arts, he told Dana White he wanted to fight in the UFC. White told him to take some smaller fights and get some experience. Lesnar politely told him to screw himself and that he only wanted the biggest stage. There were no tune-up fights for Lesnar. His debut came against former heavyweight champion Frank Mir. This would end up being the fight that put Mir’s entire career back on track. He would go on to fight for titles and take on legends. Lesnar learned that you don’t stand around and let a black belt grab a hold of your leg. The fight lasted all of 90 seconds, but holy shit was it exciting. Lesnar rushed in like a bull, putting Mir on the ground and hammering him. The fight was stopped as Steve Mazzagatti stepped in and took a point from Lesnar for a shot to the back of the head – without warning. I don’t know if we’ve seen anything like that since. Mir would go on to secure a leg lock and hand Lesnar his first defeat. This would set up a grudge match on the biggest stage in UFC history.
3. One Last Try – Beaten Into Retirement
Opponent: Alistair Overeem
Event: UFC 141 [Video]
Date: December 30, 2011
PPV: Estimated around 750,000
The former UFC and Strikeforce heavyweight champions met after Lesnar’s latest illness-related layoff. Like all fighters coming off some sort of injury, Lesnar said that he had never been healthier. He certainly looked monstrous leading up to the fight against the similarly chiseled Overeem. The fight seemed cut-and-dry – Standing it was Overeem’s fight and on the ground, it was Lesnar’s to lose. Turns out it was that simple. Lesnar took one shot at a takedown, and was denied. Overeem perfected what Velasquez and Carwin had done before. After taking some brutal shots to his surgically repaired midsection, Lesnar suffered his second consecutive loss and announced his retirement. So ended one of the shorter and most publicized MMA careers in history.
2. The New Heavyweight Champion – Beating A Legend
Opponent: Randy Couture
Event: UFC 91 [Video]
Date: November 15, 2008
Lesnar’s first headlining gig. Randy Couture had retired (for the second time) as the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion in August 2007. Bringing back the UFC legend for Lesnar’s first shot at a title was huge. Couture was able to somewhat neutralize Lesnar in the first, despite a 50-pound weight difference. In the second, Lesnar hit Couture behind the ear with one of his meat hooks and dropped the 9-time champion. After just four career fights, Lesnar was the UFC heavyweight champion. He had beaten one of the sport’s original legends.
1. Unifying The Belts And Avenging The Loss
Opponent: Frank Mir
Event: UFC 100 [Video]
Date: July 11, 2009
During Randy Couture’s retirement, Frank Mir found himself in possession of the interim heavyweight title. For Lesnar’s first title defense, he would try and unify the belts against the one man who had beaten him. Oh, and they’d also headline UFC 100 – the biggest card in UFC history. Lesnar dominated Mir. Smashing him like he had early in their first fight. When it was over, Lesnar gave Mir the finger, told Joe Rogan he was going to drink Coors Light because UFC sponsor Bud Light wouldn’t pay him and threatened to climb on top of his wife to celebrate. Brock Lesnar became the UFC’s biggest star and the sport’s biggest heel that night.