As you likely already know unless you spent the last few days cooped up at a farm in the backwoods of Minnesota, former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar retired Friday night after being outclassed with ease by current top contender Alistair Overeem. While a common take seems to involve what a shame it is he called it quits on his MMA career after only eight fights I actually believe the sport is better off without him; that Lesnar riding off into the sunset with the imprint of Overeem’s shin on his midsection is as perfect a finish to his career as could have been hoped for.
The unspoken truth is that Lesnar was never that great a fighter to begin with. He was physically imposing with enough wrestling base to be competitive but never nearly as elite as he’s often portrayed. He earned his title-shot by taking out Heath Herring, who was 2-2 before the bout and hasn’t fought since, and won the belt by pummeling Randy Couture, ten years his elder and sixty pounds lighter. He survived by the slimmest or margins against Shane Carwin to come back against a guy whose body had shut down and…okay, I can’t find any flaw in the Frank Mir victory. In that instance I believe fans saw a glimpse what Lesnar could have been before Carwin taught him he was mortal.
In that vein, Lesnar lacks the mentality to excel at things he doesn’t feel he can master or that become too difficult (see: professional wrestling, the NFL, MMA). Getting mashed up by Carwin was a taste of losing he hadn’t experienced. Getting submitted by a BJJ blackbelt is one thing. Getting separated from consciousness is another altogether. I believe that’s part of the reason he was a bit more tentative against Cain Velasquez and, given the additional doubt created by his medical situations, the reason he froze up against Overeem. Lesnar went from acting instinctively to thinking too much out of fear. The Lesnar I saw at UFC 141 did not want to be a fighter and was a shell of his UFC 100 self. He wanted to go back to his millions of dollars, family, and occasional media appearance or WWE show to fatten his pockets a little more, not back to the gym to figure out what went wrong so he could work his tail off and return to glory.
And thus he retired.
It’s also good Lesnar is done with MMA because he would always have been viewed by the public as a former WWE Superstar rather than former NCAA wrestling champion. The notion a professional wrassler could excel on the highest level with consistency would have made genuine, dedicated fighters appear to be less talented than they are. In fact there’s something poetic about a K-1 World Grand Prix winner who holds multiple MMA championships putting an end to Lesnar’s fighting career. Lesnar was great for increasing buyrates but not for improving the image of the sport as a whole.
In the end Lesnar is a 5-3 fighter, an average record at best aided by timely matchmaking and more revealing in its end than beginning. He will not be missed in the division, only from a financial perspective. He was an entertainer to be sure, just not a fighter, and for that reason alone I’m happy to see him hang up his gloves.
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