Lesnar shows superstar potential in loss

LAS VEGAS – If you knew ahead of time that former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir would submit former pro wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar in 90 seconds, you’d think Lesnar was a one-time gimmick and would never be heard from again.

But after one of the most exciting 90-second fights in UFC history, most of the talk after the match was about Lesnar’s potential to be one of the most dominant heavyweights in mixed martial arts history.

Lesnar exploded out of the blocks, with two takedowns, powerful punches on the ground and even a knockdown standing as he dominated all but the closing seconds of the match. But in the end, experience won out as Lesnar powered out of an armbar, but left his leg exposed. Mir, expecting Lesnar’s response, snatched the leg, securing a kneebar and forcing the former NCAA champion to tap out.

“I expected him to be strong, but I didn’t expect him to be as fast as he was,” said Mir. “One second he was on my right, then he was on my left. That second armbar I tried works 99 percent of the time in practice except against the most experienced guys.”

Lesnar is a former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion and a former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar. To the near sellout crowd of 10,583 fans at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, it was almost like one of the story lines from Lesnar's WWE days.

Lesnar was the outsider, representing pro wrestling. Mir, a Las Vegas native who had never been more popular, and to the fans in the arena, the defender of the UFC. Lesnar entered the building to jeers. But after losing, his performance won the fans over and he was heavily cheered, gaining what appeared to be full acceptance in a new sport.

Mir said he thought Lesnar would use his wrestling to keep the fight standing, and avoiding Mir’s strength, which is submissions while on his back. But in throwing a kick, he got Lesnar to revert to his natural instincts and take him to the ground.

That strategy didn’t look so smart at first. Lesnar began pounding Mir with rapid and scary sledgehammer-like blows to the head, and quickly moving position so Mir couldn’t put up a defense. In what may have been a key moment, while being pounded, Mir turned his head, the natural response to avoid being punched in the face. Lesnar, in his inexperience, continued his aggressive punching. With a blow to the back of the head, referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the fight, and took a point away from Lesnar for the foul, giving Mir a needed reprieve.

Mir was taking such a beating that when he raised Lesnar’s hand, to point to the judges for the foul, most fans thought the match was being stopped and Lesnar was the winner.

When it was restarted, Lesnar scored with a hard right that put Lesnar down. As he kept punching, Mir started moving for a submission. Lesnar allowed Mir to get to his feet, but then took him down again. As Mir tried for a second armbar, Lesnar escaped and left his foot behind. Mir grabbed it with everything he had, forcing the huge wrestler to tap out.

Lesnar was frustrated, noting much of his training was based on cardio, which never came into play in such a short fight, and in defending against submissions.

“I just stepped out a little too late,” he said.

Lesnar, 1-1, noted that he’s spent so much time building his cardio for his two fights, and between the two, still hasn’t had three minutes of total ring time.

“There’s no shame in losing,” he said. “I lost my first amateur wrestling match as a kid. My coach told me when I was wanting to quit, that you first have to lose before you learn how not to lose. I don’t like to lose so I have to learn not to lose in this sport.”

Some of the biggest modern pro wrestling stars were ringside for the fight, including “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Undertaker and John “Bradshaw” Layfield. While Lesnar was aware the fans saw him as the outsider representing pro wrestling against MMA, he never saw it that way.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, but it was a great experience,” he said. "I must have worked on defending that leglock 1,000 times maybe. I thought I was going to get out."

UFC officials were thrilled by the match and buzzing over Lesnar’s potential in the sport.

“I’m here for as long as I can fight here,” Lesnar said. “I love what I’m doing. The company has been great.”

UFC fans got the outcome they wanted, as UFC is based on the idea that a smaller man can beat a stronger foe through superior skill and technique. But when it was over, they accepted Lesnar based on the potential he showed. Mir, 11-3, with the win is back in the mix with the group’s top heavyweights, revitalizing a career that just a few months ago appeared on its last legs as he hadn’t made a full recovery from a broken leg in a motorcycle accident.

Mir said when he was on the back, he kept thinking about movement, figuring as long as he kept moving, the match wouldn’t be stopped even though he was the recipient of heavy punches.

Lesnar earned $250,000 as his base pay. Mir got $140,000, a combination of both his contracted pay and a $60,000 bonus for the night’s best submission.