Not long after Frank Mir forced Brock Lesnar to submit to a knee bar Saturday at UFC 81 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, it occurred that this match was more than a bout between an ex-champion looking to reestablish himself and a guy looking to build a career.
It was a bout between a pair of guys who may well be UFC heavyweight champions again.
That Mir would win the UFC belt again would be no shock, since he's long been one of the most gifted heavyweights anywhere and held the belt in 2004. He's struggled to regain his form since a motorcycle accident not long after he won the belt severely damaged his left leg.
But Lesnar proved that he was no marketing gimmick. He's got a long way to go, but it's obvious that if he works as hard in the future as he did in preparing for his first two mixed martial arts bouts that he could become an elite heavyweight.
He'd probably beat 70 percent of the heavyweights in the world right now. Give him more work on his submission defense and he's going to be hard for anyone to beat.
The only question not answered about Lesnar, a one-time WWE champion, is whether he can take a punch. He never took a shot on the chin in his MMA debut in June against overmatched Min Soo Kim or Saturday against Mir.
If Lesnar proves he can take it on the chin, there is going to be a change of guard at the top of the UFC's heavyweight division.
As they might have said in the WWE, this guy is going to be the next big thing.
Now, it's on to the latest edition of the reader mailbag. My responses appear in italics:
Kevin, that was an amazing fight between Lesnar and Mir. Brock demonstrated that he should be taken seriously as an MMA fighter. Nice job predicting the Mir victory, although there were definitely moments when it looked like Lesnar was going to pound out the win. I can't wait to see Brock fight again in the UFC. Who, in your opinion, should Lesnar fight next? Should Mir fight Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira next?
Virginia Beach, Va.
For now, the UFC would be wise to keep Lesnar away from submission guys. That's clearly going to be his weakness for a while. Why not find out how he'd fare against someone like Mirko Cro Cop? Cro Cop couldn't match Lesnar's wrestling skills, but Lesnar hasn't faced a striker (or kicker) as good as Cro Cop yet. As for Mir, if he doesn't get a title shot next, I'd say the most logical fight would be one with Sylvia.
LONGING FOR BIG JOHN
What is your opinion of referee Steve Mazzagatti and the possibility of Lesnar vs. Sylvia in the near future? Mazzagatti is one of my least favorite referees in the UFC. This was codified by his actions at UFC 81. It was completely unfair for him to deduct a point from Lesnar and stand them up for a punch to the back of the head. Mir was moving around, increasing the opportunity to get hit in the back of the head. I feel you commonly see these kinds of strikes that receive at best a warning, if not repeated. I think an immediate point deduction was rash and the forced stand up could have been part of the cause of Lesnar's loss. Additionally, I feel in a lot of fights I've seen Mazzagati referee he prematurely stops fights. Can we please get Big John back or have Herb Dean do all the fights?
Mazzagatti isn't the best referee in MMA – that's Herb Dean, in my opinion – but he did a credible job Saturday. The point deduction was entirely justified. Mir is allowed to move to try to defend himself. If he hadn't been moving, the fight would have been stopped. It's up to Lesnar to make sure he doesn't foul. From watching it live, there was one punch that was blatantly to the back of the head and others that were borderline. The point deduction clearly helped Mir regain his composure, but it was also justified. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lesnar-Sylvia before too long.
DISRESPECTING BIG FRANK?
I thought it was very disrespectful to Frank Mir to have him walk out first to the octagon. I saw that kneebar coming a mile away. It was BJJ 101. I don't think you'll see Lesnar fight a jiu-jitsu fighter any time soon. I think he would beat Tim Sylvia though.
Honestly, I was surprised that a former UFC champion came out first, but it was clear most fans (and media) were there to see Lesnar. Mir was OK with it, so if he wasn't upset, I'm not upset.
SYLVIA IS STILL AWFUL
I feel ill every time I read the articles you write. What exactly doyou see in Tim Sylvia's fights that makes you all hot for this fighter? Yes, he does what he has to do to win, but without his size he would be nothing in MMA.
I'm not sure what I've ever written before my post-UFC 81 column that would give you the impression I was so high on him. I've been critical of the way he's fought many times in the past. But Sylvia fought hard on Saturday and also displayed class, humor and humility in defeat and deserves to be recognized for that.
Was it just me or did you notice how the cameramen did their best to keep Randy Couture out of camera range during the Tyson Griffin fight. Do you think they are truly that upset with Randy that they totally cut him out of the shots? I feel like they maybe made him wear that hat pulled down over his face also.
Yes, they're that upset with him that they made it a point not to show him on camera. They're trying to promote their fights and their fighters; since Couture has stated he doesn't plan to fight for the UFC any more, they're not going to push him. Would a presidential candidate run a commercial from a competitor during a campaign speech? I think not. At this point to the UFC, Couture is a competitor. For those who are wondering, Couture was working Griffin's corner in his win over Gleison Tibau.
I had Lesnar dominating his fight against Mir. Was I totally wrong or was Lesnar's inexperience against jiu-jitsu just overlooked because of his strength and stature? He looked good in the beginning and got caught. I still think that he's going be dominant and win a title, but maybe putting a guy with one fight against a former champ was too much. Who do you think he will be put up against next? I think Gabriel Gonzaga would be a good match.
I doubt the UFC would want to pit Lesnar with Gonzaga any time soon, because Gonzaga is a jiu-jitsu guy who could do much the same to him as Mir. I thought maybe the UFC would have matched him with someone easier than Mir, too, but let's face it: Mir hadn't been on a roll prior to the Lesnar fight.
Why did Hermes Franca get a year's suspension for admitting steroid use and Sean Sherk only got six months? Even if Sherk didn't know what he was being given, he is still accountable for what he puts into his body, isn't he?
Both fighters were originally given a one-year suspension and a $2,500 fine by the California Athletic Commission. Franca admitted his guilt. Sherk did not and insisted he was innocent. He requested a hearing and submitted evidence in his own defense, which included evidence that legal supplements he was taking were contaminated. The commission apparently believed him to a degree because it cut the suspension in half. He'll fight B.J. Penn for the lightweight title in May.
LEAVE THE UFC
Why does UFC president Dana White treat Andrei Arlovski so poorly? He hasn't fought in almost a year and now he won't put him on TV. I wish White would go away for at least a year instead of Andrei.
Arlovski is fighting Jake O'Brien on the preliminary card at UFC 82 on March 1. This will be his first bout since a lackluster win over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 70 on April 21, 2007. I think White's displeasure with Arlovski stems from the fact that two of his last three fights (against Werdum and against Tim Sylvia at UFC 61) were dreadful. But White said he fully intends to re-sign Arlovski to a new contract when his current deal expires after the O'Brien fight. Despite the struggles against Werdum and Sylvia, I believe Arlovski is an elite and exciting heavyweight.
Can’t get enough of Kevin Iole’s mailbag? Then check out last week’s edition.