A Changing of the Guard

Report and photos by Anthony Springer Jr

Randy “The Natural” Couture denied it.

Brock Lesnar, the new UFC heavyweight champion, didn’t touch it.

Last night’s victory for the ex-WWE superstar represented an MMA changing of the guard on a number of levels. Brock Lesnar is more like Randy Couture than most people will admit. Like Couture, Lesnar comes from a collegiate wrestling background; like Couture, Lesnar won the heavyweight title in his fourth professional bout; and like Couture, Lesnar seems to be somewhat of a “Natural.”

In pre-fight comments, Couture said the new champion reminded him of himself ten years ago. He clarified that statement last night at the post fight press conference.

“I can remember those feelings, wanting to do [submissions] and not being technically proficient enough. Wrestlers have a particular mindset, they’re perfectionist. They drill things very diligently and break things down by the numbers. They learn effectively but it still takes time,” Couture said of his still-green opponent.

“I guess inexperience has gotten me this far,” Lesnar said of his accomplishment. “You just try to learn something every day. I’ve got a good group of guys around me. You have to be a well rounded fighter in this day and age.”

A well-rounded Brock Lesnar is a downright scary thought for up and coming heavyweights. UFC president Dana White sees no limits to what Lesnar will accomplish once he begins putting the pieces together. “Brock is an amazing athlete and such a big guy. As he continues to grow as a fighter and gets more technical, god knows what this guy is going to be able to do.”

When the lights come on and it’s time to sell a fight, Lesnar comes off as an arrogant, cocky fighter. However, when all was said and done at the MGM Grand Garden, the newly crowned champion displayed a great deal of humility, thanking Couture and Dana White for the opportunity to fight for the title, and offered no words of contempt for fans and journalists who didn’t believe in his abilities.

“The only thing that mattered was that I believed in myself,” Lesnar told a reporter when asked about MMA naysayers. “You guys go out and do your job, break fighters down such as myself… I’ve been an athlete since I was five years old. I don’t read the Internet, I don’t read the newspapers; I stopped doing that a long time ago. I’m just happy that I came and succeeded and all my hard work paid off.”

Dana White chimed in, adding, “I don’t think it’s a matter of not believing in this guy, it’s just not believable. You see the guys that he’s facing with all this experience. Heath Herring’s not a small guy. When somebody comes in at 2-1 and wins fights the way that he does, common sense tells you this doesn’t make sense.”

Lesnar held up under immense pressure: the bright lights of the Octagon and a pro-Couture capacity crowd. He also proved he can take a punch and didn’t buckle after being cut in the fight. In fact, the cut may have ultimately been Couture’s undoing.

“It made me a little nervous, but it pissed me off,” Lesnar said of the bleeding. “I wanted to get first blood on Randy and I think anytime you fight you want to get first blood. Something in my head told me ‘you’ve gotta pick this up.’”

After feeling his own blood, Lesnar seemed to go into a zone, and didn’t remember throwing the punch that culminated in his victory. “The only thing going through my mind is that I threw 40 right hands on the ground and was wondering when the ref was going to step in and stop it. Then I thought Randy was gonna do Superman on me and stand up. I was a bit shocked; I don’t know where it hit. I didn’t care where it hit. He was on the ground and I was gonna capitalize.”

Couture didn’t remember the big right hand either. “My corner told me that it looked like it caught me behind the ear. I slipped the punch, but he has such a long reach that I didn’t slip enough. I didn’t see it, I didn’t feel it. Next thing I know I was on the ground eating leather.”

Lesnar will meet the winner of next month’s interim heavyweight title bout between Frank Mir and Antonio Nogueira. While most of the MMA world is placing their bets on Nogueira, Lesnar is pulling for the underdog—purely for selfish reasons.

“I need a rematch with Frank Mir,” he said when asked about a preferred outcome.


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