Can Brock Lesnar be UFC Champion Again?

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The world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was shaken in late 2009 when Brock Lesnar announced that he was pulling out of the heavyweight championship due to an initially mysterious illness. The infection was later revealed to be mononucleosis, and although UFC organizers had initially hoped to get UFC 108 on again, a subsequent diagnosis of diverticulitis, an intestinal disorder, put all hopes to rest.

The game went on, of course, but there was a feeling that something was missing during the rest of the UFC season. For a while it seemed like Brock Lesnar was all that anyone wanted to talk about. After all, Lesnar is one of the all-time greats of the sport. His fiery personality and dominant fighting skills have helped him stand out in a growing MMA for over a decade, and at only 33 he’s not that old by UFC standards.

When his illness hit, Lesnar had recently been undisputed Champion after having defeated Randy Couture in 2008, Frank Mir at UFC 100, and challenger Shane Carwin at UFC 116. He lost his title to Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, but at the time of his illness he appeared poised to retake the crown. That’s what made his withdrawal so disappointing. UFC fans all over the world were looking forward to one of the great matchups in the history of the sport, and we were deprived.

Toward the end of 2009, there was rampant speculation that Lesnar would never fight again. His illness was dragging on, he’d run into some much publicized difficulty in his treatment, and his training regimen had taken a serious hit. But in January 2010, Lesnar shocked everyone by announcing that he would return by the summer. A match between Mir and Carwin was organized for March 27 to crown an interim champion and to determine who would go against Lesnar in his return.

It was a memorable return. Carwin, having defeated Mir in the contending match, put up a strong fight, but in the end Lesnar dominated, reclaiming his title as the Undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion and in the process giving Carwin the first loss of his career.

But for Brock Lesnar, the story didn’t stay so upbeat for long. On October 23, 2010, he went up against Cain Velasquez in California to defend his title. It wasn’t even a good match. Velasquez took charge immediately and achieved a TKO against Lesnar in the first round.

The defeat was a sign that Lesnar had actually not recovered as fully as everyone had thought. He didn’t have the overpowering strength that he had shown earlier in his career, and his striking and defense were noticeably weaker.

Now, there’s a lot of talk about Lesnar’s career potentially being over. In fact, some analysts have even went back to his victory against Carwin and found reasons to say that Lesnar had not actually deserved to win the title.

Of course, a win is a win, but there’s no doubt that Lesnar is not his old self. His loss to Velasquez likely hurt his momentum, and it will be difficult to come back from such a lopsided defeat.

However, we have to keep in mind that this is Lesnar we’re talking about. Sure, he’s having difficulty taking hits these days, but cut the guy some slack. He recently overcame a serious illness. We’re all a bit tentative when recovering from these things. Don’t count against him. Lesnar can make a lot of progress with an off season of intense training. If he refocuses on his fundamentals and finds his fiery spirit again, he can remain a contender for years.

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