Brock Lesnar is a big man. Saturday at UFC 116, he showed the world an even bigger heart.
Lesnar came back from a brutal first round, one that was scored 10-8 on two of the three judges scorecards, to submit previously undefeated Shane Carwin to retain his UFC heavyweight championship.
It should come as no surprise to anybody that Lesnar showed an incredible amount of heart inside the cage after the amount of heart he showed in coming back from Diverticulitis, a condition that nearly ended his career and his life.
As stated on the UFC 116 Countdown show, doctors were 30 minutes away from opening Lesnar up to operate on him, a procedure which would have ended his career, because his body did not yet respond to anything. Then, in what Lesnar termed a "miracle" on ESPN's SportsCenter earlier this year, his body, at the proverbial 11th hour, started healing itself. When it was done, doctors had trouble finding traces he even had the disease.
Now here we are, mere months removed from all this, and Lesnar is involved in a prizefight. His opponent is 12-0 Shane Carwin, a 265-pound man who's never been out of the first round.Lesnar found himself in big-time trouble against the powerful Carwin, who had the champion scurrying for cover. Carwin pounded and pounded Lesnar. Still, each time it looked like the fight could be stopped, Lesnar did something to prevent that from happening.
He was cut and battered, but while under Carwin's barrage, Lesnar showed the heart and determination that got him to this fight in the first place. Despite Carwin's best efforts, it was clear Brock Lesnar did not come to Las Vegas to lose. He rose to his feet with about a minute left in the first round and pressed Carwin against the cage and rode out the opening frame.
Although I'm sure it was Lesnar's plan to tire Carwin out, he sure went about it in a backwards way. In this case, the means justified the ends. Lesnar got an easy takedown on a clearly gassed Carwin, moved to mount and then to side control, where he locked in a fight-ending arm-triangle choke, forcing Carwin to tap.
Unlike his now-infamous celebration following his win against Frank Mir at UFC 100, Lesnar calmly released the hold, put him arm in the air, punched himself a few times and hopped on the cage.
The subdued celebration could be a sign of the "new" Brock, because for him, this was about so much more than winning a cage fight, or even retaining his title, it was the culmination of several months of hell. A victorious return to his profession in a fight that paralleled his journey to even get back to the cage.
"This isn't about me tonight," Lesnar said following the fight. "This is about my family this is about my doctors, this is about my training partners, my training staff. I am blessed by God. Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you a humble champion."
Of course, the brash Lesnar couldn't be completely low-key, adding, "and I'm still the toughest SOB around baby."
Brock Lesnar is back. He's healthy and is now the No. 1 heavyweight in all of mixed martial arts, hands down. His performance tonight showed he can take shots and still maintain his composure.
"I just had to weather the storm," Lesnar said. "He's got some heavy shots. I just had to hang back. I knew he was getting tired. Each shot was less dramatic than the other."
To me, it's no shock Lesnar is in the position he's in now. He put himself here. It's a characteristic of all high-level amateur wrestlers. There's no quit in them, no absence of heart, toughness, grit.
Brock Lesnar's journey back to the Octagon should serve as an inspiration for not only athletes, but for all of us. Lesnar easily could've folded up shop after nearly dying. He's undoubtedly set for life financially. He doesn't need to fight, but he does. Lesnar's journey back is something crafted directly from professional wrestling. Except this is real life and Lesnar's storybook journey back just got the storybook ending it deserved.