Brock Lesnar's electrifying comeback victory over Shane Carwin at UFC 116 left us with as many questions as it did answers. Although we learned that Lesnar has resilience and excellent recovery ability, the same striking defense that Randy Couture once exposed was exploited by Carwin and nearly ended the fight in the first round. One has to wonder that if Carwin had at least a bit of energy in the final minute of round one, could he have finished?
But, discussion inevitably turns to who will face the champion next. We know that Cain Velasquez is slotted into a title shot, with the winner of Junior dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson in line after that. Lurking in the background of the title picture are Carwin and Frank Mir, neither of who are far away from the contention due to the thinness of the division.
With that said, let's break down which of the UFC's heavyweights seem to pose the greatest threat to Lesnar after what we saw on Saturday.1. Cain Velasquez
A lot of people will argue that Velasquez is a superior wrestler than Lesnar, although Lesnar has a good 30lbs of solid muscle on Velasquez. The Mexican-American handled larger wrestlers to great success in his collegiate career, but Lesnar has proven to be a savage with superior top control in MMA. One thing is for certain: Velasquez's work rate is unmatched at heavyweight, so we won't see him desperately sucking air like Carwin was off the stool in round two.
Velasquez flashed fluid and quick combos against Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, though Noguiera's chin doesn't offer the test to a striker it once did. Thus, we still don't know if his inability to put out Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell speaks more to the toughness of those men or a lack of power by Velasquez. He's a better technical striker than Lesnar or Carwin, but it's likely he doesn't have the crippling power that was Carwin's greatest weapon.
2. Junior dos Santos
I firmly believe Junior dos Santos poses a greater striking threat to Lesnar than Carwin did. The Brazilian headhunter hits just as hard and can string together more than two punches in a combo. He is fearless in the pocket, as exemplified by the ferocious exchanges with Gabriel Gonzaga and Gilbert Yvel.
It would have given us a clearer picture of dos Santos's Noguiera jiu-jitsu pedigree if Gonzaga had been able to keep him on the mat, but "Cigano" sprang back to his feet in the one brief transition during their fight. Hopefully the bout with Roy Nelson will demonstrate what he can do off his back.
3. Shane Carwin
If Carwin sustains the offense he mounted in the first three minutes of the fight for another 60 seconds, it's likely Josh Rosenthal calls it off and Carwin is our new champion. Assuming he climbs back into contention and can work on not punching himself out so quickly, Shane Carwin could be within arm's reach of championship gold once again.
If anyone thought Lesnar was going to prove invincible, they were sorely mistaken. He has very exploitable defensive lapses and will go reeling with a clean shot. But as he demonstrated against Carwin, it's going to take a whole hell of a lot to take the gold form around his waist.