DIBIASE: UFC features hot ticket with Lesnar

Justin Dibiase

In this corner, the challenger. He is a man who held the WWE championship on three different occasions. This man also had a brief stint with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings before being cut just before the start of the ’04 regular season. His mixed martial arts record stands at 2-1, and he is here tonight fighting for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. He is Brock Lesnar!

In this corner, the champion. He is a man who hasn’t fought in a mixed martial arts contest in over a year. He can be seen as Sargon in the recent Universal Pictures movie “The Scorpion King 2.” He is currently 45 years old. Introducing the champion, Randy Couture!

Does this sound like a scene from “Rocky III,” or does it sound like the biggest fight in Ultimate Fighting Championship history? For an organization that was founded without rules, without media spotlight and a general apathy toward what others thought of the product, it sure has changed a lot.

Lesnar is an absolute monster of a man. He is a former NCAA amateur wrestling national champion and just may be the most dominant heavyweight in mixed martial arts. This Saturday in Las Vegas, under the national spotlight, Lesnar will fight for the greatest prize in the MMA industry in only his fourth career fight. He has only fought two bouts in the UFC, winning once and losing once. In both fights, Lesnar looked dominant with his club-like fists and unmatched aggression. In his first UFC bout, Lesnar was caught in a leg-lock by former Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir and was forced to tap out after controlling the entire match.

After pounding an above-average heavyweight Heath Herring in his latest UFC bout, Lesnar was quickly promoted to main event status in UFC 91.

Lesnar obviously has the credentials and potential to be heavyweight champion someday – maybe even Saturday – but some say now is not his time.

His opponent, champion Randy “The Natural” Couture, also lands a spot in this blockbuster match after taking over a year off from the UFC for personal reasons. Couture is undoubtedly one of the greatest fighters in history, but UFC President Dana White is bending over backward for a man who walked out on his company and his contract while the heavyweight championship was around his waist. It was surprising to see Couture keep his belt when many thought White would strip him of the gold and hand it over to interim champion Minotauro Nogueira.

White needs to be careful with the manner he uses Lesnar. A win would skyrocket the huge heavyweight to superstar level, but a loss would make him 1-2 in the heavyweight division and send him to mediocrity. Take for example another massively popular heavyweight in MMA, Kimbo Slice of the now defunct Elite XC. Lesnar has a much better fighting and wrestling background than Slice, but their emergences share similar timetables.

Slice was also promoted to main-event status early in his MMA career. Originally scheduled to fight Ken Shamrock in a primetime network TV main event, an injury to his opponent forced Elite XC officials to use Seth Petruzelli as a last-minute replacement.

Slice’s legend was effectively ruined 14 seconds into the first round of the fight when Petruzelli unloaded and landed a flurry of punches on Slice, causing the referee to stop the match. Slice’s career wasn’t the only thing tarnished that night. Only about a month later, Elite XC filed for bankruptcy, as its biggest star was then being laughed at.

If Lesnar loses, the UFC will not need to worry about bankruptcy, but they may knock the 31-year-old Lesnar back into mid-card status. If Couture successfully defends his title, will Lesnar be able to work his way back up the heavyweight ranks?

Some say that the UFC has sold out, and I am not speaking of seats in an arena. They have totally ignored the system that turns cellar-dwellers into contenders and contenders into champions. Why not Mir, Fabricio Werdum or Gabriel Gonzaga in this match? Why not have Couture, the heavyweight champ, fight the interim champion Minotauro Nogueria? No matter what the rankings say, White is giving the fans what they want to see. Lesnar, in just his third UFC bout in the ring, is the hot ticket, and Couture represents MMA royalty.

Sell-outs or not, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is once again proving its ability to acquire and build young, budding stars who the public clings to. Boxing, meanwhile, struggles to find marketable names in its battle with mixed martial arts.

Whichever way you look at this fight, you are not going to want to miss it. We are either going to see the rise of a new MMA megastar in Lesnar, or we will have the honor of seeing arguably the greatest heavyweight champion of all time put a hungry newcomer in his place.


Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].