In what would be considered a rare moment in the industry of education, a mandatory class was administered on a Saturday evening. The course desrciption went a little something like this:

Course/Exam: Fists of Fury 101
Time: 11:45pm Eastern Time/ 8:45pm Pacific Time
Place: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Instructor: Shane Carwin, UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion
Enrollment: 1- Brock Lesnar, UFC Heavyweight Champion
Purpose: To crown an undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion

The indictment on Lesnar going into this was his inability to take a punch. I can’t say how many hours Lesnar spent burning the midnight oil, cramming for the forthcoming exam, but he was ready.

The course, or fight, opened with the two sizing each other up. After a few seconds of missed punches, Carwin opened the crash course lesson with a right hook :34 into the opening round. Though Lesnar responded by shooting Carwin into the cage, it was clear the professor scrambled the student’s eggs. With the two entangled, Carwin sprung them off the cage and forced Lesnar into a takedown. From there, Lesnar springs up to his feet, Carwin applies a knee and the two separate going back into their fighting stances. The behemoths drew into each other, Lesnar missed a right jab and at the 3:59 mark, Carwin responded with a left uppercut that once again scambled Lesnar’s eggs, this time harder. Ladies and gentlemen, Professor Carwin’s Fists of Fury course was in full effect.

Lesnar backpeddled into the cage, which allowed Carwin to apply a series of left hooks. Lesnar curled up, caught Carwin with a right knee to the stomach, but it did nothing in making the professor relent on his lesson. The student pushed him off, backed into the cage and Carwin was back on top of him in a grappling position. With 3:50 left in the opening round, Carwin lands a left knee to Lesnar’s forehead. An opening was provided and things looked bleek for the champion’s first fight since his survival of diverticulisis. Lesnar was forced into another moment of backpeddling, but once again, the interim champion gave Lesnar chlostraphobia, staying on top of him.

Carwin forces Lesnar to the ground. If you had a chance to review Carwin’s fight history, you know this typically spells trouble. I know as a Lesnar fan, I lost faith.  Carwin unleashed an onslaught of scud missles, looking to add another first round win to his resume. In the eight years that I’ve followed Lesnar, as a professional wrestler and mixed martial artist, I’ve never seen him look more inferior. Lesnar, with his back to the canvas, tried to create separation with a push kick, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Carwin’s attack.  Carwin secured a hovering position over Lesnar and the beating continued. Elbows after hammer punches after hooks, Carwin really poured it on. Lesnar held his guard, but it could not stop Carwin’s momentum. Carwin drew blood, but something took place that would spell a turning of the tide for this fight.

At the 2:45 mark of the first round, Carwin went from banging on Lesnar to catching his breath. Lesnar noticed this and was able to hold Carwin’s wrists, minimizing the once furious strikes. He even worked in a few upward hammer punches to Carwin’s face in the process. The interim champion came back with a few elbows, but not with the same fury they had earlier. The heavyweight champion was able to respond with strikes of his own. Carwin bought himself some time by laying his weight onto Lesnar, but it was also representation of fatigue. Carwin pulls back, leans in with a mix of punches, but the fire and accuracy that was once there faded. All he could hit was Lesnar’s guard.  Lesnar worked in a second push kick which created distance and caught Carwin with a shin kick. Carwin again laid his weight on Lesnar with an open half guard, giving Lesnar a chance to land more upward hammer strikes. Lesnar maneuvered around the mat and despite Carwin’s attmepts to maintain captivity, Lesnar worked his way back to his feet and forced Carwin into the cage. Carwin got in a knee to Lesnar’s stomach, Lesnar responded with one of his own. With :19 left, play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg announced Carwin just entered the longest fight of his career.  As the last few seconds expired, you could see the momentum transcend from Carwin’s body to Lesnar’s. The clock ran out and round one was in the books.

UFC Nation went ballistic. Even with battered eyes, you can see Lesnar had an air about his that said, “Aww, you done messed up now!”  Carwin on the other hand, was preparing to enter unfamiliar territory, round two. The combatants got instructions from their corners and the second round was underway.

Once again, UFC Nation lost its mind. The two winked, smiled at each other and approached center octagon with high fives, which was not only a show of sportsmanship, but indication that something big was afoot. As the two squared off, Lesnar had more “bounce to his ounce” than Carwin. At the same time, he displayed patience. Carwin attempted his first punch, Lesnar weaved backwards. You can tell he was looking for that right moment to strike. Carwin swings again, Lesnar blocks with his guard. The two simultaneously caught each other with straight jabs. Lesnar went for another jab, missed, yet grappled Carwin’s waist and forced him onto the canvas. Lesnar established a right side half guard, followed by a few hammer fists. Lesnar worked in some body shots. From there, he secured an arm triangle chokehold, shifted his body to Carwin’s left for added leverage and it was only a matter of time.

With 2:48 left in round two, Carwin realizes the inevitable and tapped out. Lesnar got up and strutted around the octagon while giving the fans a Florida State University chop-like motion. The kicker is,  he’s a graduate of the University of Minnesota. From there, he tapped himself on the chin with his fists, as to say he can take punches. While he has been deemed the villain of UFC, fight fans couldn’t help but applaud his performance. The resolve he showed in the face of adversity was nothing short of epic. After his celebration, he and Carwin greeted one another and raised each other’s hands in a show of respect.

In what was an outstanding performance, the eye opening moment came during the post-fight interview. Analyst Joe Rogan asked Lesnar about his thoughts on the fight. Lesnar became reflective, looking beyond what just happened. “This isn’t about me tonight”, Lesnar advised. “This is about my family…this is about my doctors…this is about my training partners…my training staff.” At that moment, UFC Nation collectively gained a new found respect for the newly crowned undisputed heavyweight champions. Lesnar continued, “I am blessed by God.  Ladies and gentlemen, I stand before you a humbled champion and I’m still the toughest S.O.B. around baby.”  The interview concluded with both fighters’ analytical takes of the fight which was fueled by respect and adoration.

Looking at everything this fight entailed, you can’t help but think a rematch is in order. I’m almost certain Dana White’s mental sprockets are turning as it relates to version two. In the meantime, what is in order right now is recognition of a fighter, who proved to be a true champion in the octagon, as well as life.

By Antoine Hoffman


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