Spoiler alert! As of last night, we have an official unified heavyweight champion in the UFC, Brock Lesnar! Some might even call him the top dog atop the heavyweight food chain with Fedor dropped from his tenuous spot that he held onto for years. Brock overcame a fighter, Shane Carwin, who on paper had more tools at his disposal and more experience. Heck, Carwin made Frank Mir look like a walk through the park, that is if you walk through the park uppercutting people.
Carwin did the unthinkable, toppling Lesnar with punches and pounding him into a bloody stain on the mat. Referee Josh Rosenthal allowed the fight to continue, although to be fair if this was anything but the main event, it would have been a short night for the man on his back. Nonetheless, Carwin pounced and continued to thrash the former champ, Brock surviving and making it into the second round, looking down but not out.
Just as Carwin did the unthinkable in round one, Lesnar shocked the world when he took down a fatigued Carwin and worked not for ground and pound, but for a tight arm triangle choke. With no options and the blood quickly draining from his brain, Carwin was only able to muster a weak tap to signal his defeat and to signify who the next UFC heavyweight champion was.
It was crazy battle for a crazy night of fights, but my mind wanders away from the octagon. I picked Carwin as the next UFC champ, but his strategy does not sit well with me. There are things Carwin could have and should have done differently, and what kind of keyboard warrior would I be if I did not explain my strategy for Carwin defeating Lesnar in hindsight. But not just hindsight- using a welterweight fighter named Matt Serra as my guideline for success!
Don’t believe me? Then hit the jump!
Let’s take a look at the Matt Serra fights that I am putting on exhibit. Let’s jump into the Wayback Machine and set our timer on UFC 53 from that distant year of 2005. Serra was making his return to the UFC after having a successful run in the lightweight division against some mediocre fighters, Matt moved to welterweight and prepared to battle judo standout Karo Parisyan in his return fight.
At the time, Serra was conidered one of the most dangerous grapplers in the UFC, but he had been privately working on his stand-up skills to even things out and make himself more well-rounded. As the fight began, we saw the same Serra high-speed shuffling and pacing Serra was known for, then he threw an uncharacteristic punch that dropped Karo. Serra pounced on the dazed judoka and wailed away on Karo from top position for a few minutes, but Parisyan held on and absorbed the punishment, making it to the next round.
By the time Serra made it into the second round, his tank was empty and he had nothing left to offer Parisyan, who threw Serra around like a ragdoll and kept the BJJ black belt on his back, unable to offer much resistance as Karo worked for the ground and pound and an occasional submission attempt. Parisyan won by decision, but the fight showed a fatal flaw in Serra’s abilities at this new weight class. Despite having stronger strikes, his once-famous cardio was shot from punching himself out after the initial knockdown.
Serra was cast out of the UFC, only to return for the fourth season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, where he fought his way to the top and defeated Chris Lytle to win the show and earn an immediate title shot at the welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre. The pair met at UFC 69, and once again, Serra did the unthinkable and knocked down GSP with a mighty hook. The New York-native leapt on GSP much like he did with Parisyan almost two years earlier, but this time after being unable to finish GSP, he got off of the champ and let him get back to his feet. Once standing, Serra did more of the same, making the Canadian crumble once more and then working to finish him with strikes and becoming the new Welterweight champion of the UFC.
So how does all of this compare to what happened last night with Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin? After all, Serra is a different fighter in a different weight class fighting different people! Last night, Carwin leveled Lesnar with his boulders for hands and just like Serra did with Parisyan and then from a similar position, pushed forward and dropped punches from top position, not a full mount either but just from a top position with Lensar’s legs still active. Shane pounded away, chipping away at Lesnar but not doing enough damage to finish him.
The question of whether Josh Rosenthal should have stepped in to stop the fight is debatable, similarly as Parisyan VS Serra was. To Lesnar’s credit, his hands were guarding his face and while he is not doing much to better his position he was blocking punches and when possible, he used his legs to push Carwin away twice. While Carwin was looking to finish, he was also tiring himself out quickly. His stamina was always an unknown factor but we did know that Lesnar could go the distance.
Once the second round started, Carwin was still aggressively chasing Lesnar despite his cardio disappearing. It was only a matter of time that he got sloppy and tired, and once he did Lesnar took a double leg and quickly worked not for strikes, but for that arm triangle choke that ended their dance.
During that first knockdown and ground & pound session, if Carwin had actually let Lesnar up, he most likely could have put Brock back on his ass in a matter of a few punches. In fact, it looked like after the first time Brock pushed off, he was trying to employ that strategy but grew impatient and jumped back on him. Had he waited a few more moments, Rosenthal would have definitely forced Brock to get back to his feet and put Brock back at a disadvantage. Knocking down a fresh Lesnar was a feat unto itself, but knocking down a stunned Lesnar would have been much easier and would have pushed Carwin into a TKO win, if not KO.
Carwin is still a young fighter and this was a good lesson for him patience, and he now knows what he has to work on to improve himself. That is what losses do, just as Serra recovered from his loss and put into practice what failed him the first time to do it right the next time it presented itself. I believe if these two fighters met again, Carwin could do the same thing he did to Brock in this meeting in the opening minutes, only next time he should be patient and let Lesnar come to him in a weakened state, instead of exhausting himself on a defending Lesnar and exposing his weaknesses for Lesnar to take advantage of after the reset.
What do you think? Would this strategy work for Carwin or is there something else you think he could have done differently to win? Or no matter what, would it not matter and would Brock end up with his arm raised once more?