Commentary

Heavyweight Lesnar appears in a league of his own

Bigger, faster and more skilled: Brock Lesnar isn't your stereotypical lumbering heavyweight. Still, there are fighters who would pose problems for the UFC champion. Ben Cohen looks at five of them.

Originally Published: November 18, 2008
By Ben Cohen | Special to ESPN.com

Brock Lesnar's victory over Randy Couture on Saturday changed the heavyweight landscape dramatically. The monstrous Lesnar represents a new breed of heavyweight -- huge, fast and skilled.

Couture presented a stiff challenge to the 265-pound behemoth, clubbing Lesnar with thudding shots, cutting him with an incisive jab and even backing him up against the cage. Ultimately, though, Couture was overwhelmed by Lesnar's sheer size and simply had no answer for his brutal power.

As Couture succinctly put it: "[Lesnar is] just a big SOB; that's all there is to it."

MMA fans have already begun to discredit Lesnar's win, saying Couture was over-the-hill and too small, but credit must be given where credit is due. Lesnar has manhandled two top-level fighters and has wrested the heavyweight title in four professional bouts, a feat unparalleled in the sport's history.

Surveying the landscape, it's difficult to find a fighter capable of handling Lesnar (in the UFC at least), and it will be interesting to see whom Dana White picks to be his next opponent.

In terms of size, several heavyweights match up well with Lesnar, but only a select few can match his athletic talent.

Here's a look at five fighters who have the tools and the potential to give Lesnar trouble inside the cage.

Frank Mir

Mir might hold a win over Lesnar, but few would favor him in a rematch given the hiding he was taking up until the stoppage.

[+] EnlargeBrock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comWould Brock Lesnar fare any better against Frank Mir, front, in a rematch?
"I didn't know where he was half the time," Mir told Sherdog.com after their first encounter. "It really felt like I was underwater and somebody was beating the s--- out of me. I was just drowning under him."

Mir is a highly skilled jiu-jitsu fighter with solid standup skills, but Lesnar's improving ground game would most likely negate most of Mir's advantages.

Mir will always be dangerous on the mat, but he won't find Lesnar's limbs so easily next time around.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Like Mir, Nogueira has a solid standup game and world-class jiu-jitsu skills to match, but his tendency to take a lot of punishment before turning the tables would put him at serious risk against a fighter of Lesnar's destructive caliber. Nogueira took an awful beating from Tim Sylvia before pulling out a submission victory; it's hard to imagine Nogueira surviving that kind of punishment from Lesnar.

If Nogueira can stifle Lesnar's attack and push the fight past the third or fourth round, he would increase his chances of forcing an error from the larger man. But with Lesnar's striking game improving with each fight, Nogueira would most likely find himself in the horizontal position before then.

Cheick Kongo

Kongo's vicious standup game is meant to give Lesnar fits, and at 6-foot-4, Kongo's frame is certainly large enough to hang with Lesnar. But the Frenchman's wrestling skills are not in the same league, and he looked vulnerable to a good ground game against Heath Herring in March.

Kongo rebounded from his loss to Herring with a victory over Dan Evensen at UFC 87, but he needs a victory over a topflight opponent to be seriously considered for a title shot.

Gabriel Gonzaga

Interestingly, Gonzaga might have the best tools out of the UFC heavyweights to take on Lesnar. For a 250-pound fighter, Gonzaga has surprising agility and sublime jiu-jitsu skills. He looked impressive against Josh Hendricks on the undercard Saturday, delivering pinpoint strikes in pounding out Hendricks in less than a round.

Gonzaga has looked inconsistent in losing to Couture and Fabricio Werdum, but he does have the potential to be a very good heavyweight if he prepares properly. Gonzaga could hurt Lesnar with his strikes, and he wouldn't be bullied so easily on the floor.

Fedor Emelianenko

[+] EnlargeFedor Emelianenko and Tim Sylvia
Darryl Dennis/Icon SMIHow would Brock Lesnar fare against a vastly more experienced heavyweight like Fedor Emelianenko?
In reality, the one MMA heavyweight who would be favored to beat Lesnar decisively is Fedor Emelianenko. The Russian phenom is widely considered the best heavyweight on the planet and has defeated some of the best fighters with breathless ease.

Emelianenko is a multidimensional mixed martial artist with heavy hands and solid whiskers. His annihilations of Hong Man Choi and Tim Sylvia provide insight into how he would deal with Lesnar's size, and it is difficult to envision the UFC champion having his way with someone so versatile and confident. Emelianenko seems to relish fighting bigger men, and his speed and accuracy would give Lesnar fits.

Emelianenko is currently signed with M1 Promotions and has a fight pending with Andre Arlovski with Affliction in January, so fight fans we won't be seeing him in the Octagon any time soon.

Should Fedor dispose of Arlovski in style (and most think he will), the calls for him to fight Lesnar will grow louder and the demand to see Emelianenko ply his trade as a UFC fighter will be at an all-time high.

Ben Cohen covers boxing for Boxing Monthly.