The Shortlist of Names for Brock Lesnar’s UFC Return
Oh, boy. On UFC on FOX, UFC president Dana White dropped a bombshell. Brock Lesnar, the former UFC heavyweight champion, and WWE superstar will return to the Octagon. While the timing of Lesnar’s comeback is yet unknown, there are several fighters that stand out as must-see opponents. Of course, there are several barriers in the way, like that pesky USADA testing program, but should Lesnar (5-3, 1 NC MMA, 4-3, 1 NC UFC) clear a path to the UFC, here are some of the most able suitors for his return.
Dana White dropping news that Brock Lesnar is coming back to the octagon. pic.twitter.com/FUGHO21i8O
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) April 5, 2018
News broke after Lesnar defended his WWE title at Wrestlemania that he would re-sign with the WWE. Despite the agreement, Steven Muehlhausen of Sporting News and Fightful Online reported that Lesnar would be able to compete in the UFC, too.
EXCLUSIVE: Well, Vince McMahon broke part of the news I had. Indeed, Brock Lesnar has resigned with WWE. But, from what I have been told by multiple sources, Lesnar signed a new multi-year deal AND will also be allowed to fight in the UFC as hes still under UFC contract.
— Steven Muehlhausen (@SMuehlhausenMMA) April 9, 2018
Despite rumors that Lesnar would fight the winner of the upcoming Miocic/Cormier title fight, Lesnar’s recent history suggestions that might not be the most warranted outcome. With that in mind, here’s a look at some non-title fights the UFC could put together.
Few men on Earth can match the terrifying aura and stature of Brock Lesnar. Francis “The Predator” Ngannou (11-2 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is one of those few. The massive Cameroonian is one of the most highly touted fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division. His unbeaten UFC career came to an end this past January when Ngannou faltered against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220.
Over the course of five rounds, Miocic halted the hype train of Ngannou with a grinding wrestling-oriented attack that neutralized the jaw-dropping power that led Ngannou to the top of the division. Despite the defeat, however, Ngannou looked on the bright side of things, declaring that he would “come back stronger.”
Unfortunately it didn't go on my way last night but I learned some different aspects of this sport and I'll come back stronger! TRUST ME ☝️ . #UFC220
— Francis NGannou (@francis_ngannou) January 21, 2018
A stronger Ngannou should put fear into the hearts of every heavyweight. Prior to his championship challenge against Miocic, Ngannou had stopped each of his UFC opponents, with five knockouts in six wins. His knockout over highly decorated striker Alistair Overeem stands out among the rest. The vicious, brutal nature of Ngannou’s uppercut stunned fans and fighters alike. If anyone can match the sheer brute strength of Lesnar, it’s Ngannou.
Ngannou is acutely aware of just how compelling a match with the former champion could be. On the MMA Hour, Ngannou singled out Lesnar. He called for, even begged for, Lesnar to return and fight him.
“Please Brock, come back, come back my friend. We need you here. We need you to put the fun in this division. I need you to give me that f–king fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time, I’ve been dreaming for” – Ngannou on #TheMMAHourhttps://t.co/cyJup2VyeD
— Alexander K Lee (@AlexanderKLee) March 19, 2018
Stylistically, the matchup could be a lot of fun. Ngannou’s striking prowess has only been negated once in recent memory, by Miocic. Miocic’s wrestling-heavy approach mirrors Lesnar’s own game. In the past, however, Lesnar has been derailed by strikers (see: Alistair Overeem). Because both fighters skillsets directly contradict the other’s, it makes for interesting speculation as to what might transpire.
In addition, the fight makes sense from a financial perspective. Brock Lesnar has proven himself to be a pay-per-view superstar (in two sports), meaning his return is sure to be a blockbuster event. Who better to pit him against than a monstrous knockout machine in Francis Ngannou? Ngannou showed his marketability in the lead-up to UFC 220, and has an unbelievable backstory. Promoted correctly, a superfight between Lesnar and Ngannou could very well act as a tentpole event.
For Lesnar’s return, Francis Ngannou very might well be the best possible opponent. From a stylistic perspective, the fight could go either way. Financially, it makes sense on every level. As for its impact on the division, the winner could cement himself as one of the most feared fighters in the world. The next fight for “The Beast Incarnate” could in all likelihood be “The Predator”.
If Ngannou doesn’t get the call, Lesnar might instead try to avenge a previous career loss. Cain Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) took the heavyweight title from Lesnar at UFC 121 in 2010. One of the highest highs for Velasquez, who won the heavyweight belt for the first time, was one of the lowest lows for Lesnar. Upon his return, Lesnar might want to settle the score against Velasquez.
Ironically, both Lesnar and Velasquez last fought at the same event, UFC 200. The circumstances surrounding their hiatuses, however, are far different. Lesnar returned to the WWE after failing a drug test, while Velasquez suffered from several injuries. Both fighters are expected to carry a significant amount of ring rust into the cage.
Stylistically, the two pair up nicely with one another. Despite Velasquez’s signature boxing, his base has always been his technical wrestling and machine-like cardio. Lesnar, too, relies on his wrestling talents. A former NCAA D-I champion, Lesnar dominated his UFC opponents with incredible strength and deftness on the ground. In their first matchup, Velasquez was able to stun Lesnar on the feet en route to a ferocious ground and pound finish.
From a matchmaking standpoint, a rematch could be a good indicator of where the duo stands in the divisional rankings. For Velasquez, many want to see if he can recapture his championship form. With Lesnar, curiosity abounds as to what his abilities might look like with so much time away from training. regardless, the intrigue of the bout would draw attention like few other matchups can.
Of course, the financial aspect of the matchup should be taken into account. Much like the Ngannou possibility, the backstory could certainly play a role in the promotion of the fight. The fact that Velasquez defeated Lesnar once prior is a major storyline to focus on in the lead-up to a rematch. As always, a heavyweight fight between two titans is a selling point in it of itself.
Because of their history, their current standings, and the state of the heavyweight division, a bout between Lesnar and Velasquez could very well be the likely option for the pair’s respective returns.
If Ngannou and Velasquez lose out on the Lesnar sweepstakes, a certain Texan is sure to pick up the phone. Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (19-5, 1 NC MMA, 10-3 UFC) has built up one of the strongest social media presences and fanbases in the division. Lewis has earned a reputation as a devastating knockout fighter inside the cage, and a larger-than-life personality outside of it.
You may remember Lewis from some of his most memorable moments, like when he pondered the whereabouts of a certain former women’s bantamweight champion after declaring his need to use the restroom. Oh, you want a reminder? Well, Lewis has you covered:
While Lewis uses humor quite often, his in-cage actions are no laughing matter. Since 2014, “The Black Beast” has nine knockout wins. Nine! Most recently, he stopped Polish standup specialist Marcin Tybura in the third round in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 126. His power is rivaled only by the aforementioned Ngannou, but Lewis has even more knockouts to his name.
Lewis’ only apparent weakness is the takedown. And if anyone can get the 265 pounder to the mats, it’s Lesnar. If the two were to even clash, Lesnar would most likely blast double Lewis from bell to bell. Should he be successful, it could be a lopsided affair. But if Lewis can defend the shot, he has a chance to shut off the lights of “The Beast Incarnate”.
In terms of the build-up to the fight, fans could expect a mountain of drama. Trash talking would be at the forefront of every press opportunity, and almost undoubtedly social media would be filled with eye-popping verbal jabs. While the UFC would obviously promote the titanic collusion to the max, they could really step back and watch the two heavyweights sell the fight by themselves.
If Lesnar draws Lewis in his return to the Octagon, expect fireworks inside and outside of the cage. Who knows? Maybe “The Beast Incarnate” meets “The Black Beast” to settle once and for all who the real Beast of the Octagon is.
Ultimately, whoever Lesnar draws, his comeback will be one of the most anticipated UFC spectacles in recent memory. With any luck, the UFC pairs one of the aforementioned fighters with the former heavyweight champion. Assuming all USADA boxes are checked and contractual issues are resolved, Lesnar’s return to the Octagon is on every fan’s wishlist.