It's becoming painfully obvious that Brock Lesnar plans on ditching WWE when his contract expires after WrestleMania 31. Dana White has that obnoxious smirk whenever he's asked about Brock, and WWE is organizing themselves for his departure. He's also sported a more trim look in the past few weeks, which would be more suitable for MMA than wrestling.
But what do you do with Brock Lesnar? This is not the same Lesnar that entered MMA in 2007 and won the championship after only three fights in the UFC. For one, the division has evolved. Gone are the days of a 44 year old champion that weighs 220 pounds in a division where you can weigh up to 265 (with all due respect to Mr. Couture). He's also 37 years old and has battled major health issues in recent years. He had a severe case of diverticulitis, which was the main reason he halted his MMA career in the first place.
Let's not get it twisted, Lesnar can still be a force in the Heavyweight division. But having said that, there's no point in throwing him in there against Cain Velasquez or Junior Dos Santos to get slaughtered right off the bat. He's a mainstream superstar that attracts a lot of eyes and it's important for his first fight back to be competitive. Another thing we must consider is the fact that Bellator may make a huge pitch for his services. Bellator is owned by Viacom and has deep pockets. Lesnar has been known to go where the money is, and would it be such a bad idea for him to fight lesser competition for the same (or more) pay? Let's have a look at the top 12 potential opponents for THE BEAST'S MMA return!
12 Cheick Kongo (Bellator)
The 39 year old Parisian has been a handful for most of his opponents throughout his long career. He even took current UFC champ Cain Velasquez to the judges scorecards in their bout at UFC 99 back in 2009.
Kongo may be the perfect opponent for Lesnar's return because he's tough enough for the fight to be competitive, but his weaknesses match up to Lesnar's strengths. While Kongo has always shown impressive kick boxing, he resembles a fish out of water once the fight hits the mat. The ground game has always been his Achilles heel and it would be interesting to see how he would react if Lesnar takes him down and starts reigning wild ground and pound on him. There's also the "what if" factor. If Kongo connects with a solid punch or kick, will Lesnar get aggressive like he did against Frank Mir, or will he go into retreat mode and turtle up like he did against Alistair Overeem?
11 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC)
Lesnar and Nogueira were atop of the UFC's heavyweight division at around the same time, but somehow kept evading each other. It would be really cool to see this fight finally get put together. Nogueira is so banged up, each time he signs on for a fight, there's a strong possibility that he will pull out due to injury. Nevertheless, he's dead set on resuming his career and Dana White will never cut him.
Nogueira is notorious for taking immense amounts of punishments in his fights and somehow pulling off the miraculous submission off his back. Would he be able to pull off a miracle one more time, or would Lesnar simply pound his face into hamburger meat?
10 Mark Hunt (UFC)
"The Super Samoan's" career resurgence is a feel good story. When PRIDE was bought by the UFC, the UFC brass made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with Hunt, offering to buy out his contract. Basically they were going to pay him to stay home. Hunt was having none of it and was adamant on resuming his career despite being on a five fight losing streak. Hunt has since fought nine times for the UFC, and is currently ranked in the top 5.
The thing with Mark Hunt is that when he gets taken down, he oftentimes doesn't get up. But when he lands a clean punch right on the button, it's his opponent who isn't getting up. Sometimes when he connects, he literally just walks away before the ref can stop the fight because he knows his opponent is out cold.
It would be interesting to see if Lesnar would rag doll Hunt with his wrestling or if the New Zealander could score another highlight reel walk off knockout.
9 Kimbo Slice (Bellator)
Don't lie, you're a bit intrigued. Kimbo Slice is every MMA fan's guilty pleasure. It's like when you're in the car with your buddies and a catchy pop song comes. You proceed to trash it, but in reality, you secretly kind of like it, and would probably turn the volume up if you were alone.
Kimbo became famous by putting his gruesome street fights on the internet and eventually became a YouTube sensation. Even though his fighting ability is limited, he still has huge drawing power among casual fans because he has a recognizable face. People see him and say: "it's that guy that was beating people up in his backyard!"
Would Lesnar steamroll him? Absolutely, but it would be a huge pay day for both guys and would attract a lot of eyes, which is exactly what Bellator needs right now.
8 Roy Nelson (UFC)
This would be one of those fights where people who don't understand the sport would simply look on and wonder how Nelson could possibly stand a chance against Lesnar. "Big Country" is fat and looks like he should be in hot dog eating contests, while Lesnar is built like a comic book character.
The fact of the matter is that Nelson is more than a worthy opponent for Lesnar. He has dynamite in his fists and can end any fight with one punch. He also has a very underrated ground game and would not panic should Lesnar take the fight to the mat.
7 Bobby Lashley (Bellator)
A fight between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley would be like watching two freight trains collide. These guys are basically carbon copies of each other. They have the same strengths and it would be no secret as to what the game plan would be from either side. They'd both put their heads down, and try to ram the other guy through the cage.
What happens if their wrestling skills nullify each other? No biggie, that would be even better as they would have to put their fists up and settle it the old fashioned way. Lashley has been billed as a "can crusher." For you folks that are not familiar with the term, it means that he only fights lesser competition that he knows he can obliterate. He has a bully's mentality which would be difficult to implement if he had an even bigger bully standing across from him.
6 Vitaly Minakov (Bellator)
The Bellator champ has been a wrecking ball so far, as he's decimated anyone that they've put in front of him. Only two of his 14 victories have gone to the judge's scorecards. His judo is impeccable and he is a wonderful fighter to watch but it's unknown as to how he would fair against top level competition. A bout with Lesnar would be unquestionably the stiffest test of his career and would generate a lot of interest.
Bellator is looked at as second best in comparison with the UFC, and in a lot of ways, it is. But hypothetically, if Minakov was fighting Lesnar on the same night as Cain Velasquez was fighting Fabricio Werdum, which bout would you be more inclined to watch? It's a tough call...
5 Andrei Arlovski (UFC)
Arlovski is another fighter that's had a career resurgence. He was all but written off when he went on a four fight losing streak between 2009 and 2011. He's since worked with Greg Jackson and reinvented himself. He's currently riding a four fight win streak and looked fantastic in his last fight as he knocked out Antonio Silva (he even had a cool little celebratory dance afterwards).
Arlovski is the perfect place to fight Lesnar. For one, he has been around for a long time and is considered "a name." He's also capable enough to win, but is not in the elite category where he would come in as a heavy favorite. A victory for either of them would be a nice feather in their cap and would set up the winner for a fight with a top five opponent.
4 Brendan Schaub (UFC)
All the proposed matchups thus far would be big time sellers, but there is one thing that is commonly lacking in all of them. There is no heat or animosity between Lesnar and any of these proposed opponents. When two fighters show a natural disdain for one another, it makes it that much more interesting to watch. Not only the actual fight itself, but the entire process leading up to the fight, as things tend to get heated.
Brendan Schaub has already fired shots at Lesnar. When asked about his thoughts on fighting The Beast, he responded with: "Listen, doing fake wrestling is not the same as being in the UFC. You're playing grab-ass, you know if you're going to win or lose. Yeah, it's hard on you body, great. He hasn't been competing or training like I have. If he comes back to the UFC, I would 100% send him packing back to the fake wrestling."
Come on, it'll sell itself.
3 Frank Mir (UFC)
Mir and Lesnar take animosity to another level, as they show utter contempt for one another. They have fought twice so far and currently stand at one win a piece, so a rubber match would surely make sense.
This rivalry is beyond intense, as it's had some ugly moments. Mir and Lesnar's Heavyweight title fight was the headliner of UFC 100. After Lesnar won via brutal TKO in the second round, he proceeded to get in Mir's (bloody) face and yell: "Talk all the s**t you want now!!" After the loss, Mir didn't mince his words about how he felt about Lesnar. During a radio interview in 2010 with Mark Madden, he said: "I hate who he is as a person, I want to break his neck in the ring, I want him to be the first person that dies to octagon-related injuries."
Had this rubber match taken place two or three years ago, it would have been even more alluring. At this current time, Lesnar has not fought in over three years and is riding a two fight losing streak, while Mir is on a four fight slide. A win for either of them would mean absolutely nothing in regards to the rankings, as the fight would just be for bragging rights.
2 Alistair Overeem (UFC)
Before their first meeting in late 2011, Overeem made the claim that he would tear Lesnar apart: "piece by piece." He certainly made good on his promise, as he stunned Lesnar with a liver kick that left him curled up and waiting for the referee to intervene.
However, Overeem got busted for using performance enhancing drugs right after the fight and has since been a shell of his former self. Since the failed drug test, he's compiled a sub par 2-3 record and is visibly much smaller. He used to weigh in very close to the 265 pound limit, whereas in his most recent fight against Stefan Struve, he only weighed 253 lbs and was wearing jeans and running shoes on the scale.
Overeem also oddly called Lesnar out after his win against Frank Mir last year. This was strange because Lesnar was retired from fighting at the time, and because normally someone who won the first fight doesn't call for a rematch. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if the rematch would produce the same result this time around.
1 Fedor Emelianenko
Fedor is widely regarded as the best Heavyweight of all time. He cleaned out the Heavyweight division in PRIDE, beating all the top contenders, sometimes twice. Some would argue that Cain Velasquez has the potential to easily surpass Fedor's accomplishments, and he does. But the problem with Velasquez is that he's always injured. He fought a grand total of zero times in 2014.
For whatever reason, the UFC brass was unsuccessful in their numerous attempts to lure Fedor over. But Dana White revealed that a dream fight between Lesnar and Emelianenko nearly came to fruition in 2011. White had a meeting with Lesnar, and toyed with the media saying that it went horribly. In reality, the meeting went really well as it pertained to the potential super fight. The bout was virtually set, all that was left was dotting the i's and crossing the t's. But Fedor's father fell ill and passed away, leaving him with no motivation to continue fighting, and the fight was off.
If this fight could somehow happen, time would stop in the MMA world.