Forget Lesnar's health, how's his standup?

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
5:08
PM ET
Dundas By Chad Dundas
ESPN.com
Archive
Brock LesnarEd Mulholland for ESPN.comBrock Lesnar was never a man of few words -- until it came time to talk about his health.
Brock Lesnar was in no mood.

No mood to talk about his health, anyway. Not during Monday’s UFC 141 conference call, when the former heavyweight champion bristled at repeated questions about his recovery from a second bout with diverticulitis, which has kept him out of the cage since October 2010.

“That's the best you can come up with today?” Lesnar eventually retorted to the reporter unlucky enough to ask that one question too many about how the big fella was feeling. “I feel great. I feel very, very good.”

This was not unexpected, obviously. From the beginning of his MMA career, Lesnar has taken an adversarial stance with the media and continued queries about his health force an already very private man to not only talk about his personal life, but to confront his own mortality in a way he’d probably rather not think about. Maybe as a result, word on the street is that, aside from the prerequisite news conferences and long-distance calls, the UFC's biggest pay-per-view draw won’t be doing much PR leading up to his main event bout with Alistair Overeem on Dec. 30.

One thing seems strange, though. As painful as it may be for him, shouldn’t Lesnar be pleased if the MMA media only wants to ask him about his health? After all, these questions should be far easier to answer than the ones about his stand-up game.

Even if no one wants to say it to his face, the thing we all whisper about Brock Lesnar when he’s not around is that he doesn’t like to get hit. And make no mistake, Overeem is going to try to hit him.

Lesnar’s aura of invincibility may have completely come undone during a UFC 121 loss to Cain Velasquez late last year, but the cracks had begun to show before that. The moment Lesnar started to look vulnerable on his feet can be traced back to his UFC 116 bout against Shane Carwin when, a minute, two seconds into the first round, Carwin stuck him with an uppercut and Lesnar recoiled like a man just realizing for the first time how bad that can hurt.

He went on to win that fight, of course, due to the good graces of referee Josh Rosenthall, but in the wake of an even more disastrous performance against Velasquez and then a lengthy absence from his intestinal ailment, questions about what Lesnar has done to shore up his punch phobia should be front and center here.

He’s given every impression that he’s indeed fully recovered from the diverticulitis, but his ability either survive (or avoid completely) Overeem’s stand-up game remains the biggest mystery. We learned against Carwin and Velasquez that, no, Lesnar won’t be able to instantly take down everyone in the UFC. What's worse, those last two performances left us with the impression he didn’t really have a back-up plan.

Will he have one next week, when he steps in against the most dangerous striker he’s ever faced? Will he be ready when that first punch pops his head back? Can he take Overeem down before it comes to that? And if he can't or he can't keep there, what then?

These are the question that should cause Lesnar the most consternation before UFC 141. The ones about his fists and his face, not the ones about his stomach.

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