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Sunday, July 12, 2009
UFC 100 Postmortem

By Jake Rossen/Sherdog.com

A prizefight ring offers up a lot of truths, not all of them pretty.

UFC 1, airing to a mostly nauseated pay-per-view audience of 80,000 homes in November 1993, used a lot of cringe-worthy brutality to prove that fighting wasn't what Bruce Lee had led us to believe.

UFC 100, which played to unprecedented media coverage and perhaps more than a million households on Saturday, used a lot of cringe-worthy brutality to prove that fighting wasn't even what Royce Gracie had led us to believe.

Brock Lesnar silenced nearly 18 months of derisive talk about his submission loss to Frank Mir by working Mir's face like he was kneading pizza dough, his monstrous arms battering like pistons.

Lesnar, who is a massive man in a sport that almost humors size, is keeping a promise made by Mark Coleman back in 1996 -- that if you're athletic and you can wrestle, you've got a career for the taking.

Lesnar's growing mystique is a little less subtle than Gracie's: most of us are built like Royce, not Brock, and it's easier to project ourselves in the place of a guy who weighs 170 pounds than someone who looks like a Neanderthal with cantaloupes for biceps. But there is very little doubt that he has positioned himself as the UFC's headlining attraction.

If his destruction of Mir indicates he's getting comfortable in the Octagon, expect the UFC to hire a staff reconstructive facial surgeon. Considering that tickets for Lesnar's appearances sell faster than they can be printed, they can certainly afford it.

What's next

Brock LesnarMartin McNeil for ESPN.comBring it: It's hard to imagine anyone giving Brock Lesnar a run for his money at this point.

Next for Lesnar: The appeal of seeing Lesnar against the winner of Randy Couture-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira on Aug. 29 just deflated considerably -- both men are not as fresh as Mir and would probably be fitted for a toe tag during their prefight physical. Shane Carwin has the horsepower to make it interesting; fans will scream for a bout with Fedor Emelianenko -- and they should get it, just for history's sake -- but a demure and Russian-speaking opponent is not going to pull the attention the gleefully arrogant Mir did, cult following or not.

Next for Mir: One or two weeks of basement dwelling until the swelling goes down; the loser of the rumored Carwin-Cain Velasquez bout.

Next for Georges St. Pierre: A year off to build the requisite amount of muscle to challenge Anderson Silva -- and wait for a contender to emerge. (I like Mike Swick, but his chances against St. Pierre could not be any worse if he were blindfolded.)

Next for Dan Henderson: Yoshihiro Akiyama if he's lucky, Anderson Silva if he's not -- along with a UFC Hall of Fame slot.

Awards

Mark ColemanMartin McNeil for ESPN.comNinety UFC events removed from his Octagon debut and Mark Coleman still knows a thing or two about dropping the hammer.

Awkward Sponsorship Collapse of the Night Award: Brock Lesnar, for dunking UFC execs in boiling water over his jab at event sponsor Bud Light for not paying him directly. (Lesnar, looming over a giant Bud Light logo in the cage, said he'd enjoy a Coors Light instead.) Dana White enjoys his anti-corporate renegade image, but you'd better believe he'd wear a tie to that make-up meeting.

Questionable Sportsmanship of the Night Award: Lesnar, for yelling into what was left of Mir's face after caving it in.

Fan Relations of the Night Award: Lesnar, for measuring his response to the crowd's boos after facing off with Mir, realizing that syllables are more trouble than they're worth and flipping them off.

GIF of the Night Award: Lesnar, for addressing the camera with a mouthful of postfight froth and fury that makes Conan the Barbarian look like a Mouseketeer.

Contrition of the Night Award: Lesnar, for showing up to a postfight news conference apologizing for his manic episode -- all while a Bud Light was positioned near his microphone.

Old Soldier of the Night Award: Mark Coleman did the die-hard fans in attendance proud by gutting out a unanimous decision win over a tough Stephan Bonnar in a preliminary fight. The Hammer looked worlds removed from his last, lethargic performance against Mauricio Rua, scooping Bonnar's legs at will and staying out of some aggressive submission attempts. The punches weren't as hard and the intensity wasn't as pitched as they were in Coleman's heyday, but any veteran of UFC 10 that can keep a fight competitive at UFC 100 is worth anyone's respect.

New questions

Michael BispingJon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesOnly time will tell if Michael Bisping will ever fully recover -- both physically and psychologically -- from his KO loss to Dan Henderson.

Q: Is St. Pierre big enough to challenge Anderson Silva?

A: St. Pierre's fight shape is typically 185 pounds: Silva's is probably closer to 200. GSP needs a muscle masonry expert to help him add a solid 10 pounds of mass -- he would be well-advised to consult with Mackie Shilstone, who added enough quality beef to both Roy Jones and Michael Spinks that they won boxing titles in heavier weight classes.

If St. Pierre can take down Rashad Evans in training, I like his chances against Anderson. It's a big fight, but the UFC has to cannibalize one of its champions in the process.

Q: Will we see Brock Lesnar versus Fedor Emelianenko?

A: Only if White backpedals on earlier demands that Emelianenko abandon Sambo competition and erases the "championship clause" that would bind the Russian to the promotion until he loses his (theoretical) title. The former should be easily dismissed: Emelianenko lost in Sambo last year. No one really cared. The latter could be more of a problem. Both Jens Pulver and Murilo Bustamante bolted to better-paying gigs overseas in 2002 even though they hadn't dropped their respective belts inside the Octagon. It's a bit embarrassing.

Q: Do Lesnar's circus antics validate fans of professional wrestling?

A: Big mouths sell in sports. It's not endemic to wrestling, even though it started there. Muhammad Ali played the same game in the '70s, Tyson in the '90s. White plays it now. All of these men know exactly what they're doing. The polite Anderson Silva might be the most talented man in the UFC: his last headlining bout sold less than 325,000 buys. It takes all kinds.

Q: Will Bisping's brutal knockout via the right hand of Dan Henderson affect his chances of being knocked out in the future?

A: I'm not often mistaken for a neurologist, but here it is: there's only anecdotal evidence that suffering a knockout increases the odds of having it happen more easily in the future. But studies done on concussion victims have taken note of a drop off in their timing, balance and reaction. Can a fighter be changed by a severe blow? Yes, he can.

Etc.

Michael Bisping, Dan HendersonJon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesDan Henderson, right, took heat for the manner in which he disposed of Michael Bisping.

UFC 100's estimated $5.1 million live gate is the second-biggest in company history, behind Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz 2 in 2006. But, as you know, Ortiz isn't worth discussing in White's history books.

Dan Henderson took a little heat for claiming his follow-up blow to an already unconscious Michael Bisping was personal, but he later recanted, telling journalists that he was "joking." As with Lesnar, nothing an athlete says immediately following a fight should be taken seriously. There is a mass release of all kinds of brain chemicals following a win that fuels some stupid and regrettable actions.

The UFC estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 people showed up for the Fan Expo on July 10 and 11. Considering that ground zero for young-demo pop culture gatherings is the 20-year-old San Diego Comic Convention and its 100,000 attendees, that number is staggering.

Las Vegan Natasha Wicks won the right to be ogled by thousands during a Maxim/UFC Octagon Girl contest on Saturday.

Tom Lawlor, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Alan Belcher, and Dan Henderson each earned performance-incentive bonuses of $100,000.

First reported by the Wrestling Observer, a new rule went into effect Saturday that gives a fouled fighter the option of choosing to restart the fight in the same position on the ground or standing. Dong Hyun Kim took advantage of the revision when he suffered an illegal up-kick from T.J. Grant on Saturday: The fight was broken and then resumed on the feet.