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Classic Fight: Frank Mir vs. Brock Lesnar at UFC 81 [VIDEO]

(Match starts at the 10:48 mark. Props:

To hype up Frank Mir‘s return to the Octagon at UFC 164 this coming Saturday, the UFC has released one of Frank’s career highlights — his first-round submission victory against pro-wrestling star Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, back in February 2008. Lesnar had first dipped his toes into the MMA pool the previous June, when he swallowed up Min Soo Kim at Dynamite!! USA in Los Angeles. That was enough to earn him an invitation to the UFC, but his debut fight would not be an easy one.

Lesnar wasted absolutely no time in dumping Mir on his back and firing some nasty shots from above. Then, referee Steve Mazzagatti makes a rather controversial choice, halting the action after Lesnar lands some punches to the back of Mir’s head. Theoretically, it’s the right call to make; Lesnar clearly lands at least four rabbit-punches at the video’s 11:08-11:12 mark. But how many times have you actually seen a UFC referee enforce that rule so quickly, without previous warnings? The Mazz deducts a point from Lesnar and re-starts the action with the fighters in a standing position. It’s a lucky break for Mir, who gets a moment to clear the cobwebs.

That is, until Lesnar punches Mir to the mat — or did Mir fall down on purpose, to bait him? — and gets back on top. As Brock fires down punches, Mir establishes guard, then wraps up Lesnar’s leg when Lesnar makes the mistake of standing up. Mir grabs a kneebar, and Brock taps.

For those MMA fans who felt that a pro-wrestler could never be competitive in “real fighting,” it was a satisfying moment to see the big man toppled. But Lesnar was far from finished: He dominated Heath Herring in his next UFC fight, TKO’d Randy Couture to become the UFC heavyweight champion (!), wrecked Frank Mir in a rematch at UFC 100 that took in 1.6 million pay-per-view buys, and defended his belt for the second time in a classic comeback-fight against Shane Carwin at UFC 116.

Eventually, diverticulitis and an inability to hang with dangerous strikers sent Brock packing back to the WWE. But from 2008-2010, Lesnar really was the “Next Big Thing” in MMA, and Frank Mir deserves much of the credit for putting him over.

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