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Dissection by Dallas: Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin @ UFC 116

By CagePotato contributor Dallas Winston

For a match-up of such epic proportions, both literally and figuratively, Lesnar vs. Carwin does not offer a ton of evidence to analyze.

In the grand scheme of the MMA heavyweight scene, both Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin are relative newcomers, as their total career fights combined equates to a number one-half of former god Fedor Emelianenko’s times at bat. In only five fights, Lesnar has shown marked improvement and new aspects of an evolving game in each outing, and even though Carwin specified that his focus is becoming a well-rounded fighter, his right hand alone has left a trail of twelve motionless cadavers in its wake.

My team of MMA scientists submitted the official report from their pre-fight ceremonial ritual — in which bits of evidence are fed into the “MMA Math Machine” to extrapolate key factors that assist in fight predictions — and the findings for both read: Big. Strong. Wrestle good. Punch hard.

As much I’d like to over-glorify things, that’s really what this fight boils down to.

After a timely referee intervention and a Frank Mir kneebar that Oleg Taktarov surely toasted a shot of Smirnoff to, it seemed Lesnar fit the prototypical example of a strong and berserk aggressor who was no match for the technical superiority of a modern day mixed martial artist. Hardcore MMA fans cited Bohlander/Jackson while exchanging high-fives. Big Brock went on to display shades of technical basics in western boxing and Jiu Jitsu positioning; making his natural athleticism, freakish stature, and wrestling acumen a scary starting point rather than the limit to his abilities. WWE fans ripped their shirts off, flexed, chewed some Skoal, and went cow-tipping in celebratory bacchanal.

Anticipating a caveman takedown in their UFC 87 clash, Herring instead swallowed a leather-coated porterhouse steak in the opening moments that sent him flailing backwards, opening the cell door to Brock’s opportunity for three rounds of prison style rape. Brock actually came under fire for being unable to finish the experienced Herring (as only Cro Cop and Fedor could), but he proved how a conceptual grasp of BJJ can quickly bestow a green MMA grappler with good ground defense and an ideal perch to shower down hammerfists. Fast forward to Frank Mir II, where what was deemed a primitive “hold head, smash face” tactic was really a calculated neck crank against the fence that petrified Mir’s normally active guard and cleared the runway for unhindered clobbering.

Randy Couture, who helped Lesnar prepare for Carwin, crumbled under a glancing Lesnar right hand that was delivered with exceptional form for only five fights deep. Couture is not known as a striker, but let’s not forget that this is the man famous for slithering through blows in victories over renowned strikers like Vitor Belfort, Pedro Rizzo, Chuck Liddell, Tim Sylvia, and Brandon Vera.

The reason small details like tucking your chin when throwing a punch and staying light on your feet with your hands up are important is because it’s the very reason Shane Carwin got tagged square in the jaw by Wain, Wellisch, and Gonzaga. Long-term cardio and consistent output are question marks, as Carwin has never fought five full minutes nor enjoyed a seat on the stool in between rounds, burying everyone he’s faced in the first frame. Despite any suggestion of the slightest Carwin flaw being easily refuted by the statement “so what, he’s undefeated,” miniscule elements like this often make the difference. They’re also the only real warning signs you can point out about the guy.

He’s not a submission wizard, but that’s a wash against Brock. Both stated that BJJ is a big part of their training regimen, but neither have clocked any live fight-time off their back and probably won’t feel at ease in that position. There’s an argument for Brock having a slight edge in wrestling, but it’s close enough that the differentiator will likely center around timing and whoever sets up the takedown better.

Since match-ups between heralded grapplers often unfold in kickboxing affairs and both Lesnar and Carwin can torque more power standing than on the ground, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fight never goes to the mat. Some tiny nitpicking on Carwin’s striking defense, such as idle head-movement, having the tendency to remain flat-footed, and hanging his chin out would steer me toward Brock and his surprisingly ample boxing technique. The ability to vanquish opponents into the underworld of Hades with a mere touch of the hand often forgives many such sins.

Carwin’s rap sheet gives him the straight power-punching advantage, but Brock’s agility and footwork should allow him to avoid Hiroshima in the Octagon. Either fighter that can incorporate leg kicks could target the heavy lead leg both bear from their wrestling-oriented stance, but I don’t believe either fighter has even attempted the technique. It’s a toss-up, but it seems Brock should be more resilient with takedown defense, and the way everything has bounced off his chin so far puts him slightly ahead to out-box Carwin and hold his own everywhere else.

Though a single punch, takedown, or mistake could completely change or end the fight…

My Prediction: Lesnar by TKO

Cagepotato Comments

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Leonard Washington- July 5, 2010 at 8:19 am
Awesome. I know this article is old, but I still wanted to acknowledge Mofo's comments.

I followed almost the exact same path as you leading up to Hinton. "Choose Your Own Adventure" is quite a blast from the past. I first graduated to the more hardcore versions of these, like "Test of the Ninja" and a few others.

RumbleFish was also my favorite movie, and I actually just watched it the other night. The way that everything changed at the movie's halfway point (when Rusty James got bashed over the head with the crowbar) and Rusty goes from being the "dumb and unpredictable hood" to "the chilled out smart guy" was very well captured by Coppola.

Mofo- July 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

SE Hinton RULES. At 9 years old I went from reading Narnia, Encyclopedia Brown, and Choose yer own Adventure to reading Hinton. That was like Roger Rabbit stepping out of a cartoon into the real world... and then getting into a knife fight and goin' on the lam.

All that Hinton shit messed my head up and helped turn me from a boy to a man. And yet it was written by a 16 yr old girl, how bizarre is that.

Saw all the movies as they came out too. Rumblefish was my fave. Glad to see Mickey Rourke is kicking ass again, he's been the fuckin man since Rumblefish.
Leonard Washington- July 3, 2010 at 11:02 am
@mofo: strongly disagree it's as simple as "standing = Carwin, ground = Brock". Carwin's got great power on the feet, but Brock is much more polished and deserves credit for not planting his feet and trying to decapitate people. I never mean any disrespect when I criticize, but Shane has poor head movement and defense, and also plants firmly to generate his power. The advantage is that people go to sleep when he connects, the disadvantage is that Brock could time a shot and take him down.

@ArmFarmer: insightful post, I agree completely. One of the common complaints I get for these posts is that they're too long and wordy, so I didn't touch on the specifics of the Gonzaga fight. Your analysis is spot on though.

@Nut Puncher: yes I've heard and yes I agree. That was Hughes' big thing--to stand southpaw when he was in trouble and use his power-right as a jab and to snare the lead leg. I think Brock is the better wrestler, but in the grand scheme of things, neither has shown me anything to indicate they can dominate the other wrestling, which is why I think the circumstance and set-up will dictate the success from either guy.

I usually love to jabber, but it was my birthday yesterday and didn't keep up with the comments here. I love CP because no one can dispute that the readers here are very knowledgeable. Thanks to everyone for reading this and providing good feedback.
Leonard Washington- July 3, 2010 at 10:47 am
Huh... is posting links a no-no? I linked to a gif of Couture wobbling Brock's jaw with a hard right hand that didn't show up.

Anyway, I wanted to acknowledge Rex13: thanks for the compliment, and I'm a fan of your work as well.

@fatbellyfrank: I don't think I've encountered too many people who are familiar with all of those books/movies. Good taste. I just watched Rumble Fish last night, which I think is the best of the movies (thanks to Francis Ford Coppola). That was Then hit home the most for me though, as my best friend since junior high was kind of a ruffian that I eventually branched off from.

@RwilsonR: thanks for the nod, and I'm not stating with any confidence that Brock will be the winner. The point of my analysis isn't to explain who will win, but rather just touch on the key strengths and weaknesses and how they match up.
Nut Puncher 9000- July 2, 2010 at 10:40 am
Has anyone read that Lesnar is planning on rolling Southpaw?

If you know traditional wrestling you can read between the lines and tell Brock's ego is being tested when everyone says that Carwin's wrestling credentials are "virtually identical." Brock wants to prove he has superior wrestling. Its just a point his ego must prove. He will be going for the takedown...Stamp that shit guarenteed.

ArmFarmer- July 2, 2010 at 10:20 am
I see all this talk about the shots Gonzaga tagged Carwin with, but what surprises me is that no one has said a word about the fact that Gonzaga took Carwin down with ease. It seems everyone forgot that part, which I have to admit I did as well until I watched the fight today.

Gonzaga pushed Carwin up against the cage, grabbed a single leg, and tripped him down. Gonzaga is a bjj world champ, but as I've said a million times there is a HUGE difference between the takedown abilities of a bjj guy and a wrestler. I thought Carwin was going to win, but after rewatching his fights I saw a lot of holes. I think this fight goes just like the gonzaga fight, except that Carwin will not be able to pop right back up with brock on top of him.
Mofo- July 2, 2010 at 8:31 am
Intelligent analysis, but seriously, what's the point. Here's all there is to it: If it goes to the ground, Brock wins, if it stays on the feet, Carwin wins. And it will go to the ground. That's about it.

Lesnar will dump Shane on his ass, sit on his face, and take a shit on him.

If Shane's lucky, he'll get to throw his Hellboy fist before that happens, but that's less likely.

I'm a huge Carwin fan, and have no love for Brock, but Brock's speed and takedowns will give Carwin his first loss.

"If Carwin can't, no-one can"? That actually doesn't match you're own analysis, I'd argue, since it's Cain's speed, footwork, and cardio that fill in the gaps that you point out in Carwin. So if Carwin can't, Cain can.
X- July 2, 2010 at 7:23 am
Doesn't matter who wins both are going to get "abel'd," ....Cain gets the belt, let the hate begin!!!!!!!!
fatbellyfrank- July 2, 2010 at 2:35 am
BREAKING NEWS: This just in, after hours of research and analysis via the FBF- Wanko- Meter, utilising data such as Height ,Weight, Record, Number of growth rings around base of penis, Emotional turmoil due to taking Marc Mero's sloppy seconds etc. The following results are available and should be analysed whilst making predictions on the outcome of this bout:

LESNAR = Beats people up

CARWIN = Knocks people out
fatbellyfrank- July 2, 2010 at 12:54 am
Leonard Washington Says:
Fri, 07/02/2010 - 08:02

I've also seen death threats in internet arguments, and even one cat post the living room floorplan of the guy he was trying to meet up with.

I see you remember UFC Fan as well huh? wonder where he went?
fatbellyfrank- July 2, 2010 at 12:33 am
Looks like Sakuraba 's decided to hang with the Soc's
Sakuraba3900- July 1, 2010 at 11:19 pm
Official rivalry with ElGuapo and AlmostNorth has begun as of tonight.
k-onda- July 1, 2010 at 7:25 pm
No way neither of these baheemiths doesn't put fist to face at some point in the first, that's pretty much all I care about. Still, if I gotta say, I think it'll be the Brocken, but I hope it'll be Carwineus.
RwilsonR- July 1, 2010 at 5:37 pm
War Dally, and his badass 10" switchblade!!!
fatbellyfrank- July 1, 2010 at 5:33 pm
Oh and BTW, for what its worth I got Carwin, Leben and Sotiropoulos, the other match ups Im just hoping for great fights.
RwilsonR- July 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm
I like this guy. Entertaining read, and good analysis, but I disagree with how it is going to play out.

I think this fight is going to come down to whether Carwin can score a big blow before Brock puts him on his ass. Because for me the two main factors in this fight will be Brock's superior wrestling, and Brock's general dislike of being punched.

For one, I just don't agree with people who say that the wrestling is basically a wash between these two. Brock has more impressive credentials by far, but beyond that, he simply looks far more athletic, far more fleet of foot, and seems to have far better wrestling instincts from the little we have seen of these two in the cage. Carwin looks like he slower, and plants his feet pretty solidly instead of moving lithely around the cage. Generally, Carwin moves like a 36 year old, 280lb. man, who has played football his whole life. In other words, Carwin certainly shows signs of his former athleticism, but he also shows signs of wear and tear on a big man that has beat up his body over a lifetime of contact sports. He is older than Lesnar, albut more importantly, he shows his age more.

But what Carwin does have is power, and the other major factor for me is how Brock will react to that power. I don't necessarily agree that Brock has been adequately chin checked, or that you can even prepare for power like Carwin has. But Brock has seemed to show a bit of discomfort with being punched in the face. Not that anyone really likes to be punched in the face, but watch Brock's reaction when Randy Couture backs him up and tags him with a big right hand. Brock seemed very uncomfortable with it and it briefly took him out of his game. I'm not saying Brock has a weak chin, but if he gets tagged pretty hard, Im not confident that he has enough experience to survive if Carwin capitalizes and comes swarming in.

I thinks Brock's coaches realize Carwin's best shot is on the feet, and given that I think Brock has the far superior wrestling, I think he will go for the takedown early and often. I doubt Carwin will fare too well with Lesnar on top of him, and I have questions about Carwin's cardio if he is on the bottom for extended periods of time. So for me this fight comes down to whether Carwin can KO/TKO Lesnar before Brock gets the takedown and eventually pounds him out.
fatbellyfrank- July 1, 2010 at 5:32 pm
@ leonard Washington, me too man, I loved those books, I tried a ponyboy ref when responding to a post from Soda Popinski, but got nothing. Funny enough my wife has a a bronze embossed copy of the Poem Nothing Gold can stay. Her best friend gave it to her in High School, way before we met so fate obviously threw us together, so yeah, love the SE Hinton ref's'

Every time I eat m&m's I think of that was then this now
Dick_Misanthropenis- July 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm
Brock doesn't have any jaw dropping skills other than his speed and agility vs. his size. It's not like he's the fastest fighter I've ever seen. I believe his main deficit is his lack of experience, he's a guy with a ton of potential who's evolving nicely (and rapidly), he's intelligent and he works hard, but he just lacks the experience and polish to take full advantage of his given abilities. I expect to see an improved fighter Saturday night but it will also be interesting to factor in the ring rust for someone with so little experience.

I think Shane Carwin keeps getting written off by nearly all pundits for whatever unknown hypothetical factor has been left unproved, but the guy lives and trains at altitude and every report from his camp for the last several years is that he easily goes a half an hour. Yes he got caught against Gonzaga and that's why you saw his more "conservative" game plan vs. Mir. He waited nearly a full minute before opening the can of whoop ass. I think this guy has freakish and unique power that keeps getting written off as slightly above average or lucky shots, but I believe it is incomparable. I think he hits harder than anyone else in MMA today, he has a natural ability, evidenced even in his first fight, to punch people out. He also has a great killer instinct. Let the chips fall where they may, but I don't see Brock offering anything to Carwin, not the other way around.
Jim Harbaugh Scramble- July 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm
Great write up.

Awesome photoshop.

I agree with the prediction - brock by TKO.

Carwin's power is unquestioned. His technique and cardio are still question marks.

We know Brock can go at least three rounds. I see him pummeling a tired Carwin for a TKO in rd 3.
cwr- July 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm
and the findings for both read: Big. Strong. Wrestle good. Punch hard.

Your MMA Math machine has poor grammar...
floppytall- July 1, 2010 at 3:22 pm
@ c-c-c-c-c-combobreakerman

I'm with you 117.3%. I thought Mir hurt Lesnar but then Lesnar fell forward like a grizzly bear being darted in the ass and took Mir down. I think if Carwin doesn't straight KTFO Lesnar that if he gets him in trouble and Lesnar shoots for a take down, Carwin will be able to sprawl and guard against it and then proceed to club Lesnar in the head like Noah did all the baby seals on his motorboat ride.
ccman- July 1, 2010 at 3:05 pm
Carwin by ko.

Whether we wanna admit it or not mir hurt brock in the second and minus one {ala AA} attempted flying knee had brock grasping blindly, which pinned mir again for the finish. Carwin will not need as many punches. Plus he will not get bulldozed like mir. Just can't see lesner producing the pop to end this like he would need to.
Leonard Washington- July 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Indeed an Outsiders reference. It's kind of a weird personal thing, but when I was in elementary school, my first creative inspiration was the series of S.E. Hinton books and movies (The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Tex, That Was Then This Is Now, etc.). Interestingly enough, Clash of the Titans was also an early influence.

Shortly after I found out Hinton and Stephen King used pen names, and decided way back then mine would by Ol' Dally.

I've also seen death threats in internet arguments, and even one cat post the living room floorplan of the guy he was trying to meet up with.

But I'm not skurt, so send death threats and nailbombs to my real name and address:

Tom Dick
1234 Harry
Justkiddingston, MT 8675309
floppytall- July 1, 2010 at 2:46 pm
I may be recalling this wrong but during Lesnar 8=> Mir II, when Mir got a couple of good shots in on Lesnar I thought I remember him staggering some. I thought that that was the point at which Lesnar shot for the take down that led to those vicious headbutts to the fist from Mir.
mthomas- July 1, 2010 at 2:34 pm
Anybody else know if "dally Winston" is an 'Outsiders' reference or actually the dude's name? Stay gold Ponyboy, stay gold....

Oh, and why link to your UFC 87 Liveblog if the page can't be found?