(VidProps: MMA Weekly)
Brock Lesnar could have a lot of things working against him when he climbs into the cage tonight for UFC 116 – a long layoff, possible lingering effects of a career-threatening disease, his most dangerous challenger to date and the concentrated hatred of all the good and decent people of the world, just to name a few. With so much already on his plate, it was a little weird earlier this week when Lesnar disclosed that he used some of the extra time off he had while recovering from that hole God put in his stomach lining to switch from an orthodox striking stance to southpaw for his fight with Shane Carwin.
Maybe it’s the smirk on Lesnar’s face during the opening seconds of the above video, but it’s hard not to wonder: Is Brock just fucking with us? Does he really intend to try to fight Carwin as a lefty tonight? Or is this just some gamesmanship on the part of the former WWE wrestler?
As Lesnar mentioned this week – and as Carwin astutely points out in the vid – it’s not totally unheard of for wrestlers to prefer the southpaw stance. It puts their dominant leg forward, essentially resetting them into the wrestling stance they used in college and helps them fire off their takedown attempts. So, in light of the notion that Lesnar won’t want to mess around much with Carwin’s striking attack, perhaps going left-handed makes perfect sense.
On the other hand, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that “switching stances” is something fighters generally do right before they get knocked the fuck out. For a guy like Lesnar, who is still essentially a novice in the punching and kicking department, it seems like a big risk to take headed into the biggest fight of his life against a knockout artist like Carwin. Especially considering that Carwin’s one advantage in this fight – besides sheer experience – might be his stand-up game. Is switching to southpaw going to make Lesnar’s shot so much better that it’s worth taking any added danger on the feet?
The other concern is that moving to a left-handed stance might rob Lesnar of the one punch we’ve seen him use effectively thus far in his MMA career: The straight right.
He made Heath Herring do somersaults with that laser right hand in the early stages of their fight at UFC 87 and dropped new best bud Randy Couture with it before finishing him with spastic hammerfists in the second round of their bout at UFC 91. If that right hand is suddenly out front and essentially turns into a jab, will it still be as devastating?
Lesnar said he brought noted striking coach Peter Welch into his private Minnesota-based training camp to help him make the switch. That sounds like a lot of trouble to go through unless he really is planning on going lefty tonight. I guess you have to give a guy like Welch the benefit of the doubt. Still, if the strategy was in some way to mess with Carwin and trainer Trevor Wittman – either by bluffing or actually switching to southpaw – it doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect. Carwin sounded as cool and collected as ever when asked about the change at this week’s press conference.
“Everybody can switch stances in mixed martial arts,” Carwin says above. “I train with guys that do that all the time. The wrestlers predominantly like to come out southpaw because that’s how they used to wrestle, so it would not be a surprise (for Lesnar to do it).”
Not a surprise and maybe not that smart, either.