Big fighters bring something to the table which the smaller guys simply do not and it is not just about marketability, it is about raw power. Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar both hit very hard. The type of blows which would be no more than an irritation if thrown in the lighter divisions suddenly become the stuff of which knockouts are made of when thrown by one of these two men.
Witness the uppercuts which ended Carwin’s fight with Frank Mir. Normally short, sharp blows of this nature are only used to rough an opponent up not finish them off. Look at the hammer fists with which Lesnar brutalized Randy Couture. What these shots might have lacked in technique they more than made up for in raw power.
There are examples to be found outside of MMA as well. In last year’s K-1 Grand Prix Heavyweight final Semmy Schilt knocked Badr Hari down and very nearly out with a jab. Schilt weighs almost 300 lbs and there is absolutely no way a smaller man would ever be able to jab with such devastating effect.
Fighting giants such as Schilt, Carwin and Lesnar are able to generate the sort of power which would be unthinkable in any other weight class. Unfortunately there is a catch and it is one of the reasons why entertaining heavyweight fights have been so few and far between in any combat sport in recent years.
Heavyweights simply cannot maintain the same sort of pace that the lighter fighters are capable of. This is the major reason that the WEC has been such a huge hit with fight fans. The fights might not carry the same sort of prestige as those within the actual UFC but they are fought at a far more frenetic, fan pleasing pace.
The allure of the heavyweight division is that the best in that division can legitimately claim to be the best actual fighter in the world. Pound-for-pound Anderson Silva might be a superior mixed martial artist to Lesnar but if the two met in a fight there is little doubt in most people’s minds that Lesnar would win. In the unlikely event that Silva wanted to test that particular theory he would need merely pile on a few pounds to be able to do so.
While the pound for pound debate will always be a hypothetical one heavyweight fights can provide definitive answers. This is what makes fights for the heavyweight title that much more significant than title fights in any other division. They are not just about finding out who is the best fighter at a specific weight class, they are about finding out who is the best fighter, period.
The physical equation which dictates that a man who weighs in excess of 265 lbs can hit harder than a man who weighs 155 lbs does not work in the bigger man’s favour in every aspect of the sport. The amount of energy required to perform any sort of physical activity is going to be that much greater for the man with the bigger frame. Bigger fighters do not come with bigger gas tanks as Carwin recently discovered to his cost.
The first round went almost entirely according to plan for Carwin. He rocked Lesnar with punches, leaving the UFC heavyweight champion with no option but to cover up as Carwin picked him off at will. Once the fight went to the floor Carwin continued to land some brutal shots but not sufficiently brutal for the fight to be stopped.
The game plan which had served Carwin so well in his first twelve fights came up short this time around. Carwin might have done severe damage to Lesnar’s face but, for the first time in his career, he found himself facing a second round with the burst of energy with which he nearly finished Lesnar having visibly taken its toll.
It was fairly obvious prior to the start of the second round that Carwin was struggling and it was no surprise when Lesnar was able to secure the takedown. The manner in which he finished the fight, with a well executed arm triangle, demonstrated the extent to which the much maligned Lesnar is evolving. Carwin by contrast was made to look much more one dimensional. However it is difficult to criticize him for expending so much energy trying to finish the fight because he came so tantalizingly close to succeeding.
Fight fans will always find it frustrating when a fighter lacks the necessary stamina to properly showcase his skill set but it would be wrong to question the cardio of Carwin. I suspect it would be physically impossible for any man of his weight to sustain such a frenzied assault for any length of time. By going all out for a first round stoppage he was effectively gambling for the greatest stake in MMA and, unfortunately for Carwin, that gamble did not quite pay off.
Meaningful heavyweight title fights are few and far between and the fact that the UFC is finally in a position to put them on is undoubtedly cause for celebration. It is still worth remembering that, while the big guys might bring the glamour, it is often the small guys who offer the real action.