When Dana White and Brock Lesnar announced that the former heavyweight champion's battle with diverticulitis wasn't over, and forced him to pull out of his UFC 131 main event bout with Junior Dos Santos, it was without a doubt, a bad day in the office for Lesnar. It would seem that fate never favored the match up from square one, where not even Brock Lesnar, who is the UFC's biggest PPV draw, couldn't pull ratings on The Ultimate Fighter. Now, with Lesnar pulling out of his fight with JDS, I expect ratings to plummet even more, as the entire Lesnar vs. JDS premise is shot. I honestly hope that Zuffa will look to breathe some new life into the series, or reinvent it completely, despite Dana White's claim that the show is dull this season because there wasn't an elimination round. Mediocre fighters will produce mediocre fights, regardless of if you try to weed out those who are truly not worth the viewers time. That's what tryouts are for, not Spike TV air time.
Brock Lesnar's future is indeed uncertain. He may battle back once again, and overcome diverticulitis without needing any major surgery, but I suspect Brock will be looking to get this fixed for good one way or another, to insure his health and allow him to be with his family. Fighting is not his number one priority, nor should it be. If the man was to announce today that he was retiring from MMA for good though, there would be no shame. Yes, he was beaten badly by Cain Velasquez, but that doesn't change the fact that with a handful of professional fights, he became the UFC heavyweight champion. No one can rob him of his epic come from behind victory over Shane Carwin. Brock has already accomplished more in seven fights than many have in well more than twenty.
Should Brock return though, I would like to seem him out of the title picture, and back in fights that will allow him to focus on his progression as a fighter. I suppose that's selfish and a lot to ask, since Lesnar needs to be in fights that are worth his price tag, but I think there are sellable fights out there for him that fit the description. The old rumored bout between him and Roy Nelson was one that I found highly appealing. Nelson, in my opinion, is right at the level where Lesnar needs to be to test himself. Every fight is a test, but it's painfully obvious that Lesnar has holes to work on, and Nelson is formidable enough to test him without rolling right through him, barring the "one hitter quitter" that Nelson has put to use inside the octagon. Don't get me wrong though, I'm still more than willing to see Lesnar go up against JDS, or rematch Carwin.
Nelson, Dos Santos, Carwin, and Velasquez are all names that fit, but only at the moment. By the time Lesnar may return, the Heavyweight landscape of the UFC could be very different than what we see now. There's a pack of talented heavyweights in Strikeforce who are participating in a grand prix this year, and the heavyweight champion of Strikeforce, Alistair Overeem, is looming on the horizon. Fabricio Werdum is in the mix, taking on Overeem in the next round of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. Antonio Silva just beat Fedor Emelianenko viciously in their HWGP fight. Let's not forget Josh Barnett, who has apparently mended his relationship with Dana White. These and many more young, talented fighters may be entering the UFC in the near future.
As for UFC 131, we are now getting treated to Shane Carwin vs. Junior Dos Santos. I know there will be people who will skip this event just because Lesnar won't be participating any more, and that breaks my MMA loving heart. Carwin vs. Dos Santos could very well be dubbed "The Clash of the Titans". These are two massive, mean, hard hitting heavyweights who are adept at smashing faces. I'll be surprised if this fight isn't finished in brutal fashion. Honestly, I'm more excited about this event now than I was before. The sheer amount of punching power that will be in the octagon for this fight is startling, and more than enough reason to watch.
In the end, it's sad to see Lesnar in a situation where he may not get to continue testing himself at the pinnacle of the sport. The man has helped further MMA as a sport, and build the UFC brand, and he deserves credit for it. That said, this is hardly a crippling event for the UFC, and their heavyweight division. The future is bright, there's a great deal of talent on the rise under the Zuffa umbrella, and will likely be making their way into the UFC soon. With, or without Lesnar, the heavyweight division is on the rise, and expect to see a highly evolved division over the next two years.