On February 2, 2008, the Las Vegas strip was rocked by a classic confrontation between two heavyweights: Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar.
Mir was a former UFC heavyweight champion known for his devastating submission tactics. Lesnar, meanwhile, was a wrestling superstar with the WWE who had recently transitioned into a career in mixed martial arts. Mir vs. Lesnar, one of the main card events at UFC 81, marked Lesnar’s UFC debut.
Some MMA fans felt that Lesnar would have a very difficult transition to the world of “real” fighting, but Lesnar proved them wrong right out of the gate. Seconds after the opening bell, Lesnar toppled Mir and pounced on him, landing a flurry of vicious rabbit punches.
At that point, the referee made the controversial decision to intervene. While rabbit punches are technically against the rules, UFC refs rarely enforce the rulebook to the letter, instead warning fighters to stop. However, in this case, referee Steve Mazzagatti forced Lesnar off Mir, and the two competitors broke, defusing Lesnar’s momentum.
When they reengaged, Lesnar quickly knocked Mir down to the canvas again…but was it all part of Mir’s tactical plan? To this day, nobody is certain. What is certain is that seconds later, Lesnar was tapping out after getting locked in an excruciating knee bar. Though Lesnar appeared to be the dominant force in the fight, Mir struck fast and hard when given the opportunity and he ended up scoring the win.
Lesnar, though, would go on to a very successful UFC career, and was one of the organization’s most recognizable names throughout his run. He would eventually return to professional wrestling after suffering a series of injuries and losses.
Mir went on to set UFC heavyweight records for most wins and most submissions. He remained a dominant force in the organization’s heavyweight circuit long after Lesnar returned to wrestling.