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Put Doubts About Lesnar's Gameness to Rest After Taking Dos Santos Fight

There's always been an undercurrent of distrust in Brock Lesnar from some who refused to view him as a mixed martial artist, and could only see him as a fake fighter masquerading around as the real thing.

Despite reaching the heights of UFC champion, the number of doubters only grew in Lesnar's last two fights. Lesnar struggled badly in the first round of his bout with Shane Carwin before rebounding for a win, and Cain Velasquez battered him around on his feet en route to seizing the championship.

As a result, lots of people thought that Lesnar was going to simply quit. They didn't like his body language when both Carwin and Velasquez were boxing him up on his feet. Lesnar seemed to lose his composure and turtle, or worse, run. When rumors of a return to the WWE surfaced, many thought he would simply head right out of the UFC.

With Lesnar's acceptance of a job on The Utlimate Fighter and an eventual matchup with powerful Brazilian striker Junior Dos Santos, lay all the rumors about Lesnar and any doubts about his gameness as a fighter to rest.

Let it be said right off the bat that Lesnar accepted the toughest available matchup. He's had his most trouble with strikers, and Dos Santos has the best combination of power and technique among the UFC's heavyweights.

The 12-1 Dos Santos has been downright dominant in the UFC, going 6-0 with four knockouts, and he's never lost a round in beating opponents like Fabricio Werdum, Mirk Cro Cop, Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson.

Striking may be the weakest part of Lesnar's game, but he's facing the challenge head on.

Lots of the doubts about Lesnar came from his interest in appearing at WWE's upcoming Wrestlemania 27. A former WWE champ, Lesnar had walked away from the wrestling company in 2004 after tiring of the constant travel and the resulting inability to spend time with his young daughter. The split was acriminious, with the sides going to court before Lesnar could win his contractual freedom and begin his career in MMA.

But years later, that was ancient history, and WWE's sagging pay-per-view fortunes had Vince McMahon wooing him to return.

Let this be said: the interest in both sides was real. But for Lesnar, it was really only ever going to be a one-night stand, for a rumored $2 million dollar payday. No one could blame McMahon for trying; Lesnar has become the biggest pay-per-view draw in sports, with each of his last four matches drawing over 1 million buys. By contrast, Wrestlemania, which used to be an automatic 1 million pay-per-view seller, hasn't passed the mark in any of the last three years.

Dana White always contended he would not let Lesnar take part in Wrestlemania. He didn't want to "blur the lines" any more than they had already been blurred. And though he never said it, he probably didn't want any potential pay-per-view dollars heading in anyone else's direction.

His ability to lock Lesnar up for six weeks for TUF is a straight-up coup. Lesnar doesn't particularly enjoy spending time in front of cameras, though since returning from his diverticulitis scare, he's been a compelling interview and far more introspective than most would care to admit. But that's only been when he's chosen to talk, which is not very often.

In many ways, this is the perfect time for Lesnar to be doing TUF. Instead of appearing as the dominant champ, he is a more vulnerable character coming off a loss to Velasquez and trying to rebound. That should be part of the draw for fans, to see how and if the loss changes his personality, work ethic or anything about him. Will he come off as cocky, humbled or surly? Will he make a great coach, or will he be more like a teammate? Who knows?

But his willingness to take the role and more importantly face Dos Santos is at least evidence that he's very much still in the game, and still gunning for the top. The people who thought he'd turn tail and run couldn't have been more off the mark. This isn't to say he deserves any more credit than any other fighter for taking a tough match, only that his haters were a much louder group, and his signing on the dotted line should quiet them down.

Just months after being out-struck and completely beaten up for the first time in his life, he's back against a guy who's beaten up everyone he's faced in the UFC. Question the completeness of his game or his expedited rise to the top if you must, but after signing on to face Dos Santos, you can no longer question the man's gameness.

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