On Saturday night ex-WWE wrestling star Bobby Lashley became the latest fighter to prove the theory that bigger is not always better in the sport of mixed martial arts.
There’s no question that the 246lb Lashley cuts an impressive and imposing figure in the cage with his 6ft 3″ frame packed with the kind of muscles that you’d expect to see on a comic book superhero.
The problem is that it takes a lot of blood to feed those muscles, and that uses up a lot of oxygen. In a sport like MMA which requires an incredible level of cardiovascular endurance, that fact can quickly become a major problem. If your also spending to much time doing reps at the gym to maintain your physique rather than spending extra time working on your cardio then that also may prove to be your downfall.
In the end that appears to have been the downfall for Lashley who at first glance appeared to be primed for victory, outweighing his opponent Chad Griggs by almost 20lbs and, aesthetically at least, looked in far better physical condition.
Halfway through the second round however it became apparent that Lashley had gassed out completely despite not having fought a particularly grueling fight. In the end after struggling to get to his feet at the end of that round the referee made the decision to end the fight, believing that the exhausted wrestler was in no fit state to continue.
If it makes him feel any better, Lashley may take some comfort from the fact that’s he’s far from the first fighter to suffer such a fate.
In fact if you look back at just the last few months you’ll see further examples of this. Take 265lb+ behemoth Shane Carwin for example, another fighter with a muscular physique who had rose to prominence after a series of KO and TKO victories in the UFC, with his opponents yet to make it past the first round against him.
However, in his fight with Brock Lesnar for the heavyweight title Carwin blew a gasket trying to finish the fight in the opening stanza. At the start of the second round it was clear he had nothing left in the tank and before he knew it he had been taken down and submitted. Like Lashley, Carwin had to take a trip to the hospital afterwards due to complete exhaustion.
Go back just a little further and you come to former multiple time World’s Strongest Man champion Mariusz Pudzianowski, who is world renowned for his almost mythical stature and strength.
However, after putting him in the cage with former UFC champion Tim Sylvia, who by comparison appeared to have no real muscles to speak of, at Moosin: Gods Of War, the Polish fighter had turned bright red and was sucking wind like it was going out of fashion after just a few minutes. By the second round he resorted to dropping down to the mat as his legs could no longer carry him and tapped out moments later.
This type of scenario has become all too familiar in the sport, and yet it continues to happen.
To be fair, it’s not hard to see why it’s appealing for fighter’s to head down this route. The ‘bigger is better’ philosophy undoubtedly sells, as can be seen by the Lesnar Vs Carwin title fight which was billed as, ‘The biggest fight in UFC history’, generated a huge amount of publicity and went on to do over one million pay-per-view buys.
The antidote to this trend could be just around the corner though. At UFC 121 in October Cain Velasquez will be the next fighter to step up to the plate to face the man mountain that is the heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. At is current weight of 243lbs, by fight night Velasquez will be giving up in excess of 25lbs to the champion.
Despite that Velasquez has no intention of packing on pounds of muscle in preparation for the contest. Instead he plans to stick with a less visually impressive, but athletic build that so far has served him well in his 8-0 career to date, and earned him a reputation as being a cardio machine.
That fact could be a crucial factor in this particular fight, and if he emerges successful then he could prove once and for all that size isn’t everything in MMA.