There’s a thin line between ornery and annoying. Annoying is manageable. The kids have to go to bed sometime. When the yappy dog down the street starts barking, you can close the windows. And nobody’s making you watch Leno.
But ornery? Ornery you can slap down and it’ll pop right back up - angrier. Ornery like the thick, spiny weeds in the garden. Ornery like Courtney Love’s career.
There’s resilience in ornery - fierce, nasty resilience. So when the book on Brock Lesnar is written, any sportswriter who focuses on the Minnesotan’s famous surly reticence will likewise have to acknowledge that the things that make Lesnar so damn unlikeable may just be the things that make him so damn good.
The human Timex celebrates a gold-plated victory at UFC 116
That Lesnar returned to the MMA cage - one of sports’ least hospitable environments - is story enough. Ravaged by diverticulitis, the UFC heavyweight champion spent the year after his 2009 title win over Frank Mir out of action. The belt was taken up by Shane Carwin in Lesnar’s absence, and we had one of the year’s most intriguing match-ups. Lesnar had previously relied on monstrous size for intimidation, outweighing Mir by 20 pounds at UFC 100, but in Carwin he’d be facing a near-clone. Without a size disparity and coming off a crippling illness, would Lesnar be able to exploit a psychological edge?
It turns out he didn’t have to. Carwin had no problems getting to Lesnar early and often, peppering him with shots that put Lesnar on his back and in deep trouble. But for all the punches Carwin landed, he just didn’t quite have enough to finish off Lesnar. Not that it wasn’t close. Inferior referees would have stopped the fight after witnessing Carwin’s hurricane of blows, but Lesnar was defending himself and Josh Rosenthal rightly and admirably let the fight continue to see if Lesnar could weather the punishment.
When the bell rang for the second round, it was Carwin that had wilted. Cut near both eyes, Lesnar nonetheless had the bigger gas tank. He used it to take Carwin down, grapple to a dominant back position, and - shocker of shockers - finish the fight the one way nobody thought it would end: a submission hold. One well-cinched arm triangle choke later, Lesnar popped up to the top of the cage, undisputed title waiting for him, and mimicked Carwin’s shots landing on his chin. But this time, Brock was smiling, not wobbling.