BARELY A MONTH after Kimbo Slice proved himself unworthy of his considerable hype, another mixed martial arts curiosity, Brock Lesnar, validated himself. Last Saturday in Las Vegas, Lesnar poleaxed the venerable Randy Couture to become the UFC's heavyweight champ (right). The skeptics who'd looked down on Lesnar's WWE pedigree and his quick ascent—he was given a title shot in his third UFC fight—are no longer questioning his bona fides. Lesnar showed an ability to throw and withstand punches and, befitting a former NCAA wrestling champ (at Minnesota), defend the takedown. "Guys aren't just big anymore; they're very good athletes," Couture, 45, conceded after the fight. "Brock is a great indication of where the division is going."
This is good news for the UFC. Despite its explosive growth, there have been concerns about its supply of marketable stars (read: pay-per-view engines). Couture, Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, the three biggest names in the sport, are nearing the final rounds of their careers. Middleweight champ Anderson Silva, the best pound-for-pound fighter, is a Brazilian who speaks little English and was recently booed for showboating. In Lesnar, a 31-year-old South Dakotan, the UFC has a new face—bloodstained though it might be.