By Steve Davies – mmabay.co.uk
Overeem arrives in the UFC with a bang, batters Lesnar into retirement
When the dust settled after the titanic heavyweight main event between former UFC champion, Brock Lesnar, and former Strikeforce title-holder Alistair Overeem, somebody was going to have been exposed – that much was obvious. One of the most anticipated heavyweight fights in recent memory was over in less than three minutes and it was former WWE superstar Lesnar who was not only exposed, but forced into retirement.
The gargantuan wrestler’s key to victory was obvious, and it certainly didn’t involve trying to strike with a K-1 world champion. But strike Lesnar did and despite somehow opening a cut on the eye of Overeem early, his confidence must have been shaken when his first takedown attempt – a single – was stuffed by the towering Dutchman.
As if spurred on by the blood, Overeem came forward and showed no respect for Lesnar’s power as he used the Thai clinch to deliver some thudding knees to the body as the wrestler was forced to backpeddle. His confidence brimming, Overeem landed a deft liver-kick that folded Lesnar in agony and caused him to cover up at the fences as Overeem landed a few punches to secure the TKO stoppage at just 2:26 of the first round.
A calm and respectful Overeem was followed on the mic by an emotional Lesnar who thanked the fans and everyone else before announcing his official retirement from mixed martial arts. We may have suspected it was coming, but it still hit home as a suitably dramatic end to the UFC’s 2011.
Next for Overeem: ‘Demolition Man’ proved the doubters (this writer included) wrong and in the process, Overeem has set up another potentially thrilling UFC heavyweight title fight as he will take on the champion, Junior Dos Santos, later in 2012 when the Brazilian has recovered from injury. The Dutch destroyer is a fine addition to a rejuvenated UFC heavyweight division and a slugfest with the heavy-handed Dos Santos will be a sight to behold.
Next for Lesnar: Love him or hate him, Lesnar only fought the bigger names and while he was spoonfed a title shot when others were more deserving, he still must be given credit for even trying his hand at the sport. It’s certain that we’ll never see Lesnar fight again but be prepared for plenty of drama in the coming year as contractual issues are ironed out.
Diaz lets his fists do the talking, hammers Cerrone in dominant fashion
The co-main event between loud-mouthed lightweight contenders, Nate Diaz and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, promised fireworks and it did not disappoint – unless your name happens to be Donald Cerrone, that is. Riding a four-fight winning streak, the Greg Jackson fighter was the favourite this weekend and was expected to be thrown into title contention but Diaz had other plans, turning in another clinically brutal performance to send his own stock through the roof.
From the first bell, Diaz proved that his pre-fight antics were no act as he charged at Cerrone and literally bombarded him with punches in bunches and the odd knee for good measure. ‘Cowboy’ simply had no answer for the onslaught in the first round and was left bloodied and wobbled by five minutes of Diaz’s relentless attack.
To Cerrone’s credit, he managed to make the next two rounds slightly more competitive by throwing in some nice legkicks that dropped Diaz on a few occasions, refusing to go to the ground and standing the Stockton brawler back up. But the constant pressure had taken its toll and with his mouth hanging open and jaw seemingly injured, Cerrone was picked apart by Diaz who it was later revealed broke the Compustrike record with his rabid aggression. The two buried the hatchet and shook hands, but Diaz took the lopsided unanimous decision to throw himself into title contention.
Next for Diaz: Can you imagine if both Diaz brothers were holding UFC title at the same time? It doesn’t bear thinking about, but Nate Diaz is now in the top bracket of contenders at 155lbs and has looked excellent in his last two outings. Frankie Edgar defends his title against Ben Henderson in February and on the same night, Joe Lauzon and Anthony Pettis go to war – expect to see Diaz face the winner of that fight for the next title shot.
Next for Cerrone: ‘Cowboy’ was 4-0 in the UFC in 2011 but when it mattered most, the Colorado native was not up to the task and will still be trying to rake down the remnants of a very bitter pill indeed. But Cerrone is still considered one of the better guys in the division and he won’t fall too far down the pecking order, possibly fighting the winner of UFC 142’s clash between Edson Barboza and Terry Etim later in 2012.
Hendricks shocks Fitch, knocks out former title contender in just 12 seconds
Welterweight prospect Johny Hendricks was in emphatic form on the main card as he faced top 170lb contender Jon Fitch and in the space of 12 seconds, went from intriguing up-and-comer to serious contender.
The bigger Fitch came forward trying to find his range with punches but Hendricks suddenly uncorked a big left hand that landed flush on his fellow wrestler and sent Fitch toppling to his back like a felled redwood. The bearded Hendricks landed one more left hand to the grounded Fitch and forced Steve Mazzagatti to intervene, restraining Fitch who immediately recovered and tried to continue fighting.
The knockout came just 12 seconds into round one, and while the stoppage was slightly premature, Mazzagatti only stopped Fitch eating another three or four bombs while in a vulnerable spot. Welcome to the big show, Mr Hendricks.
Next for Hendricks: The decorated NCAA wrestling convert is riding a three-fight streak and has become the first man to stop Fitch in the UFC, no mean feat. Hendricks is perhaps one more big win away from a title shot and the Team Takedown welterweight could face the winner of March’s scrap between Thiago Alves and Martin Kampmann to stake his claim at that shot.
Next for Fitch: Let’s face it, the UFC have never really liked Fitch but due to the fact that he never loses, have never had the excuse to send him further down the ladder in the welterweight division. This knockout loss, plus the draw with B.J Penn, will leave Fitch in the wilderness somewhat and the wrestler will have to bite and claw his way back into contention. Fights that make sense for the Indiana native are Rick Story or even Dong Hyun Kim.
Gustafsson graduates, mauls Matyushenko in first round
Swedish light-heavyweight prospect Alexander ‘The Mauler’ Gustafsson was another who impressed in Las Vegas as he needed less than three minutes to put away seasoned veteran, Vladimir Matyushenko.
The 6ft 4in Swede towered over ‘The Janitor’ and after landing a short, seemingly inoccuous jab that floored Matyushenko off-balance, Gustafsson landed a few more shots to the turtling Belarussian to end the fight at 2:13 of round one. It was another debatable stoppage, this time from Yves Lavigne, but ‘The Mauler’ still deserves the plaudits for a decisive showing.
Next for Gustafsson: Now 13-1, the heavy-handed prodigy is 5-1 in the UFC and deserves a big test when he returns to the cage in 2012. There’s little doubt that Gustafsson will headline the ‘UFC on FUEL TV 2? fight card in his homeland in April, and there is a fine list of potential opponents – take your pick from Stephan Bonnar, Thiago Silva or Igor Pokrajac. Don’t rule out the possibility of a real step-up in competition though as ‘The Mauler’ could also face veteran banger Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Next for Matyushenko: The 40-year old wrestler was on good form prior to this drubbing and Matyushenko will probably live to see another day in the UFC. Expect a loser-goes-home fight with a fellow veteran, Krzystof Soszynski or Cyrille Diabate.
Hettes shows total dominance as he tortures Phan to lopsided decision
Opening the main card were featherweight up-and-comers, Nam Phan and Jim ‘The Kid’ Hettes who partook in one of the most brutally one-sided fights in UFC history. The unbeaten Hettes, a talented grappler, absolutely murdered the experienced former TUF contestant in what boiled down to fifteen minutes of torture.
Hettes was in inspired form, tossing Phan around for fun and shocking us with much-improved striking skills that had the veteran on rubber legs constantly. ‘The Kid’ chained submission attempts, bust Phan open with ground and pound and generally owned the lifelong martial artist to take a 30-25, 30-25, 30-26 unanimous decision.
Next for Hettes: ‘The Kid’, now 10-0, looked fantastic this weekend and is clearly ready for bigger tests than Phan who seemed on paper to be a tough match-up for the rookie. The 24-year old Hettes could take on the likes of Cole Miller or Darren Elkins for a solid but not massive leap in competition.
Next for Phan: The well-rounded Phan looked like an amateur this weekend and his patchy Octagon record does not make for good reading. Don’t be surprised if the Vietnamese-American featherweight is cut loose in the coming weeks but if he sticks around, it’s do or die in a fight with Manny Gamburyan or Tyson Griffin.
Preliminary card round-up
For once, the preliminary card was fairly uneventful and was headlined by a featherweight clash between British prospect Ross Pearson and Brazilian veteran Junior Assuncao. While the match-up was a good test of the Brit’s potential at 145lbs, it failed to produce much highlight-reel material. Assuncao kept moving and occasionally used his grappling prowess to put Pearson in a tight spot but ‘The Real Deal’ stuck to the task at hand and picked the Brazilian apart with his striking to take a close unanimous decision.
Next for Pearson: Not quite ‘The Real Deal’ yet, the Sunderland boy is steadily moving up the ladder in his new weight-class and a win over Assuncao is a tidy addition to his resume. Pearson has plenty of upside but isn’t ready for the bigger names yet – throw him in there with Robert Peralta for a potentially exciting fight and an acceptable step-up in competition.
Next for Assuncao: The BJJ black-belt falls to 1-1 in his second stint in the UFC and one more loss will be costly. Expect to see Assuncao face another struggling featherweight such as Tyson Griffin or Manny Gamburyan later in the year, probably buried at the bottom of the undercard.
Lightweights Danny Castillo and Anthony Njokuani brought little action to the Octagon, putting on an ugly, stop-start affair with some standout moments. Castillo did as expected, using his wrestling base to neutralise the striking of Njokuani and stifle him on the ground but ‘Last Call’ did have to survive a few scares, especially being dropped in round two. After three rounds, Castillo was handed a split decision that caused the crowd to erupt into boos.
Next for Castillo: The Team Alpha Male lightweight has won back-to-back fights and did what he needed to do to eke out the decision this weekend. Castillo is a tough task for the majority of the bottom half of the division and we could see him put to the test against Canadian BJJ wizard, Mark Bocek, in early 2012.
Next for Njokuani: ‘The Assassin’s exciting style should keep him around for another fight, and as Njokuani clearly excels against other strikers, give him Jeremy Stephens or Yves Edwards for guaranteed fireworks.
Korean welterweight Dong Hyun Kim rebounded from a knockout loss to Carlos Condit earlier in 2011 by gritting out a comfortable unanimous decision over Canadian Sean Pierson on the undercard. ‘Stun Gun’ had little trouble grappling with the all-rounder and threw in the odd crane kick for good measure – almost finishing Pierson with one in round two. The action slowed as the fight advanced but Kim took the clear-cut decision to get back in the hunt to break into the title picture.
Next for Kim: The towering welterweight’s record looks great but his often dull style inside the cage will keep him from being shot into a top contenders fight anytime soon. ‘Stun Gun’ could face Brazilian Paulo Thiago when he returns from injury.
Next for Pierson: After looking pretty solid in his successful UFC debut last year, Pierson has since gone 0-2 and been visibly out-classed in both contests. The Canadian has probably outstayed his welcome and the little leagues beckon.
For surging lightweight prospect Jacob Volkmann, his undercard bout with Efrain Escudero seemed to be cut-and-dried after two rounds in which ‘Christmas’ used his sinewy wrestling chops to put a clinic on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season eight winner. Escudero was left frustrated and two rounds down on the scorecards but spent the tail-end of the third torquing variations on the guillotine choke to nick one back. It was too little too late for Escudero and Volkmann strolled to a 29-28 unanimous decision.
Next for Volkmann: ‘Christmas’ is 5-0 in the UFC lightweight division and while being one to definitely keep an eye on, Volkmann’s sometimes frustrating style and always frustrating interview techniques will keep him on the undercard for at least one more fight. The Minnesota native could face Brazilian tank, Gleison Tibau, to see which lightweight finally graduates to the main cards.
Next for Escudero: Escudero falls to 3-3 inside the Octagon but he answered the call to replace an injured fighter so should be given what will be his last chance to impress. The wrestler has obvious talent but has fought three solid opponents in a row and needs a lower-ranked lightweight next – give him T.J O’Brien to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The first fight of the night saw former featherweight title contender Manny Gamburyan’s stock take another damaging hit as he dropped a unanimous decision to fellow former WEC standout, Diego Nunes. Gamburyan lost rounds one and three clearly, being unable to impose his judo or secure the necessary takedowns while Nunes peppered him – especially his body – with kicks and punches. ‘The Gun’ took the 29-28 score from all three judges but the two rivals buried the hatchet after a tough battle.
Next for Nunes: The Nova Uniao featherweight moves to 1-1 after losing his UFC debut and is loitering around the top tier of contenders with this win. Nunes needs another high-profile scalp to stake a claim at a title shot so a fight with British prospect Ross Pearson would produce a new true contender to add to the ranks.
Next for Gamburyan: The Armenian has lost back-to-back fights and not for the first time in the UFC, not a good spot to be in when your fighting style has few fans. Gamburyan has look underwhelming but is a tough ask for anyone at 145lbs and I think he’ll be given a crucial final fight with the likes of Junior Assuncao to decide who is trimmed from the roster.
That’s all for ‘UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem‘, and for 2011, but never fear – MMABay will be here all throughout 2012 which looks to be an even busier, more eventful year for the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion. Stay tuned to the site for all the breaking news and fallout surrounding this weekend’s end-of-year fight card.