UFC 141 Preview: The Main Card - Lesnar vs. Overeem

By: Tristen Critchfield
Dec 28, 2011
Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has not competed in 14 months. | Photo: Sherdog.com

Alistair Overeem File Photo

Overeem has 33 finishes.
For its final offering of 2011, the UFC shows consideration for the social lives of the fight fan, scheduling its heavyweight extravaganza on a Friday so as not to conflict with any ball-dropping, champagne-swilling celebrations that might ensue on New Year’s Eve.

The promotion could have taken a hard line stance because the showdown between Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem is the type of tilt that would force viewers to make difficult life decisions no matter the air date. Both men pass the eye test when it comes to looking the part of dominant heavyweight, and a future bout with current champion Junior dos Santos awaits the winner. Though the contest is scheduled for five rounds as a non-title main event, few expect it to last that long.

Going down from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, UFC 141 also features a lightweight attraction between Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz, as well as a key welterweight tilt between Jon Fitch and Johny Hendricks.

There is nothing better than capping off a few weeks of holiday indulgence than by watching highly skilled combatants burn calories in the cage. Here is a look at the UFC 141 main card, with analysis and picks.

Heavyweights Brock Lesnar (5-2, 4-2 UFC) vs. Alistair Overeem (35-11, 0-0 UFC)

The Matchup: The UFC is marketing this No. 1 contender’s match as big on big, but the questions surrounding both men are supersized, as well.

Overeem has been on a tear of late, having won 10 straight mixed martial arts bouts, with eight of those coming inside of a round. Until a June fight with Fabricio Werdum, much of that dominance had come against less-than-stellar competition. The K-1 champion looked tentative against Werdum, content to throw one punch at a time instead of putting together combinations. The Brazilian actually outstruck Overeem while finding success with punches down the middle, but his overall lack of aggression allowed “Demolition Man” to take home the decision. Overeem’s lackluster performance did little to strike fear into the hearts of future opponents. Couple that with Overeem’s difficulties in supplying a urine sample to the Nevada State Athletic Commission prior to this fight, and there are plenty of doubts surrounding the former Strikeforce champion as he makes his Octagon debut.

Meanwhile, Lesnar has issues of his own, mostly regarding his physical well-being. Ongoing bouts with diverticulitis have robbed the former heavyweight champion of two potentially prime years of his MMA career. At 34 years old, there is no guarantee that Lesnar will ever become the force many imagined after he destroyed Frank Mir at UFC 100. In his last two bouts, Lesnar displayed an alarming lack of composure when he was tagged, which is a point of concern when facing a striker on the level of Overeem. The hulking Minnesotan will have to show better standup defense than he did against either Shane Carwin or Cain Velasquez, because neither of them possesses Overeem’s technical skill on the feet.

This is not to say that Lesnar is destined to go downhill, because the former NCAA national wrestling champion might be healthier than he has been in years. At his best, Lesnar displays frightening athleticism for a man his size -- especially when shooting for his patented power double-leg takedown, and the prospect of Lesnar in top position is daunting, even for a man of Overeem’s stature. Overeem has plenty of weapons to help him avoid playing the wrestling game with the former World Wrestling Entertainment star. He can land strikes from distances that Lesnar cannot, and his timing at defending takedowns is excellent. If the fight ends up in the clinch, Overeem can do damage with knees.

Overeem appeared winded following his win over Werdum, and Lesnar might find that his best chance at victory will come from wearing down the Dutchman. While adept at preventing the takedown, Overeem is not in the class of Velasquez when it comes to getting back up.

Other than his bout with Werdum, Overeem has not seen the second round in a fight since 2007, and Lesnar figures to employ a pressuring style that will tire his opponent much more quickly than Werdum’s jiu-jitsu-centric approach.

The Pick: Lesnar will have to use his standup to set up takedowns, because bull rushing Overeem is a recipe for disaster. Regardless of how well the fight goes for the Team Death Clutch representative, at some point he is going to have to react to being hit. Lesnar’s best chance is to fight in close quarters while persistently pursuing takedowns. Overeem has the uncanny ability to make a man question his chin, however, and his tools on the feet are ultimately going to be too great for Lesnar to overcome. When Lesnar leaves an opening, Overeem will capitalize for a second-round technical knockout.

Continue Reading » Next Fight: Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz

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