MMA Review: #362: UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem

-The tagline for this one was ‘It doesn’t get any bigger than this’ and I can’t say that I disagreed, to be honest – this was truly a marquee main event; the UFC’s biggest drawing card against *the* biggest signing of 2011 in a fight that looked like Vince McMahon’s dream match given the ridiculous physiques of the two men. To say that I was excited about this one – particularly finally seeing the Reem inside the UFC Octagon – would be an understatement. Card as a whole looked excellent too, with big tests for hot prospects Johny Hendricks and Alexander Gustafsson as well as guaranteed fireworks in Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone.

UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem

12/30/11
Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Diego Nunes vs Manny Gamburyan

I was pretty annoyed that this was buried on the prelims to be honest as not only was it a fight between two recognized top ten guys at 145lbs, but it had a seriously personal edge as – or so the story goes – Nunes had signed his autograph over Manny’s picture on a poster for WEC 51 back in 2010, drawing the ire of Manny’s Armenian gangbanging crew who supposedly threatened to cut off one of Nunes’ fingers for the disrespect (!). Dudes are fucking serious I guess.

Round One and Manny looks to close the distance, but takes a leg kick and a spinning back kick to the chest. Good leg kick from Nunes and he avoids a big right hook from the Armenian. Pair of wild spin kicks miss for Nunes. Manny is pushing the action here but he hasn’t really thrown anything big yet. Takedown attempt from Manny but Nunes blocks it and breaks off with a good knee to the body. Deep double leg attempt from Manny but Nunes stuffs it again and then forces him into the fence. Gamburyan turns that around and drops for the takedown again, and this time he gets it and dumps the Brazilian on his back in guard. He looks to pass, but Nunes pops back up to his feet. They remain clinched and Manny looks for the takedown again, but Nunes shrugs him off. Good leg kick lands for Nunes. Front kick ala Anderson Silva misses but another leg kick lands cleanly. Another takedown attempt is stuffed by Nunes. Leg kick from Nunes and he follows with a spin kick to the body. Seconds remaining and the round peters out. 10-9 Nunes.

Round Two and Manny comes out swinging, looking to close the distance as Nunes tries to stay on the outside. Big knee misses for the Brazilian. Manny connects on a big right hand that buckles Diego’s legs, and he’s clearly wobbly as he tries to back up. Takedown attempt follows for Manny as he avoids a mis-timed jumping knee, but he can’t get Nunes off his feet. Nunes botches an attempt to break off though and gives his back standing, but then smartly puts his back to the cage to avoid the full rear waistlock. They end up clinched again and Manny drops for a single leg, but Nunes avoids and they break off. Spinning back kick lands to Manny’s body. Spin kick misses and Nunes almost walks into a big left hook. Takedown attempt follows though and he gets Nunes on his back, pretty much in side mount. Nunes recovers half-guard, but takes a couple of short left hands from Manny. It looks like he’s setting up for some sort of choke, but he can’t lock it up and Nunes pops up to his feet. Manny stays on him though as the announcers mention he was complaining to the ref about Nunes grabbing his fingers, which is illegal. Small joint manipulation!~! They remain clinched and Manny botches a judo throw and takes some knees for his efforts. They break back off with seconds remaining and Nunes misses a head kick. Lunging left hooks miss for both men and that’s the round. Close round but I’d go 10-9 Gamburyan as Nunes didn’t land nearly as many kicks and Manny had the big right hand and the takedown.

Round Three and Manny pushes forward as Nunes circles on the outside. Right hand glances for Manny but doesn’t do much damage and Nunes answers back with a leg kick and a knee inside. Inside leg kick connects for Nunes. Another one follows and Manny stumbles slightly. Couple more inside leg kicks from Nunes and then he switches stance to hit the outside leg. Big takedown attempt from Gamburyan but Nunes fights it off into the clinch. Nice knee from close range from Nunes and he avoids the takedown on his way out. Two minutes to go and Nunes avoids another takedown. Head kick glances for the Brazilian and he follows with a right to the body. Glancing right hook from Manny but he takes another leg kick and then a body kick. Takedown attempt misses by a mile for Manny. Spinning backfist misses for Nunes and Gamburyan gets a takedown, but Nunes pops right back up and hits a good pair of knees to the body. Another takedown is avoided by the Gun. Hard inside leg kick from Nunes but it apparently hit Manny’s groin as referee Steve Mazzagatti calls time. They restart with a hug and Manny comes in swinging, but he takes a pair of hard kicks before managing to tackle Diego to the ground. Nunes pops right back up though and manages to block another attempt on the buzzer. I’ve got this 29-28 for Diego Nunes.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Diego Nunes. Fight wasn’t quite as explosive as I’d hoped but it was still pretty good. The difference was basically Nunes’ kicks, as he was able to pick at Manny from the outside with little answer outside of a couple of takedowns, as Manny’s boxing-oriented attack kept him outside the Brazilian’s range for the majority of the fight. Good win for Nunes and post-fight both men evidently squash whatever beef they had as they hug and Nunes apologises for the whole autograph incident.

Lightweight Fight: Jacob Volkmann vs Efrain Escudero

This one was originally supposed to see TJ Grant taking on Obama-hating Volkmann, but the Canadian pulled out with injury and so TUF 8 winner Efrain Escudero stepped in to make his UFC return on quite short notice. To say I was pulling for Efrain here would be a bit of an understatement as not only am I a big mark for the TUF 8 cast, but Volkmann is hardly my favourite fighter to watch.

First round and Volkmann throws out some ineffective kicks as they circle around. Leg kick from Escudero is caught and Volkmann shoots, but he lands in a guillotine and Efrain tries to really squeeze it. They scramble for position but Volkmann ends up in side mount which alleviates it and he pops his head free shortly thereafter. Efrain manages to scramble into full guard and looks to kick at Volkmann as he stands over him, but then Volkmann drops back into the half-guard and seems to be prepping for a D’Arce. He gives that up to go into a regular half-guard and lands some short punches as the crowd begin to boo. Efrain works back to a butterfly guard, but Volkmann passes back into half-guard quickly. More short punches from Volkmann but he’s doing very little in the way of damage. Body punches land for Volkmann and he uses a headlock to avoid Efrain’s attempts at a sweep. Round ends with Volkmann on top in control. 10-9 Volkmann.

Second round and Efrain tries to stay on the outside, but Volkmann hits a low single leg and puts him down in side mount despite Efrain grabbing a guillotine. He lets it go and Volkmann’s back in control. Efrain works back into half-guard, and then full guard where he tries to tie Volkmann up. Herb Dean calls a swift stand-up but Volkmann closes the distance quickly and forces Efrain into the fence. Volkmann tries to take the back, getting a rear waistlock with one hook in, but Escudero manages to stay on his feet. Volkmann keeps working and brings him down, but Efrain rolls over into guard and looks to tie Volkmann up again. Volkmann manages to take the back again, and then gets one hook in for good measure. Second hook is in and Efrain is in trouble. Looks like the choke is sunk, but Efrain somehow stays in there and pulls the arm off. Escudero shakes one hook off, but Volkmann’s still stuck to him like glue. He doesn’t really do any more with the position, but Escudero can’t shake him off and that’s the round. 10-9 Volkmann again.

Third round and they throw some punches before Efrain lands a solid knee, but Volkmann grabs the leg and gets a takedown off it, right into side mount. Volkmann works into a better position, taking the back with one hook, and he lands some decent punches from there as Efrain just looks frustrated now. Herb Dean calls a stand-up there and Joe Rogan goes mad and normally I’d agree with him, but to be fair Volkmann was doing so little with the position anyway that I don’t mind. Efrain pushes forward and Volkmann shoots on a low single, but this time Efrain blocks with some elbows. Volkmann stays on him though and transitions into a rear waistlock, and right away he looks to get a hook in again. Efrain turns into him and Volkmann switches to a single leg, but Escudero continues to land elbows as he defends. Deep guillotine attempt from Escudero and he switches to the ninja choke and drops down looking to finish! He has it in north/south and Volkmann is in DEEP trouble, but Efrain can’t quite get it locked in. He switches it up as Volkmann stands, and then drags him back down into north/south, but Volkmann manages to ride it out and gets free with seconds on the clock. Efrain ends the fight on top but you’d still have to call this 29-28 for Jacob Volkmann.

Judges all have it 29-28 for Jacob Volkmann. Fight was dull though and it’s no surprise really that the only exciting moment came when Escudero was on offense with the deep choke attempt. Aaaand, post-fight Volkmann cuts the WORLD’S SHITTIEST ANTI-OBAMA PROMO, and of course that earned him a suspension from his other job as a high school wrestling coach. Dude is a muppet of the highest order even if he can fight.

Welterweight Fight: Dong Hyun Kim vs Sean Pierson

Kim was of course coming off the first loss of his career going into this one – and what a loss it had been, that vicious flying knee at the hands of Carlos Condit – while Pierson’s last UFC fight had seen him knocked silly by Jake Ellenberger. Smart money was on Kim here as it takes a special sort of fighter to deal with his stifling style and I didn’t see Pierson as being that guy.

Fight begins and Kim opens with a couple of low kicks. Pierson works forward into the clinch and forces the Korean into the fence, but they break quite quickly. Good leg kick from Kim as Pierson seems like he’s struggling with the range. Left hand and a decent leg kick again from Kim. Leg kick answers for Pierson. Solid straight left connects for Kim. Crane kick glances for Kim, surprisingly enough. Couple of combos land for the Stun Gun and Pierson is really having problems here. His face is all marked up already. Possible takedown is shrugged off easily by Kim. Sharp right jab from Kim. One minute to go and Pierson is still having issues with the reach. He clinches, but Kim grabs a front headlock and looks to be setting up for a guillotine. Pierson drops a hand to avoid any knees, and they go into the fence where Kim hits a big judo throw. Pierson manages to reverse position though and takes Kim’s back with both hooks. Kim looks to shake him off, but Pierson does well to keep the position and slaps on the body triangle, but the round ends before he can follow up. 10-9 Kim, despite the good end for Pierson.

Into the 2nd and Kim pushes forward, landing with a left hand early on. Good leg kick from Kim and he gets out of the way of some punches from the Canadian. Couple more low kicks from Kim and Pierson still can’t land his counters. They clinch up though and Pierson forces him into the cage. Kim muscles off and they break, where Kim lands with a leg kick. Nice left hand from Kim and he shrugs off a clinch attempt. Two minutes to go and Kim dodges a combo and CRACKS Pierson cleanly with a one-two. Pierson clinches and forces him into the cage, and then gets the back of a botched throw attempt. Kim turns into him though and forces the break. Crane kick lands flush for Kim and snaps Pierson’s head back, and he follows with a hard left hand too. Pierson grabs a clinch with a knee, but Kim breaks off. Solid leg kick lands for Pierson but Kim fires back with a left hook. Seconds left in the round and Kim avoids a single leg and then NAILS HIM WITH A CRANE KICK! Pierson wobbles all over the place like a drunk on ice and goes down, but he does just about enough to survive and the round ends there. 10-9 Kim and another thirty seconds and Pierson was done there.

3rd and final round and I’m wondering if Pierson is even fully recovered. Kim comes out with some punches, but Pierson to be fair to him does look fine. He manages to clinch and forces the Korean into the fence, but they break off with little action. Good leg kick from Kim. Very easy takedown from Kim and he lands on top and leaps over into side mount before Pierson hits a switch to stand up. Good job done by both men there. Kim looks for the takedown again, but Pierson uses the fence to block it – possibly in an illegal fashion too as the ref warns him. Takedown from the Stun Gun and he gets on top in full guard. Little action and so Yves Lavigne stands them with ninety seconds to go, and Kim tries the crane kick again but doesn’t land flush this time. Solid counter right lands for the Korean. They clinch again with seconds on the clock and Pierson tries to work him over a bit, but to no avail and they break. Front kick glances for Kim and he follows with a superman punch. Flying knee for Kim lands hard, but Pierson keeps swinging to end the fight. I’ve got this 30-27 for Dong Hyun Kim.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Dong Hyun Kim. Decent fight with the odd slow portion but of course the biggest thing was the use (some might say over-use) of the crane kick from Kim – I mean shit, you look back even two years ago and people would’ve laughed in your face if you told them Daniel LaRusso’s crane kick would be a viable move in MMA, and yet 2011 saw Lyoto Machida knock out RANDY COUTURE with it and then Kim – who’s not exactly known for his striking – nearly had another guy KOd with it here and probably would’ve got the stoppage had it not been so late in the round. It’s comical in a way but just goes to show that MMA never stops evolving.

Lightweight Fight: Danny Castillo vs Anthony Njokuani

This was another fight changed late on via injury as it would’ve seen Ramsey Nijem taking on Njokuani before the Stripper got injured in training. Luckily for Njokuani, Ramsey’s replacement was a similar fighter in Team Alpha Male’s Castillo, meaning it remained a classic striker vs. grappler contest. My money was on Castillo as he’d looked excellent in his last fight and I’ve never truly been enamoured with Njokuani.

Round One and they circle and throw some feeler strikes before Njokuani dodges an early single leg attempt. Good right hand from Njokuani as Castillo lunges in to grab him. He’s doing a good job of staying on the outside here. Leg kick lands for Castillo. Excellent takedown follows but Njokuani wall-walks to his feet, only to get slammed down again. Once more he pops up, but this time he gives his back and Castillo lands some knees to the legs from the rear waistlock. Njokuani turns into him and Castillo gets him down and wraps the legs up in the Kawajiri mount, stopping him from getting back to his feet. He goes into full mount from there, but can’t quite cover the hips and Njokuani pops up to his feet. Suplex by Castillo and he goes back to the rear waistlock position. Another suplex puts him down and Castillo almost gets a choke sunk, but Njokuani explodes out. Castillo gets him down again and this time he gets both hooks in for proper control. Good job from Njokuani to spin over though and he ends up on top where he locks up a guillotine. Slam from Castillo breaks that though and he gets top position again in half-guard. Njokuani rolls and takes a couple of shots before he stands back up into the clinch. They break with seconds to go and that’s the round. 10-9 Danny Castillo.

Round Two and Njokuani comes out throwing some jabs and some kicks to keep Castillo at bay. Takedown attempt is avoided with a nice sprawl by the Nigerian. Castillo manages to get on him and gets him down, but Njokuani muscles him off and they come back to their feet. Decent combo lands for Njokuani. Action slows down a bit as Njokuani seems content to pick at him with the left hand. Takedown from Castillo is blocked and Njokuani grabs the plum and lands a hard series of knees before exiting with a vicious elbow. Castillo has clearly slowed down now. Big right hand buckles Castillo’s legs and forces him to grab for Njokuani, but he eats a pair of heavy knees for his troubles. He manages to dump the Nigerian on his back though and basically just lays in the guard obviously looking to recover his faculties. Very little action from there as Castillo lands the minimum of ground-and-pound to avoid being stood up, but Njokuani uses the butterfly guard to reverse to his feet. Castillo manages to get him down again, but he can’t do much with the position and the round ends there. 10-9 Njokuani to even it up in my eyes.

Round Three and Njokuani works the jab and manages to shrug off an early takedown attempt. Another attempt is avoided but this time Castillo manages to get hold of him and forces him back into the fence. Good slam from Castillo puts him on top in half-guard and he quickly goes to the Kawajiri mount again. Back into half-guard as Castillo looks to keep Njokuani down, landing some short punches to the body. Castillo does a really good job of keeping him grounded, but Njokuani keeps trying and works his way back up. Castillo stays leaning against him and lands a knee to the leg before transitioning to the rear waistlock. Njokuani blocks a suplex and then surprisingly rolls for a leglock, but Castillo escapes. It does allow Njokuani back to his feet though. Good combo from Njokuani but Castillo shrugs off the plum clinch. Front kick into a straight left from the Nigerian but it allows Castillo to close distance and drag him down again. Just over a minute to go and Njokuani works to his feet, but Castillo keeps the clinch and lands some more knees inside. Njokuani gets free with seconds to go and looks to land some strikes, but despite landing a solid leg kick he can’t really hurt Castillo with anything major and the round ends on the feet. Close round but I’d go with Castillo, giving him the win.

Judges score it 29-28 Castillo, 29-28 Njokuani and 29-28 for the split decision win for Danny Castillo. It was definitely a close fight but I think the right man won. Perfectly acceptable fight overall even if it wasn’t spectacular or anything, and I thought Castillo did a good job of nullifying Njokuani’s offense in the 1st and 3rd rounds especially considering he’d taken the fight on short notice and looked like he’d gassed a bit in the 2nd.

Featherweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Junior Assuncao

TUF 9 winner Pearson was dropping to 145lbs for the first time here after a close loss to Edson Barboza in August, while Assuncao had returned to the UFC with a dull decision win over Eddie Yagin in September. British bias told me to pick Pearson, but he seemed like the smart choice anyway given Assuncao had hardly looked impressive against Yagin and Pearson is a pretty great striker.

First round and Pearson opens with an inside leg kick. Assuncao answers with one of his own as they circle around. Takedown from Assuncao but Pearson instantly scoots back towards the cage and explodes up to his feet. Assuncao gets a headlock and tries to transition onto the back, but Pearson breaks free and lands a pair of heavy left hooks on the exit. Couple more leg kicks from Pearson and he blocks a high kick from Assuncao. Takedown attempt by the Brazilian is blocked and Pearson lands a knee on the way out. Kick is caught by Junior and he goes for the takedown again, but Pearson blocks it and they end up clinched on the fence. Assuncao traps a leg and looks to get him down, but Pearson breaks off. Right hook from Pearson glances coming forward. Just over a minute to go and Pearson really starts stalking forward, but he doesn’t land much outside of a knee to block a takedown attempt. Good right hand from Ross but he walks into a combo from Assuncao. Superman punch glances for Pearson and he continues to push forward to end the round. Close round and less action than I’d have hoped; I’d go 10-9 Pearson as while Assuncao defended relatively well he didn’t land much either and Pearson did catch him a couple of times.

Second round and Pearson pushes forward but takes a couple of leg kicks. Single leg attempt from Assuncao and he gets Ross down for a second, but the Brit quickly scrambles back up and breaks off from the clinch. Good inside leg kick from Pearson. Combo from Assuncao and he looks for the takedown again, but Pearson defends it and remains on his feet. They break off and Assuncao tries the takedown again, but this time Pearson finds himself in top position off a scramble. He decides to let Junior up though and we’re back to striking. Single leg attempt by Assuncao is blocked by Ross again and they muscle for position in the clinch. Ross breaks off and continues to push forward, and he lands a hard bodyshot before dropping Assuncao for a split-second with a stiff jab. Good right hand and left hook to the body, and he follows with a knee to the body and a combo that has Assuncao reeling. Assuncao manages to clinch, but he takes some knees inside and then Ross breaks off. One minute to go and Junior shoots on a single leg again, but he still can’t get the Brit down and Pearson hits a trip of his own that plants Assuncao on his back. Junior explodes up and manages to hit a takedown of his own, but Ross keeps him in full guard and the round ends as they come back up to their feet. 10-9 Pearson in a better round overall.

Third round and Pearson charges out with a leg kick. Jab lands for Pearson but Assuncao tackles him to the ground. Pearson looks to scramble up, but he gives his back in the process and Assuncao manages to get one hook in. Ross looks calm though and gets rid of the hook before exploding to his feet and landing a solid elbow in the clinch. They break off and Assuncao comes in and gets another takedown, grabbing the rear waistlock as Ross pops back up. Good job by Pearson to turn into him, but Assuncao drops for the double leg. He takes a couple of shots inside but gets the Brit down, but again Pearson works back up and breaks off. Single leg attempt again from Assuncao but Ross defends and they end up clinched again. Pearson breaks off and lands with a hard leg kick. Nice knee from the Brit as Assuncao leans in for the takedown. The takedown is blocked and they end up clinched again, where Ross lands some short punches. Glancing head kick lands for Pearson and he follows with a knee as Assuncao looks for the takedown again. Less than a minute to go and Pearson stuffs it, then breaks with a combo. Assuncao looks wobbly and Pearson opens up on him with a hard combo that has him on the run. Wild takedown attempt from Assuncao is blocked and that’s the fight. 10-9 Pearson in my eyes giving him a 30-27 win.

Judges agree with me, giving it to Pearson unanimously 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. Fight wasn’t as good as I was hoping at all as Assuncao has this odd style where he makes his opponent look average, but unless he’s much better than them he doesn’t attack enough to take the win himself. Like a poor man’s early Lyoto in a lot of ways. Solid start for Pearson at 145lbs though as it’s always tricky dropping to a new weight class and he did manage to pick up a win.

Featherweight Fight: Jimy Hettes vs Nam Phan

Hettes had exploded onto the scene with an exciting win over TUF 12’s Bruce Leroy, and the word was that he was one of the hottest prospects out there at 145lbs although I hadn’t heard of him prior to his UFC debut. Here he was faced with a much tougher challenge though in longtime veteran Phan, who had picked up his first UFC win over Leonard Garcia a couple of months earlier. If Hettes was for real we’d find out here.

Fight begins and Hettes looks for a single leg early on. Leg sweep puts him on top in side mount, but Phan reclaims guard and quickly scrambles up. Hettes stays on him and forces him into the cage before getting another takedown. Phan rolls into half-guard, but Hettes lands a couple of solid shots and looks to advance position. Phan wall-walks to his feet but takes a knee on the way up and Hettes gets him down again. Guillotine attempt from Hettes as Phan stands, and he drops to his back and then rolls into top position, but Phan escapes. Big punches from the top from Hettes and Phan looks in deep trouble as Hettes bounces his head off the canvas! Damn. Massive ground-and-pound and Phan turns his back, and Jimy uses a waistlock to control him before slapping one hook in. More punches from Hettes but Phan works back to guard. Hettes is smashing him with more punches though, good lord. Phan manages to explode to his feet, showing a lot of toughness, but Hettes keeps him pressed against the cage. Phan breaks off and lands a nice right hand as Hettes pushes forward, but finds himself forced against the cage again. Beautiful throw plants Phan on his back in side mount, and this time Hettes steps to full mount. Big elbow from Hettes and he looks for an armbar, but Phan manages to survive it despite taking some massive shots to the face. Hettes decides to switch back to full mount, where he nails Phan with more heavy blows to end the round. That was just incredibly one-sided. 10-8 Hettes.

Into the 2nd and Hettes looks for a single leg right away. Phan defends it this time and manages to avoid a leg sweep to break free. Leaping kick misses for Hettes but he follows with another takedown attempt. This time he gets it and drags Phan down to the ground in half-guard. Good punches from the top for Hettes but Phan rolls for a leglock. Hettes easily avoids it and goes back into the guard, where he drops some more incredibly accurate punches to the fact. Hettes’ ground-and-pound is ridiculous. He takes full mount and then looks for an arm triangle, but Phan defends it and it looks like Hettes is going to try an armbar instead. Phan reverses, but Hettes grabs a guillotine and drops to his back. Phan pops out and finally has top position, landing some solid elbows before Hettes kicks him off. Phan drops back down into the guard, but Hettes hits a reversal and comes back up to his feet. Takedown attempt from Hettes is defended, and they end up clinched. Phan manages to break free, but his face looks busted up. Trip takedown from Hettes puts Phan on his back again, and he takes some more shots as he wall-walks to his feet. Good right hand lands for Phan as he breaks off. Hettes pushes forward with a combo though and closes the distance again, and he drags Phan to the ground using a whizzer. Phan pops back up but Hettes hits a throw and lands in side mount, where he drops some more nasty punches directly to the face. Mount attempt fails but Hettes manages to use a whizzer to avoid a reversal, and as Phan gets to his feet Hettes lands a couple more short punches. Round ends in the clinch. 10-9 Hettes.

Third and final round and Phan manages to avoid a couple of single legs and begins to put a few combinations together, but Hettes manages to get a single leg and gets him down again. Phan is beginning to look really tired now too, unsurprisingly. He manages to get to get to his feet, but Hettes lands a couple of knees to the body and Phan has blood running down his face from his right eye. Another takedown follows and Hettes lands some more punches while Phan tries to escape to his feet. Phan gets back up, but Hettes stays on him with a knee to the face before Phan breaks. Good right hand from Phan and he lands with a nice combo too, but Hettes manages to close the distance again and forces him back into the fence. Takedown from Hettes right into side mount and he lands some more ground-and-pound and practically has mount now. Arm triangle attempt from Hettes and this time Phan looks to be in trouble. Hettes gives it up to go back to full mount and back to just landing punches, but Phan manages to hip escape to half-guard. More brutal elbows land for Hettes from there though and Phan’s face is a mess now. He gets to full guard, but takes some more heavy shots and the round ends with a Hettes flurry from the top. Clear round for Hettes and it has to be a lopsided decision.

Judges have it 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26 for Jimy Hettes. Extremely impressive performance from the youngster as while Phan isn’t top ten, he’s a really tough gatekeeper who always provides a difficult test, and yet Hettes thoroughly dominated him from start to finish, having no problems with his boxing, taking him down at will, and absolutely putting a beating on him on the ground. Definitely a man to watch in the Featherweight division. Fight overall was one of the most enjoyable one-sided beatings in some time due to the sheer pace that Hettes kept.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs Vladimir Matyushenko

This fight had originally been set for UFC 133, but Matyushenko got injured and so Gustafsson picked up an even bigger win by beating fringe contender and arguable top ten fighter Matt Hamill instead. Before that fight I’d have said this was pretty even, but after seeing the Swede deal with Hamill’s wrestling quite comfortably I was taking him to make a statement by stopping Vladdy, too.

Round One and they circle tentatively with Gustafsson throwing out some early feints. Lunging left hook glances for Matyushenko and Gustafsson gets out of the way quickly. Good leg kick from the Swede and he avoids the big counter. Glancing right uppercut from Gustafsson. Big straight kick to the body from the Swede but Vladdy grabs a clinch. Good job from Gustafsson to break off and he backs Vladdy up with a combo. Good leg kick follows. Vladdy steps in, but walks right into a STIFF LEFT HAND that sends him down, and Gustafsson pounces with SICK KILLER INSTINCT to finish him off on the ground with punches and hammer fists.

Replay shows that Vladdy pretty much ran right into the left hand. Vicious stuff. Didn’t expect that to be quite so quick for Gustafsson but he really sent a message with that finish. Since this one the Swede’s gone from strength to strength and I can definitely see him getting a title shot in 2013 if he continues on the same path. Great knockout to finally stop the run of decisions on this show, too.

Welterweight Fight: Johny Hendricks vs Jon Fitch

This was one of my most anticipated fights on this card, as I’m a big fan of Hendricks and thought he was due a step up in competition, and there are few bigger steps at 170lbs than Jon Fitch. Fitch had been on the shelf a while – since February’s draw with BJ Penn – but at this stage his only loss in the UFC was still the unsuccessful title fight against GSP. Despite Hendricks having far better wrestling credentials, he’d struggled in that department against the likes of Rick Story and Mike Pierce (I guess some wrestling styles translate to MMA a little better than others) and so most people figured Fitch would be able to grind out another win here – particularly as he looks a little bigger than Hendricks for 170lbs – but I couldn’t help but pick Hendricks, if only out of sheer hope that it’d knock Fitch out of title contention and provide another future challenger for GSP.

First round begins and Fitch misses a combo before Hendricks comes forward and DECKS HIM WITH A LEFT HOOK!~! Fitch hits the deck HARD and another shot stiffens him up for the stoppage. Holy fucking shit. Post-fight he’s so out of it he actually tries to take down Steve Mazzagatti. Now THAT’S a knockout! Crowd go apeshit and a star is born.

What can you say about that? One of the best knockouts of 2011, easily. Fitch tries to complain it was an early stoppage but there’s no way, he was stiff as a fucking board when he hit the ground and only would’ve gotten badly hurt had the fight continued. It was crazy too as Mike Goldberg was literally just talking about Hendricks’s one-shot power as he landed the shot! Just goes to show that in MMA the right shot can put anyone out, as Fitch had taken some insane punishment from GSP and managed to survive and yet one punch turned his lights right out here. No offense to Fitch but this was the best thing to happen to the 170lbs division in 2011, as not only did it create a new contender in Hendricks but it also removed part of the logjam from the title picture, as pretty much nobody wanted to see Fitch/GSP II but it was looking unavoidable when Fitch kept winning. Awesome.

Lightweight Fight: Nate Diaz vs Donald Cerrone

When they put this one together I think everyone was expecting fireworks, but things got even more fired up when Diaz snubbed a handshake from Cerrone at a pre-fight press conference and flipped him off, suddenly turning it into a very personal feud. Well, that’s what the Diaz brothers do! Both men were coming in with momentum – Diaz after putting together a career-best performance against Takanori Gomi, while Cerrone had run through four straight opponents since coming into the UFC from the WEC in early 2011. My pick though was the Cowboy, figuring he had the better wrestling game and could dictate where the fight went, as everything else seemed largely even.

Staredown as you would imagine is seriously intense. No touch of gloves, duh. Instead Cowboy flips Diaz off, returning the favour. Round One and Cerrone comes charging out and both men miss some punches before clinching. Takedown from Diaz but Cerrone pops back up and manages to avoid being tripped, as Diaz lands some short punches inside. Knee to the body answers for Cowboy and he shoves Diaz off. Combo from Diaz but Cowboy fires back with a hard right hand. Big right hand lands flush for Diaz and he avoids a couple of clinch attempts. BRUTAL three-punch combo lands for Diaz and snaps Cerrone’s head back. Cerrone tries to fire back, but Diaz begins to open up with accurate shots, landing cleanly to the face of Cowboy and backing him up. Brief clinch is broken and Diaz doubles up on the right hand before whaling at the body as Cowboy is trapped against the fence. Knee to the body and heavy right hand follows and Cowboy is just eating shots now. More snapping punches from Diaz and it seems like Cerrone’s head is bouncing back over and over. Big left hook tags Cowboy and he’s clearly wobbly now. Cerrone just has no answer to Diaz’s combinations at all. Head kick glances for Cerrone and he follows with a solid leg kick, but he takes another combo for his efforts. Another beautiful combo lands for Diaz and the crowd are chanting for him now. Cerrone tries to fire back but he eats yet another combination. He’s getting owned here. Vicious three-punch combo again from Diaz and it’s as if he’s teeing off on a heavy bag at points. Lot of blood coming from Cerrone’s mouth now. Round ends shortly after and I’d go with Nate Diaz 10-8 as Cowboy took SO MUCH PUNISHMENT. He looks out of it in his corner in fact.

Round Two and Diaz opens with another combo. A leg kick from Cowboy drops Diaz, but he pops right back up and goes back to where he left off landing big punches. Another pair of leg kicks knock Diaz down again, popping the crowd, but it’s more of a leg sweep rather than a knockdown and Diaz pops up and lands another combo en route to the clinch. They both take one another’s backs for a moment before breaking off and Diaz lands a combo again. More punches from Diaz before Cowboy looks to answer with a knee. Big one-two from Diaz connects and he follows it up with a three-shot combo. Kick by Diaz is caught and Cerrone answers with a glancing head kick that sends Diaz down, but it didn’t look like it connected properly and Cowboy lets him back up. Another good leg kick drops Diaz but Nate fires back by snapping Cowboy’s head back with a pair of punches. They trade wildly with Diaz getting the better of it, and then he follows with another combination that wobbles Cerrone. Cowboy looks like he’s fighting on nothing but instinct here. Leg trip puts Diaz down but he comes back to his feet right away. Knee inside from Diaz breaks a brief clinch. Good left hand from Cowboy and he drops Diaz with another leg kick, but he doesn’t follow it and allows Diaz back up. Diaz makes him pay right away with a hard combination that wobbles his legs, and Cowboy’s face is a mess now. Big crowd chant for Diaz with seconds remaining as he lands another combo to end the round. Cowboy had more success in that round, but he still spent the majority of it eating punches. 10-9 Diaz.

Round Three and Diaz wobbles Cerrone right away with a counter right hook. Big combo snaps Cerrone’s head off to the side. Cowboy lands a left hand, but Diaz makes him pay with another combination, and another one that lands flush. Cowboy throws a kick but ends up stumbling to his back for a second before popping up. Jab snaps Cerrone’s head back and Diaz is taunting him now too. Nice knee to the body from Cowboy but for everything he lands, Diaz is landing three or four punches. More punches from Diaz and this is by far the best he’s ever looked. Leg sweep puts him down but he gets right back up and goes back to business, popping Cowboy with more punches. Knee to the body again from Cowboy but Diaz shrugs it off and nails him with a combo. Another leg sweep puts Diaz down, but that isn’t going to win Cowboy this fight and Nate gets back up and lands another combo. Cerrone tries to clinch but Diaz breaks with a knee. Beautiful combo from Diaz. Flying knee attempt from Cerrone but it doesn’t land. Cowboy’s face is a mess and Diaz continues to tee off on him. Head kick from Cerrone but Diaz seems fine. Trip puts Diaz back down but he gets right back up and lands some more punches, and they trade til the buzzer before finally shaking hands. Tremendously entertaining fight and Cowboy showed a ton of heart, but really it was all Nate Diaz.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Nate Diaz. Don’t really see how you could give Cowboy a round there, but whatever. Fantastic showing from Diaz who really stepped up his game and looked like a true title contender in there. A lot of fans pilloried Cowboy after this for seemingly coming in with no gameplan and what-not, but I don’t think that was really fair – it looked to me more like he got clocked early and had his bell rung (although his chin kept him in the fight) and just wasn’t with it at all after that. Similar to how Mike Swick was in the Dan Hardy fight in fact. I said earlier that Hettes/Phan was one of the most entertaining one-sided fights that I could remember seeing but this totally surpassed it. Awesome stuff from start to finish even if it wasn’t as competitive as I was expecting.

Heavyweight Fight: Brock Lesnar vs Alistair Overeem

Ah, the saga of the Reem. When Zuffa bought StrikeForce back in April 2011 two names immediately came to mind on the StrikeForce roster that every fan wanted to see in the UFC – Nick Diaz and Alistair Overeem. And while Diaz was immediately moved over and positioned as a top contender, for a while it looked like somehow we’d miss out on Overeem. For starters, he was still in the pre-Zuffa conceived StrikeForce Heavyweight Grand Prix. And even when he dropped out of that via injury, there was all the funny business about Zuffa not wanting to sign him due to how his management were demanding payments, and eventually he was “released” by StrikeForce. Thankfully after some horrid fears that he’d become the next Fedor and waste his prime years away, he ended up signing with the UFC, exciting everyone who’d watched him become a monster since moving to Heavyweight in late 2007. Early rumors had him fighting Frank Mir in his first UFC outing, but instead Zuffa pulled out an even bigger trump card and matched him with the returning-from-diverticulitis Brock Lesnar, the promotion’s biggest drawing star, with the winner getting a Heavyweight Title shot against Junior Dos Santos. To say this was a dream match would be like saying the Reem’s traps are sort-of big.

As for how the fight was going to play out? It was quite tricky to say. After all, Overeem had never fought a wrestler the calibre of Brock and while he hadn’t ever done it as a Heavyweight, he did have a history of folding under pressure in his earlier days in PRIDE. On the other hand, judging on his fights with Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, Lesnar did not like to get hit and didn’t react very well to being hit, and obviously, few men on the planet hit harder than Alistair Overeem. For me it was a difficult one to pick, but I was going with the Reem, basically because I figured he would be able to land the big knee to counter Lesnar’s takedown attempts, and to me Brock hadn’t really seemed like the same meathead killer he’d been in his early UFC days since the first bout of diverticulitis in late 2009. And of course, I was pulling for Overeem too – not that I dislike Lesnar, but his army of fanboys drive me almost as insane as BJ Penn’s do, and I really, REALLY wanted to see Ubereem against Velasquez and Dos Santos.

Round One and holy shit are the crowd pumped. Lesnar actually looks calm coming out of his corner and surprisingly throws a leg kick as his first strike. Did not expect that in a million years. Both men land grazing right hands and I can’t believe Lesnar hasn’t shot for the takedown yet. Single leg attempt finally comes but Overeem avoids it. Looks like he’s somehow been cut though probably from the grazing shot. Reem comes forward and lands a pair of big knees to the body, but Brock pushes him off before he can land any more. Overeem comes forward again with another two heavy knees to the gut and this time Lesnar’s hurt and he doubles over, wincing in pain. Another knee lands and Brock backs up taking some heavy breaths. Left hand from Lesnar but Overeem walks right through it, showing zero respect for the former champion’s stand-up. Kick glances to the body and Lesnar almost catches the leg, but Overeem pulls it away at the last second. Overeem continues to walk him down, and then lands another big knee to the body and a right hand. Brock is in trouble again and Reem opens up with a pair of left hooks. BRUTAL LEFT KICK TO THE BODY follows and Lesnar stumbles across the cage before going down with the DELAYED REACTION!~! Overeem closes in and bombs on him, and finally lands a big right to the body that forces referee Mario Yamasaki to call the fight. Holy shit, that was a MASSACRE.

Post-fight Junior Dos Santos comes into the Octagon to build up the future title fight with Overeem, but then that gets overshadowed as Lesnar announces his retirement from MMA, which honestly didn’t surprise me in the end as I don’t think his heart was ever truly in the game once he got through the diverticulitis – that sort of shit can change a person for good and I think that’s what happened to Brock – and to be frank he doesn’t seem like the type of person to stick to something unless he’s the very best and everything’s going his way regardless. As for his impact in MMA? You’d have to say it was huge (I’d argue that the HW division would’ve been more prominent anyway once the likes of JDS and Cain shook off the stench of the Sylvia Years) and while I don’t think he was ever as good as some of his fans would’ve made you think, you can’t really understate how much he accomplished in a short period of time – wins over Heath Herring, Frank Mir, Randy Couture and Shane Carwin are great wins for anyone! – and he brought a lot of eyes to the sport so I’m sad to see him go in a way.

This fight though was a one-sided beating and it really couldn’t have gone any better for Overeem, as he just walked right through a guy who Zuffa had been pushing as the ‘baddest man on the planet’ without really stopping to breathe. Obviously since then he’s had a few issues that we won’t touch on here, but I will say that I can’t wait for his return to the title picture in 2013. This was one of the most anticipated fights of 2011 and one of the most anticipated UFC debuts ever and for me it delivered in spades.

-Highlight reel ends our night and arguably the best year in UFC history.

Final Thoughts….

Prelims on this one weren’t up to much which means it doesn’t come close to the best shows of 2011 (132, 134, 140, 129), but the main card was AWESOME, with two entertaining longer fights mixed in with three of the coolest stoppages of 2011. Plus you’ve got the historical factor with Overeem’s debut, the retirement of Lesnar, and – dare I say it – Jon Fitch’s fall from the title picture where he’d been since 2007! It’s an easy thumbs up for UFC 141 then, although casuals might be best to skip over the prelims and get straight into the main card action.

Best Fight: Diaz vs. Cerrone
Worst Fight: Volkmann vs. Escudero

Overall Rating: ****1/4

Until next time…

Newman
NewmanMMA@gmail.com