23 December 2011
This is a two fight card, and I'm not going to pretend like it's not. The only problem is that the UFC got cold feet by not putting it on New Year's Eve. The company always has a show right around the weekend of New Year's, but when the biggest party night of the year rolled around on a Saturday this year, they chickened out and put their biggest main event of 2011 on a Friday instead. It's a missed opportunity, and I hope it doesn't cost them.
Nam Phan vs. Jim Hettes - Hettes is an undefeated submission specialist who has finished all of his fights inside of two rounds. Phan is a middling striker who puts on entertaining fights. Hettes takes this by rear naked choke in the first.
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Alexander Gustafsson - Gustafsson is a great young prospect while Matyushenko is a past-his-prime dude nicknamed the Janitor. Gustafsson wins by TKO in the second.
Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks - ...zzzzzzzzzzzFitchbydecisionzzzzzzzzzzzz...
Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone - All right, now we're talking!
Donald Cerrone has deserved the spotlight for a good long while now, and getting the semi-main event slot for his second pay per view main card appearance is a nice way of doing it. He's riding a six fight win streak, finishing four of his opponents in the process and looking impressive with each outing. Cerrone has had some mental hurdles to overcome in the past, having a tendency to lose the early rounds before realizing he's in a fight, but ever since he transferred over to the UFC from the now defunct WEC, he's looked energized and come across as a title contender. There are few people in the UFC's midcard I anticipate watching more than the Cowboy.
AND HE'S FIGHTING A DIAZ!!
Guys, the Diaz brothers are tremendous because they're each individually more of a cartoon character than Chael Sonnen could ever hope to be with the added benefit of actually believing everything they say. While Nick is the crazier of the two, Nate certainly holds his own. For instance, the story goes that Cerrone, being the sportsman that he is, went up to Diaz at a public workout event to shake his hand. Diaz promptly slapped it away and called him a few choice words that are bleeped on television, explaining that they were in the same division so Cerrone was out of line. I wish I was making this up, but that's just Nate Diaz.
Thankfully, he fights as well as he talks, putting on a career best performance against Takanori Gomi back in September. However, Gomi is a shell of his former self and has had a terrible UFC run, so was that fight a case of Diaz taking his game to a new level at lightweight or looking great against an awful opponent? Regardless, the UFC brass saw Nate in a new way after the fight. Before that, he made a run at welterweight and lost two in a row, mostly because he couldn't handle the size advantage that most fighters in the division have over him.
Of the two, Cerrone has the better technical striking and Diaz has the better ground game, while neither are great shakes as wrestlers. Diaz can overwhelm opponents with his barrage of pitter-patter punches, but Cerrone has pretty great head movement and a solid chin and his kicks are enough to give a guy like Dennis Siver the shakey legs. Cerrone also is good enough on the ground not to get caught in a Diaz trap, while I can't say the same for Diaz when it comes to Cerrone standing. Another factor is that Cerrone trains with some world-class wrestlers at Greg Jackson's gym, so he probably gets the nod there despite the fact that neither guy is known for their takedown ability. How he wins isn't as clear to me, but I don't see anyone else but Donald Cerrone coming out the victor on this one. Let's say that Cerrone wins by TKO in the third.
Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem - Let's address the elephant in the room first for anyone who has been paying attention to the recent hubbub: this fight should not be happening due to the Nevada State Athletic Commissions. Call it incompetence at best or a conflict of interest at worst, but after it took Alistair Overeem 27 days to get a urine sample to the commission when they attempted to do a 48 hour drug test back in the middle of November, the fight should have been cancelled. As a fight fan, I'll still be glad to watch this bout, but, man, does it make them, the UFC and the sport as a whole look bad when shenanigans like this take place.
Overeem is a world class striker and a world class HGH and steroid abuser. See, this is what's great about being a fan of the sport who just happens to enjoy writing about it as opposed to a journalist or anything else where I'd have to be politically correct in my choice of words. Up until 2007, Overeem was an okay light heavyweight with a tall frame and a lean physique. A year later he put on 50 pounds of muscle and started destroying scrubs in Japan in the heavyweight division, where no one does any kind of drug testing. Stranger still, his face started to change shape, and a common side effect of growth hormone usage is a thickening of the jaw and bones in the head and face. No matter how much muscle a dude puts on, it's not all that common for their head to change as much shape as their body. Overeem, by the way, attributes his new body (and head girth) to eating horse meat. No, really.
But that's besides the point, isn't it? The point is that he punches and kicks really hard and can do so pretty accurately. And his opponent does not react well to getting punched in the face. Overeem also has a solid kimura and a pretty good guillotine, both of which he applies with more power than he does technique.
Don't mistake my criticism of Overeem for his suspect musculature for hypocrisy when I repeat for the umpteenth time on this blog that Brock Lesnar is my favorite fighter. Defending him and the fact that he's built like a man and a half is pretty easy considering his history of always being a giant. And who knows? Maybe they're both juicing. I like Brock more and that's all that really matters.
Also, he's going to win if he plays it smart. Not playing it smart would be to attempt to stand up for any length of time whatsoever at all with Overeem, and I don't see Brock doing that. Frank Mir laid out the exact game plan that I envision over at Yahoo. Brock will attempt a takedown, Overeem will sprawl, Brock will then power through and bull him against the fence where he'll trap him. Overeem will attempt to stand, and might even do so a few times, but lathering, rinsing and repeating the same strategy from Brock is all that will happen once he does stand up.
Well, that'll just lead to a boring decision then won't it?
No, faceless question asker, it won't. This is where the important distinction between the two men comes into play. Overeem is mentally weak and will break. Whether that happens before or after he gasses out is up in the air, but both will happen. Fifty pounds of extra muscle is all well and good until a person is forced to carry it around with another guy of equal size attempting to keep one down for the better part of a fast-paced five to ten minutes. The guillotine and kimura won't play a factor after that, and for all of the talk about Brock Lesnar not being able to take a punch, he sure does know how to hit really hard, especially on a prone opponent. That'll easily set Overeem up for an arm triangle.
Brock wins this fight in the second round by submission.