Friday, December 30, 2011

UFC 141 Preview: Lesnar vs. Overeem

In gambling, sportsbooks have games that are described as "sharps vs. squares." This refers to when the smart, high-roller gamblers (sharps) bet one way and the casual, small-bet gamblers (squares) are putting most of their money on opposing squads or individuals.

Today's UFC Heavyweight No. 1 Contender's bout between Brock Lesnar (5-2; 2 KO, 2 Sub) and Alistair Overeem (35-11, 1 NC; 14 KO, 19 Sub) illustrates that dynamic perfectly.

Most hardcore MMA fans and people who analyze fights outside the UFC know how dangerous the striking and overall imposing figure of Overeem is. They see a man in Lesnar who is coming off another brutal bout with diverticulitis, and a man who has not reacted well when he's been hit with raw punching power.

Casual fans, transplanted fans from Lesnar's WWE days, and many of ESPN's MMA writers feel that Lesnar can still use his NCAA championship-winning wrestling to hold down Overeem, who has never faced a wrestler of Lesnar's caliber.

This fight will determine a lot. It will decide whether Lesnar can compete at the highest level after battling so much illness as well as his age (34).

Lesnar has shown the ability to knock guys out, but against Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez he reacted poorly to getting hit by legitimate strikers. A K-1 kickboxing champion like Overeem will be a significant threat standing up.

It will decide whether Overeem, who is 13-2 with a no contest as a heavyweight, is a byproduct of a weakened heavyweight division outside the UFC.

Overeem's three non-wins came against Fabricio Werdum (avenged last year), Sergei Kharitonov (a rematch of a fight Overeem won) and Mirko Cro Cop (no contest). Not a bad group, but outside of his series with these fighters his resume is less than impressive. Further, no one on the list has the wrestling and ground pedigree of Lesnar.

My thoughts are that the longer this fight goes, the more it favors Overeem because the longer it goes, the more striking opportunities will come for Overeem.

Lesnar can win early on in the fight, but I'm going to say Overeem wins late in Rd. 3 by TKO.

Lightweight bout: Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz

I think everyone and anyone wants to see the Scrap Pack get shut down, and Cerrone could definitely be the man.

Cerrone has won six straight fights dating back to when WEC was still around, and he is one of the old company's trinity of amazing lightweights to make noise in the UFC.

Diaz just showed his prowess on the ground by submitting Takanori Gomi, but Diaz's issue is he can't dictate the location of the fight.

Cerrone can hang with Diaz standing or on the ground, but it's his superior wrestling that makes the difference. His ability to control the style of the fight will be the difference-maker. Diaz could catch him, but I'm taking Cerrone by decision.

Other Main Card fights
Welterweights: Jon Fitch v. Johny Hendricks - Fitch takes a decision in a wrestle-fest. Big surprise.
Light Heavyweights: Vladamir Matyushenko v. Alexander Gustafsson - Both will respect the other on the ground, causing a stand-up battle, and Matyushenko will earn a 2nd-round KO.
Featherweights: Nam Phan v. Jimy Hettes - Phan wins a slugfest by decision.

I'm briefly going to give you my picks for DREAM's Fight For Japan event, which will be on HDNet immediately after the UFC PPV goes off the air.

Fedor Emelianenko will knock out his opponent, Satoshi Ishii, in the first round. If this fight leaves the first round I'll be shocked, and if Fedor loses, a small army may need to force his retirement.

In an upset, I'm taking Shinya Aoki to lose his DREAM Lightweight Championship to Satoru Kitaoka. His ground credentials nearly match Aoki's, and the champion did not have a good showing last year at this event. I expect a sequel.

Hiroyuki Takaya will win in the second round of his featherweight title fight against Takeshi Inoue. Finally, in the Bantamweight tournament, Antonio Banuelos will reach the finals, and then win against Bibiano Fernandes.

Tune in tomorrow for my year-end thoughts.

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