Anytime Brock Lesnar steps into the Octagon to fight it is a big event, both in importance and physical size, and Friday night's #1-Contender bout against Alistair Overeem will be no different. Pitting two of the largest fighters in the sport against each other for a crack at Junior Dos Santos' UFC Heavyweight Title, the main event is all-but-guaranteed to end in a decisive finish for one of the gargantuan fighters.
Ben Bauman: I am really pumped for the UFC 141 main event. This fight has the Return of Brock and the Debut of Overeem -- both are equally watchable to casual and hardcore fans alike. The more I think about this heavyweight collision (take a shot when Mike Goldberg says it on the pre-fight promo) the more I find myself excited for the fight. There are so many different ways the fight can play out.
If Lesnar vs. Overeem was just a three-round fight, I would favor a decision as a 60% likely outcome, but in a five round fight, there will be a finish with these two behemoths. Will Lesnar shoot in for the power double-leg takedown at the start and hold Overeem down for a whole round? While defending the takedown, Overeem can land a precision uppercut or a massive knee to the head of Lesnar, and completely flip the script, putting the wrestler, Lesnar, on his back. Keeping a fresh Lesnar on his back will be hard, as the big guy will explode and scramble for a takedown of his own. After seeing Brock Lesnar seriously rocked in the first round of his last two fights, another possibility is the fight starts slowly as the two men circle and test the range and timing of their opponent. A probing punch may provide the window for either man to engage in the clinch, where both are formidable. If the fight gets near the cage, expect Lesnar to press in for a cage-assisted takedown, while should Overeem find his foe with his back to the cage, there is going to be some dirty-boxing and knees coming Brock's way.
Overeem blew me away last year as I watched him win the K-1 kickboxing heavyweight tournament, going through three world-class opponents in one brutal night. Then in June, I had the opposite experience, and I was disappointed watching The 'Reem fight Fabricio Werdum. Overeem's offense on the feet was conserved, for fear of a multi-strike combo leaving an opening for Werdum to drag him to the ground. Still while Overeem shucked off Werdum's sloppy takedown attempts and made him stand up repeatedly, Werdum was landing cleanly and effectively on the feet hitting Overeem's face with power shots. Werdum was winning exchanges on the fight, and he could have won the fight had he stopped flopping to the ground.
At UFC 141, Brock is not flopping to the ground unless he gets rocked on the feet -- very possible given his last two fights! Lesnar has the takedown capability to keep Overeem honest, which opens up the power punch for Lesnar. Nobody confuses Lesnar with a technically proficient, textbook-style puncher, but his massive arms hold fight-changing power against an opponent who is preoccupied with sprawling instead of keeping a high guard.
With striking defense being the biggest deficiency in Lesnar's game, Overeem's world-class kickboxing abilities are the most obvious path to victory here, which is why the UFC newcomer is a modest favorite (-127 or 56% to win) among oddsmakers. With Lesnar looking very beatable in his last two fights (Carwin, Velsasquez), there is probably less "donkey money" coming in on Lesnar from the pro wrestling fans. A week out from the fight, I'm estimating about 60% to 70% of fantasy MMA picks will be for Overeem, which makes a Lesnar pick both risky and rewarding.
With two heavyweights and 4-ounce gloves anything can happen, so to play it safe with your fantasy fight picks, lock the fight with a 1 to 4 point lock bonus. Considering Overeem has been highly distracted the past two months with both family problems and with getting licensed to fight in Nevada, I anticipate Overeem's conditioning will be less than ideal. Look for Lesnar to fight strategically as he will keep the fight at distance or on the ground in round one. As the fight progresses, Overeem's conditioning will look worse than in June's fight. Lesnar will force Overeem to grapple defensively against the cage and on the ground. As the fight enters the championship rounds, Lesnar's ground and pound will force the referee to save Overeem's head from Brock Lesnar's lunch-pail-sized fists.
Ben's pick: Brock Lesnar by KO in round 4.
Bobby's breakdowns is after the jump.
Bobby Ingram: While I agree with Ben that this fight appears certain to end without the need for the ever-worrying judge's decision, I think even looking for a third round to come into play may be asking for a bit more fighting than we are likely to see here. While fights at the lower end of the heavyweight division often result in some of the poorest, sloppiest bouts on a card as both players find themselves tired and winging wild punches, at the upper end of the division we commonly see the power of the larger men resulting in somebody's off button being pressed. Brock hasn't been out of the second round since his first win in the UFC, while Overeem's lackluster showing against Werdum was the Dutch striker's first time out of the opening frame since the first bout in his 11-fight unbeaten run, when he needed all-of 3:42 of the second round to garner the slowest result in his tear.
Ultimately the fight seems as if it will come down to a very simple either-or scenario. Either Overeem keeps Lesnar from dragging him down and exposes the former-champ's questionable chin (in so far as being rocked by the likes of Velasquez and Shane Carwin can deem one questionable) or he doesn't and falls victim to the unpleasantness that is being on ones back while Lesnar rains down hammerfists with his kettle-bell hands.
If Overeem's takedown defense proves capable of dealing with Lesnar, or if his striking is intimidating enough to keep Brock from any real shots, the final fight of the card should be a short one. Overeem has never been a fighter known for his outstanding cardio, however Lesnar has shown that when hit by a strong striker he can be put on queer street, so Overeem shouldn't have to worry about that as long as he doesn't hold back on his strikes like against Werdum. If Overeem's got the skills to keep Brock in his world, it shouldn't be long before those skills add up to a knock out victory in the first round.
On the flip side, Overeem's performance leaves questions about his ability to cope with a top-level heavyweight just as much as Brock's recent outings leave his ability to take a punch suspect. As Ben noted, Overeem appeared incredibly timid against Werdum, allowing the Brazilian to outland him throughout the bout, and was saved only by the poor shots of Werdum and the puzzling decision by Werdum to continue flopping to his back despite landing the more telling strikes standing. Against Brock, Overeem won't have the luxury of timidly coasting to a win. If Overeem is afraid to let his hands and knees go to stave off shot attempts, Lesnar will get in on him and will put him on his back. From there, it's just a matter of time before the technically flawed, but devestatingly powerful ground and pound of Lesnar earns him a TKO in the second round.
As for which of those possibilities comes to pass, I have to admit I've flip-flopped of late. Originally the poor showing of Overeem his last time out had me severely doubting his ability to stay upright. Last week however I had the luxury of talking fights with a few UFC fighters who, by rule, I tend to give the benefit of the doubt to over myself in terms of breaking down fighters' skill sets, and the resulting fight outcomes. After hearing the flip side of the debate repeated -- namely that the last two times Brock fought a guy who hit hard he got rocked hard, and Overeem hits really hard -- my resolve in this pick has been shaken a bit. I continue to see Brock breakdance cartwheeling across the Octagon and wonder if I won't be seeing the same thing tomorrow night. Ultimately I'm going to stick to my guns, but I'd be lying if I said I felt good about it, and have to concur with Ben that any weighted picks league should see this fight placed well down the pecking order.
Bobby's Pick: Brock Lesnar by TKO (Hulk Smash Fists) in Round 2