Well fight fans, the UFC has given us plenty to be thankful for this year. 2011 has been a banner year for the world’s biggest and brightest MMA promotion and as it winds down to a close the UFC is going out with a bang, waving goodbye to 2011 and ringing in 2012 with a blockbuster main event. Two of the biggest Heavyweight fighters in the world clash in the final UFC bout of 2011 when Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem battles Brock Lesnar.
Main Card Bout (PPV): Featherweight Bout: Nam Phan vs. Jimy Hettes
Nam Phan is an American fighter best known for his recent stint on the GSP vs. Koscheck season of The Ultimate Fighter. Phan has backgrounds in several forms of martial arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, Karate, Boxing and Quyen Dao. He is the owner and operator of the Ma Du Academy where he teaches BJJ as well as boxing and Muay Thai classes daily. Phan’s greatest asset is his striking skills, where he is able to hang with some of the best strikers in the division. He has good, crisp, technical Muay Thai skills, which although may be lacking in power he makes up for with accuracy and technical supremacy. Phan owns a career record of 17-9.
Jimy “The Kid” Hettes is a 24-year-old fighter from Kingston, Pennsylvania. In all of his bouts both as an amateur and a professional, Hettes has stopped his opponent via Submission. Hettes is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo based fighter, who is a 2-time Keystone State Games Judo Gold Medalist for Pennsylvania. Grappling since the age of 14 Hettes is one of the best pure grapplers in the UFC’s Featherweight division. Undefeated as a professional Hettes has a career record of 9-0.
Analysis and Prediction: Phan is a talented fighter who while great in no particular area is weak in none either. Hettes is a legitimate grappling threat, but Phan is no slouch on the ground either. Both are well experienced on the mat and the grappling game will likely prove to be a stalemate. In 26 career bouts, Phan has never been submitted and if Hettes can’t submit Phan it’s likely he’ll lose this fight. Phan isn’t much of a finisher, so this one is probably a pretty one-sided sprawl and brawl fight for Phan. Nam Phan via Unanimous Decision.
Main Card Bout (PPV): Light Heavyweight Bout: Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson is a Swedish born fighter from Stockholm. At 6’5” with a 76.5 inch reach, he is one of the larger fighters in the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division. Gustafsson is a talented kick boxer with improving BJJ and wrestling skills. He is a member of both the Stockholm Shoot Gym as well as the Alliance MMA Gym in San Diego, California where he trains with fellow up-and-coming Light Heavyweight talent Phil Davis. Gustafsson has very quick hands and strong boxing skills as he chains together combinations very well. In his last fight he was able to obliterate Matt Hamill and send him into retirement by shaking off his takedowns relentlessly before finishing Hamill on the mat. Gustafsson has a career record of 12-1.
Analysis and Prediction: This is a very intriguing bout which has a lot of potential to be very exciting. Matyushenko has big power in both his hands and isn’t likely to back down from a fist fight. It is likely in his best interest to get the fight to the mat, but if Gustafsson is able to stop his first few takedown attempts, we may see “The Janitor” change his game plan to brawl mode. If he does that it’s going to play right into Gustafsson’s hands. As the young Swede should be able to capitalize and string together a few combinations that will stun the veteran and allow him to finish with follow up punches on the ground. Expect something eerily similar to Jon Jones pounding away from mount on Matyushenko. Alexander Gustafsson via TKO in Round One.
Main Card Bout (PPV): Welterweight Bout: Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks
Jon Fitch is a 33-year-old American who is making his return to the UFC after a lengthy layoff due to a shoulder injury. Fitch is best known as the longstanding “number two” in the division as his record speaks for itself, as he has been extremely dominant at 170-pounds against anyone not named Georges St. Pierre. Fitch is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Purdue University and often uses his superior wrestling abilities to take his opponents down and grind them out from the top. Fitch has caught some flack from fans in the past about this “lay and pray” style of fighting, however it has proven extremely effective. The member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California holds a career record of 23-3-1 including an amazing 13-1 inside the UFC.
Johny Hendricks is a fast rising Welterweight prospect. At 28-years-old the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has built up an impressive record in the UFC using his strong wrestling background as well as his rapidly improving boxing skills. In addition to his boxing skills Hendricks has also added a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to his skill set. Fighting out of the Team Takedown Gym in Dallas, Texas Hendricks trains regularly with some of the best wrestlers in the country including Shane Roller and Jake Rosholt. Hendricks has been able to combine his wrestling and boxing by blending takedowns with punishing clinch work to outwork most of his opposition in his career. He owns a career record of 11-1 with his only loss coming to Rick Story.
Analysis and Prediction: If this one is going to come down to wrestling, it might be somewhat surprising as Hendricks actually has the better collegiate wrestling pedigree. Hendricks likely has the better boxing skills as well since Fitch has still proven relatively flat-footed in his stand up game. Fitch is also returning from a nearly year long layoff, so ring rust could prove a factor here. I think this is an upset in the making. Fitch is bigger and stronger, but he won’t be able to easily take Hendricks down. If Hendricks can time some of those nasty uppercuts of his he could easily rock Fitch on the way in and swarm him for a TKO finish. The more likely outcome however is a closely contested split decision. Johnny Hendricks via Split Decision.
Main Card Bout (PPV): Lightweight Bout: Nathan Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone
Nate Diaz is the younger brother of Welterweight title challenger Nick Diaz. The 26-year-old from Stockton, California is basically a lighter version of his big brother. He is most well known as the winner of the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under famed trainer Cesar Gracie and is a member of the Cesar Gracie Fight Team where he trains regularly with his brother, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez. Diaz is a southpaw boxer who employs a striking style similar to his brother, punching in bunches and forcing his opponents to work at a frenetic pace for the entire bout and using his excellent conditioning to wear out his opponents. Diaz has struggled against strong wrestlers in the past but still has notable and impressive victories over Takanori Gomi, Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard and Josh Neer. Diaz has a professional record of 14-7.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is looking to improve his case for second place in Fighter of the Year behind Jon Jones. So far in 2011 the 28-year-old fighter from Colorado Springs has fought four times and has won every fight thus far. He’ll look to make it five for five by out-striking Diaz. Cerrone is a member of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has backgrounds in Muay Thai, BJJ, Kickboxing and Wrestling. Cerrone has an extremely impressive record with his only three career losses all coming in WEC title bouts. Cerrone owns an impressive eight Fight Night bonuses from Zuffa. Cerrone’s career record is 17-3.
Analysis and Prediction: With all the bad blood leading up to this fight and all the bad-mouthing it’s likely that this one is going to be a slugfest. Cerrone’s knock has always been his rather poor striking defense. Against Diaz it likely won’t matter, as Diaz strikes for volume not for power and it’s rare that Nate will throw a shot that could knock him out with only one shot. Instead Diaz punches accumulate damage that eventually overwhelms his opponents. On the mat these two could put on an impressive clinical and highly technical grappling exposition. Instead, they’re more likely to brawl. One thing is for sure no matter where this fight takes place the mat, or standing there is surely going to be fireworks and this one is surely going to be a back and forth affair that will likely take home Fight of the Night honors. I love the Diaz brothers, but Nate isn’t quite as polished as a fighter as big brother Nick, so I think he’ll be competitive in this fight, but eventually succumb to a close decision loss. Donald Cerrone via Unanimous Decision.
Main Event (PPV): Heavyweight Bout: Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem
Brock Lesnar is one of the biggest Pay Per View draws for the UFC. At 34-years-old the former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler is returning to the octagon after a second battle with diverticulitis. Lesnar hasn’t fought since October of 2010 over fourteen months and hasn’t actually won a fight since July of 2010. The massive Minnesotan who trains at his own DeathClutch Gym, actually cuts weight to make the 265-pound limit is a strong wrestler who has shown improving submission skills but has also shown significantly poor striking defense. In his bouts against Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, he was tagged significantly by both fighters causing him to cover-up and hang on mostly due to his granite chin. Because of this many fans have said that Lesnar is unable to take a punch and “doesn’t like getting hit.”
Despite those accusations Lesnar still has a number of tools to use inside the Octagon. He has strong wrestling skills with great takedowns. And at 265 pounds of ripped muscle, Lesnar is able to takedown nearly anyone he wants to inside the cage. Lesnar is a lightning rod for controversy for fans of the UFC mostly due to his outspoken antics and past as a WWE performer. While he does have his critics, it’s hard to argue with what Lesnar has been able to do inside the Octagon in a relatively short time. He owns a professional record of 5-2.
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem is a 31-year-old fighter from the Golden Glory Gym in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He also transferred to the Xtreme Couture Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada and spent some time at Reign MMA in preparation for this bout. Overeem is actually a former Light Heavyweight fighter from his time in PRIDE, although looking at him now, it’s a wonder that he was ever able to make 205 pounds without his body shutting down. He is one of the most muscular fighters in the UFC and one of the few who actually give Lesnar a run for his money in muscle mass. Since making the leap to the Heavyweight division he has lost only once and has won the Heavyweight title in two major MMA promotions (DREAM and Strikeforce.)
Overeem is often called the best striker in Heavyweight MMA, a title that he rightfully deserves. He holds the distinction of being the only man to ever win the K-1 Kickboxing World Grand Prix and hold a major MMA title at the same time, a feat he accomplished in 2009. Overeem has a punishing arsenal of kicks and knees, as well as a strong jab and uppercut. He is however entering the fight after a somewhat lacklustre performance against Fabricio Werdum in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Overeem enters this bout with a professional MMA record of 35-11 with 1 No Contest.
Analysis and Prediction: This is an absolutely huge fight, for the UFC and for both fighters involved. A potential title shot against current UFC Champion Junior dos Santos awaits the victor. Also, with both fighters weighing over 260 pounds come fight night, this is an extremely huge fight in terms of mass. What it boils down to is basically a Striker vs. Wrestler fight. It kind of sucks to boil such a huge fight to such simple terms, but let’s call this fight what it is.
Overeem has said that Brock can’t take a punch and he promises to knock him out within two rounds, if he follows the sprawl and brawl game plan implemented by Velasquez and Carwin, it’s likely he can find success striking and win the bout, likely within two rounds. One also has to wonder about ring rust being a factor for Lesnar. Not fighting in 14-months is a long layoff, especially for someone who is no longer in their athletic prime. Add in a life threatening illness and it may be too much for even Lesnar to overcome, however, with that said, he has looked good and healthy in his interviews, so I would really only worry about ring rust, not overall health issues.
However, if Lesnar is able to take this bout to the ground, Overeem is likely going to be in a world of trouble. Many of Overeem’s supporters are pointing to the plethora of submissions on his resume, 19 to be exact. However, many of those submissions have come either via Guillotine Choke or from the times when he was on top of his opponents, do not get it twisted, Overeem is very unlikely to snatch a submission on Lesnar from the bottom. His best chance at getting a submission in this bout is by catching Lesnar in a standing Guillotine choke when Lesnar shoots for a takedown. However, Overeem has shown to have trouble with that choke since his arms have gotten so massive, it restricts one’s ability to sink in the choke properly. Also, with the size of Lesnar’s neck, it might also be damned near impossible to latch in a Guillotine.
Standing Lesnar is going to need to have improved. Word out of his camp is that he brought in only Tim Hague and Pat Barry to imitate the massive Dutch striker. I can’t think of two worse people to imitate Overeem as Hague is slow and sloppy with his stand up and Barry is nearly a foot shorter than Overeem. Every round will start standing so Lesnar is going to have to at least test his striking ability, unless he plans on shooting recklessly, which will likely end with him eating a knee and staring at the lights.
Basically, all Lesnar needs to do is keep his left hand high to cover his chin while he paws a few jabs to keep Overeem on the defensive before closing the distance and switching levels for a takedown. Lesnar also has one other massive advantage in this fight and that’s his conditioning. Overeem is ridiculously muscled, but that also causes him to run out of gas quickly as those muscles sap oxygen and slow him down. If Lesnar can survive long enough to drag this fight into deep waters, his chances of winning will increase with every minute that passes.
He’s going to get hit at some point in this fight, so we should be able to see how he handles it, likely within the first minute. If he survives the first couple of punches, I think he will gain a ton of confidence and will be unstoppable afterwards, if he crumples after the first jab, then we know how quickly Overeem can capitalize. However, if Lesnar gets comfortable in there, he can definitely make Overeem pay. Overeem had decent grappling skills at 205, but with his new hulking frame, he doesn’t have the agility or the gas tank to handle someone like Lesnar on top of him. I have to take Lesnar in this bout, because it may take a couple of strikes from Overeem to win the fight, but it’s only going to take one takedown from Lesnar for him to win the bout. I think he earns the takedown and spends the better part of the first round donkey kong’ing Overeem into unconsciousness. Brock Lesnar via TKO in Round One.
Lee McGregor is the owner and editor-in-chief of Source4MMA.com which will be launching in early 2012.