UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem

Published on Dec. 29 at 8:51 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

The Ultimate Fighting Championship will stage a No. 1 contender matchup in the heavyweight division in Friday night’s main event at UFC 141 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where former UFC heavyweight kingpin Brock Lesnar will face former Strikeforce and DREAM heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem.

As of Thursday night, most betting shops had Overeem listed as a minus-150 favorite with Lesnar available on the comeback for a plus-120 payout (risk $100 to win $120).

Lesnar (5-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is returning to the Octagon for the first time in more than 14 months following a second bout with diverticulitis. He had a 12-inch portion of his colon removed during surgery on May 27 of this year.

Lesnar lost his UFC debut to Frank Mir back at UFC 81 in a fight he was dominating before it was briefly halted for a warning for blows to the back of Mir’s head. When the fight resumed, Mir was able to catch Lesnar in a kneebar that forced him to tap.

Lesnar would bounce back to win four consecutive fights, including a revenge win over Mir by second-round knockout at UFC 100. He won the heavyweight belt from Randy Couture at UFC 91. His second title defense came against Shane Carwin, who battered Lesnar with strikes in the first round but couldn’t finish the job.

With Carwin gassed out early in the second round of their UFC 116 showdown, Lesnar executed a takedown and then won the fight when Carwin tapped from an arm triangle choke.

In his third title defense, however, Lesnar’s stand-up game was exposed again in the same way Carwin demonstrated. Lesnar got a quick takedown against Cain Velasquez, but the former Arizona St. wrester was able to get back to his feet.

Then Velasquez took over with his striking, opening a massive cut below Lesnar’s left eye. Velasquez finished the fight in vicious ground-and-pound fashion at the 4:12 mark of Round 1 at UFC 121 in Anaheim.

Lesnar was poised to get back in the cage against Junior dos Santos after serving as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter before his diverticulitis came back and he was forced to withdraw from UFC 131.

After going under the knife, Lesnar took 10 weeks off and spent the time with his family on his farm in Canada. Since returning to training, his team claims that he’s sporting great energy and a new enthusiasm for training.

Overeem (35-11-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is a 31-year-old kickboxer who hasn’t tasted defeat in more than four years when he was KO’d by Sergei Kharitonov. Since then, the Dutch fighter has wins over the likes of Paul Buentello, Mark Hunt, Brett Rogers and Fabricio Werdum.

Those are some decent names, but none are in anywhere near the caliber of competition that you’ve seen Lesnar face in the UFC. But that’s not to say that Overeem hasn’t faced top-flight foes during his career, especially when you look back at his days in PRIDE.

Overeem has a pair of wins over Vitor Belfort, but that’s a guy that’s fighting at middleweight these days. Overeem has lost to Shogun Rua (twice), Werdum, Little Nog (twice) and Chuck ‘The Iceman” Liddell.

Overeem is an outstanding striker with excellent kicks and a solid ground game, so he wants to keep the fight standing. Lesnar’s weaknesses have been crystal clear in his last two fights.

First, his head movement and defense is lacking in the boxing department. Secondly, he doesn’t like getting punched, although we must note the punishment he took and subsequently recovered from in his comeback win against Carwin.

Now it’s prediction time for Lesnar-Overeem: I like Lesnar (+130 at The Stratosphere as of Thursday night), who I think will overpower Overeem with his wrestling and earn a KO from ground-and-pound strikes in Round 2.

In the co-main event, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone will collide with Nate Diaz in an intriguing 155-pound showdown. Most books are listing Cerrone as a minus-280 ‘chalk’ with Diaz marked as the plus-220 underdog.

If not for Jon Jones, Cerrone (17-3-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) would be a leading candidate for Fighter of the Year honors. Since coming over from WEC, Cerrone has won all four of his UFC fights with two submissions, one KO and one decision. He’s coming off a dominant performance, halting Dennis Siver’s four-fight winning streak by executing a rear naked choke after flooring the German with a beautiful leg-kick combination.

Cerrone is looking for his seven straight victory. He hasn’t lost since facing Ben Henderson for the WEC lightweight championship in April of 2010.

Diaz (14-7 MMA, 9-5 UFC) bounced back from a pair of decision losses to submit Takonori Gomi by armbar in one of the most complete performances of his career in his return to the lightweight loop.

This matchup has a great chance to earn Fight of the Night honors. I think Cerrone wins, but I think the -280 price is too expensive.

Welterweight contender Jon Fitch (23-3-2 MMA, 13-1-1 UFC) makes his return from shoulder surgery to square off against Johny Hendricks (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC), who is a plus-200 underdog at most spots.

The pay-per-view card will start at 10:00 p.m. Eastern after the last few began at 9:00 p.m.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Coming off his first-round KO loss to Big Nog, Brendan Schaub will return to the Octagon in Montreal at UFC 145 to face Ben Rothwell, who probably needs a victory to avoid a pink slip from the promotion.

–After being cut by the UFC for an insensitive tweet about a ‘rape van,’ Miguel Torres has been brought back to the promotion after taking numerous steps to make amends for his mistake.

–BetOnFighting.com is listing Frankie ‘The Answer’ Edgar as a minus-130 favorite in the fourth defense of his lightweight belt vs. Ben Henderson in the main event of UFC 144 in Japan. Henderson is available at even money.

–BetOnFighting.com has this distance prop for Lesnar-Overeem: ‘Over’ 1.5 Rounds costs -170, ‘under’ 1.5 Rounds brings back a +140 return.

–I tweeted earlier this week that BetOnFighting.com had the UFC 143 main event between Carlos Condit and Nick Diaz for the UFC’s interim welterweight belt listed as a pick ‘em bout (minus-115 either way). However, the website has now moved Diaz to the minus-130 ‘chalk’ with ‘The Natural Born Killer’ available for even money.

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