Friday, December 30, 2011

Lesnar vs. Overeem Analysis and Opinion

UFC 141 is upon us, and up for grabs tonight is the #1 heavyweight contender spot when former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar faces behemoth Dutch kickboxer and current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem.

What We Know

Although tonight's main event is ostensibly intended to produce a challenger for current champ Junior Dos Santos, it has largely been marketed on the "freak show" angle with far more attention being given to the size of the two fighters than their respective fighting styles.

Alistair Overeem matches Lesnar's size and strength, and as the world's top heavyweight kickboxer seems to have an immense advantage against as tentative striker as Lesnar. Overeem showcased his athleticism and powerful sprawl against Fabricio Werdum, easily shrugging off all takedown attempts from the Brazilian.

Critics of Overeem, however, are quick to point out the distinction between grappling takedowns, which more akin to dragging opponents to the ground - and more explosive folkstyle wrestling takedowns, which rely on driving through takedowns to control the opponent's center of gravity.

At six-foot-five and a lean 260 pounds, Overeem's He-Man action figure physique is as intimidating as any the sport has ever seen. Overeem builds upon that psychological advantage with a style that is noticeably more aggressive in the opening moments of the fight, and few of his opponents are able to weather the devastating combination of kicks, punches and knees.

Those who do last more than one round with Overeem expend a lot of energy getting out of harm's way; Fabricio Werdum, who survived three rounds with the champion, found himself too exhausted to mount any real counter-offense and essentially provided Overeem with three rounds of target practice.

What the Tapes Don't Show

Lesnar, while not considered a well-rounded mixed martial artist, is as pure a fighting athlete as anyone in the game. His simple style of
controlling the pace and nature of the fight is informed by his experience as a Division-1 NCAA champion wrestler; Brock uses outstanding wrestling instincts and superior strength and conditioning to physically overwhelm his opponents. Lesnar's game plan is simple: run people over, take them out of their comfort zones and into his world, and keep them there.

It's also worthy of note that Lesnar, a former professional wrestler who seems comfortable in the role of the heel, is a bully of a finisher who seems energized by momentum. If Lesnar takes Overeem down and is able to draw blood, the hammer fists will start raining down with conviction. As Frank Mir and Randy Couture both know, there's not much chance of escape once one enters Brock Lesnar's comfort zone.

Lesnar's killer instinct contrasts strongly with Overeem's most recent outing, a lackluster title defense which showed flashes of striking brilliance but left audiences bored with Overeem's inability or unwillingness to finish the seemingly outmatched Werdum.

After losing his title rather painfully to a game Cain Velasquez, Lesnar suffered a second bout with diverticulitis which required surgery. Though he appeared strong and healthy at yesterday's weigh-ins, Lesnar will need to overcome the ring rust which seems to hamper fighters who spend long periods away from competition.

One time heavyweight up-and-comers Todd Duffee and Brett Rogers can both testify that Alistair Overeem will likely not give Lesnar very long to decide whether or not he's ready for action.

UFC 141 Picks

I don't really have time to do a full breakdown/prediction thread, so I thought I'd throw out a few of my picks.

Lesnar vs Overeem: I am picking Lesnar due mainly because I have been calling Overeem a paper champion for months now. If Lesnar wins, I can solidify my argument that Overeem is overrated. If Overeem wins, I'll be eating some humble pie.

Diaz vs Cerrone: I am picking Cerrone. I think he's more well rounded and only seems to lose title fights.

Fitch vs Hendricks: As much as I'd love Hendricks to shock the world, I have to pick Fitch in this fight. His wrestling will win yet another boring decision.

Matyushenko vs Gustafsson: I'm picking Gustafsson because he's a beast. Matyushenko is a wily vet, but I don't think he can compete with Gustafsson's speed and athleticism.

Phan vs Hettes: I'm going with Phan, because his boxing is just so crisp.

So there are my main card picks. Who do you like?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 2011 Edition

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 2011 Edition.
Time for a look back at 2011.

The Good

Jon Jones
It's the obvious choice for best year ever. 4 fights, 4 finishes, a world title and 2 title defenses. I'd say that lands him in the good column.

Frankie Edgar
I'll admit, I'm an Edgar fan. And this year didn't disappoint. Two epic wars with Gray Maynard. And a great decisive KO victory.

Ben Henderson
After a disappointing end to 2010, Bendo bounced right back with 3 big wins over top competition. If he keeps this up, 2012 may be an even better year.

Donald Cerrone
Everyone is talking about Jon Jones, but Cerrone has also racked up 4 wins this year. Cerrone is a beast with no quit in him and just keeps rolling. If he wins on Friday against Nate Diaz, he'll have 5 wins in 2011. People better start paying attention to Cerrone.

Dominick Cruz
Cruz still doesn't get the respect he deserves, but a decisive victory over his nemesis Urijah Faber and then a one-sided victory over Demetrious Johnson capped off a good year for Cruz.

Chan Sung Jung
After a disappointing 2010, the Korean Zombie had a stellar 2011. The first ever twister submission in the UFC and a record tying fastest knock out of Mark Hominick.

Jose Aldo
Aldo had a pretty good year. He faced the best striker he's ever faced in his career and secured a decisive victory. He then followed that with a victory over a big name in Kenny Florian. Good year to say the least.

Nick Diaz
Nick had a great year, even if he can't buy a house. He submitted Cyborg Santos, knocked out Paul Daley and put a beating on BJ Penn that no one has ever done before. He's one fight away from being a UFC champion.

Anderson Silva
Not a bad year for the Spider. A front kick knock out of Vitor Belfort, and then he avenged the last loss of his career with a one-sided beatdown of Yushin Okami.

Junior dos Santos
Not a bad year for the new heavyweight champion of the world. He turned Shane Carwin's face into hamburger and then knocked out Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds to win the title.

Dan Henderson
Hendo had a great year. Won the Strikeforce title by knocking out Cavalcante, then he knocked out the legend, Fedor. Afterwards, he returned to the UFC and had a fight of the year candidate in a victory over Shogun.

Joe Lauzon
Last on the good list, J-Lau. He didn't rack up tons of wins, but Joe Lauzon always finds a way to shock the world. Not only did he outstrike Melvin Guillard, but then submitted him in 47 seconds.

The Bad

Rashad Evans
Rashad falls into the Bad category because he's sat on the sideline too long, then beat up a washed up Tito Ortiz and got injured again, missing another title shot opportunity.

Chael Sonnen
Chael lands in the bad because after a year suspension for elevated testosterone he earned a one-sided victory and then immediately started trolling for a title shot.

Jim Miller
After a monster 2010 Jim stood on the cusp of a title shot. All he had to do was beat Ben Henderson. Miller was completely outclassed, outworked and just plain looked like he didn't belong in the title picture.

Melvin Guillard
After a great 2010, and a great first half of 2011, Melvin was telling the world he deserved a title shot. Then he overlooked Joe Lauzon and got beat on the feet and then submitted in a mere 47 seconds.

The Ugly

Forrest Griffin
Ever since Anderson Silva ate his soul, Forrest has lacked the fire and desire to compete. And nothing was more evident than the one-sided beating and TKO loss he took to Shogun.

Kenny Florian
Kenny's had 3 title shots and lost all 3. Kenny's featherweight experiment bought him another title fight loss.

Dan Hardy
After calling out Anthony Johnson and Chris Lytle, and then losing to both puts Hardy in the Ugly category. To make matters worse, he pleaded for Lytle to stand and bang with him. Then after losing the stand up battle, he shot on Lytle and promptly got submitted. Ugly year, Outlaw.

Nate Marquardt
Ugly year for Nate the Great. He got popped for testosterone, cut by the UFC and hasn't fought since.

Fedor Emelianenko
A one-sided beat down from Bigfoot Silva, a brutal knock out loss to Hendo and then a decision victory over Jeff Monson. What an ugly year for the Last Emperor.

My look back on The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, 2011 Edition.

My MMA Christmas Wishlist

Being Christmas Eve, I thought I'd write to Santa and request a few MMA related presents.
Dear Santa,

For Christmas I was hoping you'd get me a 1 or more of these gifts. I've been really good this year Santa, and I feel like I should get my entire wishlist, but a couple will be nice.

1. Even though I don't like Brock Lesnar, please let him win against Overeem.
2. I want Jon Jones and Rashad Evans to get their timing straight and actually fight.
3. I want GSP to get healthy and destroy Nick Diaz.
4. I don't care who wins, but I want Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson to put on a war.
5. I'd like Anderson Silva to stop ducking Chael Sonnen.
6. I'd love to see Clay Guida actually get a title shot.
7. I want Kenny Florian to actually win a title.
8. I want Frank Mir and Josh Barnett to fight.
9. I want Gilbert Melendez come to the UFC.
10. I want Forrest Griffin to find his soul and fight like a man again.
11. I want Urijah Faber to beat Dominick Cruz.
12. I want Fedor to come to the UFC, Randy Couture to come out of retirement (again) and beat him.

So, there it is Santa, please make all my Christmas wishes come true.