The last fight on the card at UFC 141, the promotion’s final event of the year 2011, turned out to be Brock Lesnar’s swan song. After having suffered from diverticulitis and two subsequent operations to treat it, could the giant be a match for the strength and skill of the experienced promotional first timer Alistair Overeem? The outcome Friday night proved he couldn’t.
Brock, who shot to fame on the pro-wrestling circuit, did start out well that night in Las Vegas, though, opening a cut by Overeem’s eye with a solid punch. But Alistair was just biding his time till encountering the right distance and moment to unleash his strikes without getting taken to the ground, which Brock made two attempts at doing. Until Overeem landed a shin to the monster’s ribs. One, two , three seconds and Lesnar finally felt the pain, backpedaling until his back was against the fencing, and the Dutchman wound up the massacre.
“I promise the fans and my wife that I’m officially retiring from MMA,” Lesnar announced in the cage during the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. “If I’d won today, I’d have tried for the belt one last time; but since I lost, I’ll retire,” said Lesnar in closing out his career in the promotion, then congratulating the multi-promotional champion who drove him into retirement.
Diaz and Cerrone in a barnburner
On seeing his opponent again sporting his trademark cowboy hat just before Bruce Buffer made the official announcement of his unanimous decision victory, Nate Diaz couldn’t resist and gave it a flick—this time with no ill will about it.
With the gesture he seemed to be saying that, however disconcerting, his having sent the very hat flying at the pre-event press conference proved to be good luck. Indeed, Nate Diaz put in the best performance of his career that Friday night in Vegas, the last fight of the night. At the outset, he clinched with Cerrone up against the fencing and tried to get Cerrone off his feet. Next, though, he pulled a surprise, backing up and punishing the “Cowboy’s” nose with lightning quick straight punches, jabs and hooks that landed without causing too much discomfort.
And there was much of the same up until the third round. Greg Jackson, in Cerrone’s corner pleaded with his protege desperately, “Five minutes of hell! I want five minutes of hell from you; or do you want to go home with that taste of defeat?” But aside from getting uprooted by some kicks to his back leg and landing on the ground, Nate kept bringing it. All the cowboy had left to do was go home defeated for the first time in seven fights, and hide his sorrow behind the brim of his hat. The rodeo didn’t go as he’d expected it would.
Leading up to the climax
UFC 141 was sputtering as it got started but picked up steam as it went. The first let-down came just before the show kicked off in the MGM Arena, when the promoters announced Matt Riddle had come down with the flu and wouldn’t be able to make his commitment with Luis “Beição” Ramos.
Due to the pay-per-view time allotment, the event was delayed by 15 minutes before Diego Nunes and Manny Gamburyan got the show started. Having voiced his anger towards the Nova União fighter before the fight, Manny started out getting the better of the takedown and striking action. But Diego was turned the tides as the fight played out, earning the unanimous decision once the three rounds were done, something no one quite understood.
Jacob Volkmann and Efrain Escudero were up next, taking the place on the card of Beição and Riddle, and chugged along in first gear. Escudero irked the crowd by repeatedly trying the same guillotine hold over and over again to no avail, landing on bottom and letting Volkmann get side control and pressure him using his shoulder. But in the third round, when all seemed to be lost for Escudero, he showed he did in fact know what he was doing, latching on to Volkmann’s neck with what looked to be a fight-ending choke, as the clock ticked out the final seconds of the fight. “He’s breathing through a straw,” remarked “Joinha” Guimarães, the commentator on Brazil’s Combate channel,” as Volkmann hung on until the final bell and took the unanimous nod.
The always reliable South Korean Dong Hyun Kim moved the show into second gear, using his judo and ever-improving striking to outdo Canada’s Sean Pierson, who kept in the fight throughout but dropped the Facebook-broadcast fight by unanimous decision to his opponent’s convincing performance.
Lights out for Fitch: a first
The action picked up pace in the fights that followed, with Danny Castillo eking out a decision win over the Nigerian Anthony Njokuani and Ross Pearson outpointing the Brazilian Junior Assunção. While Castillo won by getting more takedowns and putting on a bit of pressure on the ground, Ross Pearson won by landing a few more strikes over Assunção in the standup action.
The event would only make it to third gear in the main card. A Ricardo “Cachorrão” Almeida purple belt, the fresh-faced Jimy Hettes displayed the Jiu-Jitsu of a veteran in drubbing Vietnam’s Nam Phan. Also a judo black belt, Jimy annuled Nam standing and punished him on the ground with strikes, armbar attempts mounts—a complete menu. “Judo and Jiu-Jitsu together are like a filet and good red wine,” posted UFC heavyweight Shane Carwin over Twitter.
From there on out things heated up, and Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson plowed his Volvo through the seasoned Vladimir Matyushenko, 40; knocking him out with a well-placed fist to the jowl two minutes after the opening bell. Even quicker on the trigger was welterweight Johnny Hendricks, who made a promise and kept it: he threw a left hook that knocked Jon Fitch out just 12 seconds into the fight. A dazed Fitch, who was coming off a shoulder injury, tried grappling with the referee who threw himself in the line of fire to prevent further injury to the downed fighter, before realizing he had been disconnected. Hendricks should now face GSP for the title by the end of 2012.
Savvy young Jimy against Nam Phan: undefeated thus far in his career
Las Vegas, United States
December 30, 2011
Alistar Overeem defeated Brock Lesnar via technical knockout at 2:26 min of R1;
Nate Diaz defeated Donald Cerrone via unanimous judges’ decision;
Johny Hendricks knocked out Jon Fitch at 0.12 min of R1;
Alexander Gustafsson knocked out Vladimir Matyushenko at 2:13 min of R1;
Jim Hettes defeated Nam Phan via unanimous decision.
Preliminary card (American TV):
Ross Pearson defeated Junior Assunção via unanimous decision;
Danny Castillo defeated Anthony Njokuani via split decision.
Card Preliminar (Facebook):
Dong Hyun Kim defeated Sean Pierson via unanimous decision;
Jacob Volkmann defeated Efrain Escudero via unanimous decision;
Matt Riddle vs Luis Ramos – canceled (Matt was pulled from the card due to influenza, according to UFC);
Diego Nunes defeated Manny Gamburyan via unanimous decision.
Ross dishes out elbows on Junior Assunção from the bottom. "I did everything I could to win", lamented the Brazilian, who lost the decision.