With a title shot awaiting the winner, Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem will collide in the UFC 141 main event this evening (Fri., Dec. 30, 2011) with big stakes on the line at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It will also offer the high-profile opportunity to prove a point against the kind of style that'll probably provide highlight-reel stuff to market Lesnar or Overeem against UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos sometime in 2012.
While mixed martial arts (MMA) continues to evolve along with its talented fighters and their well-rounded skill sets, this match up is a stark throwback to the early days of the sport. It's pure wrestler vs. striker in terms of what each man needs to do to win, and there is no conceivable position they'll be in where they're remotely even in terms of skill.
It's the kind of fight where both guys will be at severe disadvantage no matter where the battle goes, which makes for a highly watchable affair. Throw in more than 500 pounds of eye-popping athleticism, and you've got yourself a match that will produce memorable fireworks this New Year's Eve weekend.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 141 fight between Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem:
There are concerns for both that will be readily addressed early on.
For Lesnar, his opening-moments attack of Cain Velasquez was an all-in strategy that backfired badly, with him gassing after takedown attempts that couldn't keep "Brown Pride" on the mat. Lesnar's stand up and reaction to taking punches remain works in progress, at best; however, he still has one of the best takedown shots in the sport, and his ability to control from top position and deliver numbing punishment are impressive.
His rematch with Frank Mir was a showcase of ground and pound, rendering one of the heavyweight division's best guards into seeming obsolescence. In short, Lesnar's never going to have a gas tank problem as long as he's dictating the action.
But, between the Velasquez defeat and his opening-round near-disaster against Shane Carwin, it's clear he would benefit greatly from better stand up and an overall increase in his comfort level when the fight is not on the mat with him on top.
Overeem, meanwhile, has yet to beat an elite heavyweight -- unless you count the dreadful decision win he took this summer over Fabricio Werdum, who refused to engage on the feet -- and his migration to the UFC comes with a lot of upside ... and pressure.
The Dutchman can strike from virtually anywhere and isn't afraid to throw a flying knee, or go for his outstanding guillotine. For him, it's a case of risk versus reward to trying riskier moves such as kicks or multistrike combinations, but he can go a long way toward sapping Lesnar's confidence by landing early and constantly moving to keep Lesnar frustrated.
With a 10-fight win streak, Overeem has transformed himself into a fantastic heavyweight knockout artist, decimating opponents with his dynamic stand up and aggression. But old-school fans too easily remember the numerous occasions at light heavyweight where he was beaten soundly by skilled grapplers.
That's precisely the reason Lesnar represents a considerable threat.
Lesnar's stand up is still raw, technically speaking, but it's essential to at least throw something -- a range-finding hook to set up a takedown, for example -- as opposed to vying for low-percentage takedowns from a distance. Lesnar should get Overeem against the cage if possible, where his crushing clinch strength will allow him to utilize takedowns while draining Overeem of energy as he forces him to fight off takedown attempts.
This is a pure momentum-driven fight, where each guy figures to get stronger as things go his way, or watch his hopes dissipate if they don't. You could probably fight them 10 times and it might go the distance once. While nominally scheduled for five rounds, it's doubtful this one will go past two.
Overeem's an impressive striker with imposing physical gifts, but at the end of the day, good wrestling usually beats good striking. Lesnar will likely have a devil of a time taking Overeem down if he can't get some respect standing; however, Lesnar should be able to put the ghosts of the Velasquez performance behind him.
He'll feel out Overeem on the feet in the first round, likely having a scary moment or two, before scoring a takedown to lay some ground and pound. He'll repeat it in the second, delivering more punishment prior to blitzing Overeem out with a ferocious ground-and-pound assault.
Brock Lesnar by knockout in round two
Be sure to join MMAmania.com this evening for LIVE, detailed UFC 141 results of all the "Lesnar vs. Overeem" PPV action. It will include blow-by-blow coverage of the Facebook video stream, Spike TV "Prelims" bouts, and of course, the PPV broadcast. We'll start RIGHT HERE at around 7 p.m. ET and carry straight on through early Saturday morning.
See you then!