The co-main event of the UFC 141: "Lesnar vs. Overeem" pay-per-view taking place tonight (Fri., Dec. 30, 2011) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, featured a highly anticipated match-up between two top lightweight contenders.
Highly anticipated because Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone created plenty of hype for the bout by getting into it with each other at both a UFC gym a few months ago and at the pre-fight press conference. This one felt personal heading in. But did it deliver inside the cage?
You bet your ass it did.
Diaz put in what was easily one of the best performances of his career, absolutely overwhelming "Cowboy" en route to a unanimous decision win. He might not be fighting for the title anytime soon but he certainly sent Cerrone to the back of the pack. In style.
You knew it was going to be intense when Cerrone kicked things off by flipping Diaz off at the staredown. True to his word, Cerrone went running across the cage as soon as Herb Dean told them to get busy. Both guys were swinging big punches but no one was landing.
A short clinch didn't lead to much and they disengaged before finally slowing down. It didn't last long, though, as Diaz employed the typical Diaz game plan of throwing punches in bunches. It was working, too, as "Cowboy" was just eating punch after punch.
Cerrone seemed content to land low leg kicks while Diaz simply kept the pressure on. By the time the first round was done, Greg Jackson was telling Cerrone in his corner that he was getting overwhelmed.
Talk about an understatement.
The second round featured a whole lot of Cerrone kicking Diaz's legs out from underneath, which made the crowd "oh" and "ah" but didn't exactly make for a sound strategy to win the fight.
A head kick finally landed clean about halfway through but as luck would have it, "Cowboy" fell down and was unable to capitalize on his short burst of effective offense.
It wasn't long after that Diaz went back to brutalizing him. By the time round two was over, Cerrone had clawed his way back into the bout but volume was clearly still on the Stockton slugger's side.
Cardiovascular conditioning could be the most underrated aspect of a fighter's game and in the third round, Diaz had it while Cerrone looked tired. Whether that was because his tank was simply running dry or he was punched so many times he was fading didn't quite matter.
Cerrone continued to sweep the leg in the final frame but as good as that looks and sounds on TV, it's not a winning fight strategy. Diaz kept up the pace and pressure that was winning him the fight in the first two rounds and while Cerrone kept it close, Diaz was simply too much.
All that aside, this was fun. Really fun.
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