Matches to Make After UFC 141

By Brian Knapp Dec 30, 2011
Alistair Overeem earned a shot at Junior dos Santos. | File Photo:

Alistair Overeem evidently takes the whole first impression thing to heart.

In his first Ultimate Fighting Championship appearance, Overeem blitzed and abused former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar en route to a first-round technical knockout in the UFC 141 main event on Friday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The “Demolition Man,” having softened Lesnar with repeated knees to the abdomen, polished off the onetime World Wrestling Entertainment superstar with a wicked kick to the body and follow-up punches 2:26 into round one.

Afterward, Lesnar retired from mixed martial arts. His career was twice interrupted by diverticulitis -- a condition in which small pouches form in the wall of the colon and become inflamed or infected. The 34-year-old Minnesotan underwent surgery in May to remove roughly a foot of his troublesome intestine.

The victory, Overeem’s eighth in a row, thrusts the Dutchman into the brightest of spotlights as the top contender for UFC heavyweight gold. Unbeaten since 2007, he has finished seven of his last eight foes inside one round.

In wake of UFC 141 “Lesnar vs. Overeem,” here are seven matchups we want to see made:

Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos: Overeem walked through Lesnar knowing the prize behind the curtain was dos Santos, the Brazilian juggernaut who captured the UFC heavyweight crown with a first-round knockout against Cain Velasquez in November. Provided dos Santos recovers as expected from knee surgery, a showdown with Overeem will serve as one of the UFC’s centerpieces during the first half of 2012. Easily the two most feared standup fighters in the heavyweight division, any encounter between dos Santos and Overeem will be greeted with massive anticipation.

Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis-Joe Lauzon winner: No one did more to improve his stock at UFC 141 than Diaz. The 26-year-old Cesar Gracie protégé halted the tear of Donald Cerrone, as he battered the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout with accurate punches to the head and body in a one-sided unanimous decision. Wrestling remains his kryptonite, but it has become harder and harder to imagine Diaz not being competitive against anyone willing to engage him on the feet. Now a real player at 155 pounds, he could be in line for the winner of the Pettis-Lauzon match at UFC 143 on Feb. 4.

Donald Cerrone vs. Pettis-Lauzon loser: Perhaps Cerrone’s 2011 schedule was a bit too ambitious. A five-fight-in-10-month-span can improve one’s resume in a hurry, but it also comes with a price. After a first-round exchange with Diaz, Cerrone looked listless and lethargic, unable to mount meaningful offense against a relentless and calculated opponent. While costly in the short-term, the defeat to Diaz could prove a valuable learning experience for the high-strung Cerrone, who remains one of the lightweight division’s most exciting fighters. A duel with the Pettis-Lauzon loser seems certain to keep his competitive juices flowing.

Johny Hendricks File Photo

Hendricks knocked Fitch flat.
Johny Hendricks vs. Jake Ellenberger-Diego Sanchez winner: Hendricks needed all of 12 seconds to drive a stake through former welterweight title contender Jon Fitch. It came in the form of a hellacious left hook that sent Fitch crashing to the canvas before the two men were even able to break a sweat. With that, Hendricks announced his arrival as a serious force at 170 pounds. A two-time NCAA wrestling champion with thunder in his hands, he has all but erased the memory of his unanimous decision loss to Rick Story in December 2010. With champion Georges St. Pierre on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, the welterweight division is as wide open as it has been in many a year. Ellenberger and Sanchez will do battle on Feb. 15. Give Hendricks the winner, with the aim of establishing another title contender.

Jon Fitch vs. Carlos Condit-Nick Diaz loser: Fitch was a consummate winner for the better part of a decade, but even he could not escape MMA’s predictable unpredictability.

His ill-fated encounter with Hendricks’ booming left fist resulted in one of the more shocking knockouts in UFC history, as Fitch had not been finished in more than nine years and had lost only once in his previous 23 appearances. The defeat to Hendricks notwithstanding, his run of sustained excellence in one of the sport’s deepest divisions cannot be ignored. Fitch remains a threat to almost anyone at 170 pounds and could serve as the filter through which the UFC separates its contenders from its pretenders. Condit and Diaz will vie for the interim welterweight crown at UFC 143 in February. The loser could find himself across the cage from Fitch.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: Outside of champion Jon Jones and the unbeaten Phil Davis, Gustafsson appears to be the most promising light heavyweight prospect in the sport. The gifted 6-foot-4 Swede carved through respected former International Fight League champion Vladimir Matyushenko in a tidy 2:13 and has pieced together an impressive four-fight winning streak since his submission defeat to Davis in April 2010. Is Gustafsson ready for primetime? The time has come to answer that question. A potential bout with the seasoned Antonio Rogerio Nogueira could provide insight into his development and perhaps set him up as a possible title contender at 205 pounds in 2012.

Jim Hettes vs. Jonathan Brookins-Rani Yahya winner: Hettes was utterly spectacular in dissecting “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 semifinalist Nam Phan with trip takedowns from the clinch, brutal ground-and-pound and a frenzied submission game. A talented prospect in a division suddenly teeming with them, the 24-year-old Ricardo Almeida protégé could move quickly if the breaks go his way. Brookins, the scramble-happy winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12, and Yahya, the respected submission savant, will toe the line against one another on Feb. 15. Turn Hettes loose on the winner and see what happens.


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