So it’s official: horse meat > beef jerky. (Photo: UFC.com)
There was a time when the UFC had trouble drumming up any interest at all in their heavyweight division—can you say ‘Arlovski vs. Buentello for the title!!!’?—but those days are long gone. One could point to the growth of the sport attracting big men from other sports, or credit training camps for churning out well-rounded fighters, but much of the interest in the revitalized division has been carried by the broad, skull-tatted shoulders of one man.
Brock Lesnar‘s 2008 debut in the Octagon brought interest, intrigue, and—most importantly—eyeballs. Lots of them. Speculation over whether the big man could survive against a real fighter was rampant, but before long we were asking if anyone could survive in a real fight against him. He quickly smashed his way to the top of the 265 lb. heap, but his skid down that mountain was just as fast. Following two brutal, first-round losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem, Brock is ready to hang up the gloves. Looking back at his brief career, if it is truly over, one thing becomes painfully clear: Brock Lesnar doesn’t love fighting; Brock Lesnar loves beating people up. While those two interests often intertwine, they quickly diverge when you start getting tagged. For all of the debates over Brock’s questionable chin and concerns for vegetable-rejecting body, the real downfall of his MMA career was his heart. He doesn’t love this fighting game, and MMA is a cruel mistress. If you can’t fully commit to her, you can expect to find a pile of shredded “Clutch Gear” shirts on the doorstep when you get home from the bar. Brock seems to have gotten that message and is packing his things and moving on with his life.
While the UFC is losing their biggest draw in the form of Lesnar, they may have found a future star in Alistair Overeem. He may not cut a polarizing promo, but he’s built like an Adonis and is capable of delivering incredible pain with each of his limbs. He shirked off Lesnar’s takedowns with ease, but they didn’t have the desperate commitment behind them that they should have, not even close. If you believe Overeem to be an unstoppable force then your fire was fueled last night, and if you doubt his place at the top of the food chain you’ll undoubtedly focus on Brock’s uninspired performance rather than those destructive knees and kicks. You can argue over how he’ll do against the rest of the field, and frankly we hope you do.
If Lesnar’s wild ride in the heavyweight division resembled a violent tsunami, Jon Fitch’s dominance over the welterweight landscape has spread like continental drift. After 145 consecutive minutes of anti-climactic fighting, the sport’s least celebrated grinder was toppled in the blink of an eye. If rebounding from a gutsy loss to GSP—his only defeat in twenty two consecutive bouts–with five straight wins and a hard fought draw did nothing to place his name back “in the mix” for a second shot at the belt, it’s hard to imagine what it will take for Fitch to earn one now. For Johny Hendricks it’s the sort of victory that a fighter can build his name on, but despite the divisional upheaval caused by GSP’s injury it’s a little premature to be calling for a title shot. While Diaz and Condit fight for the interim strap, he can kill some time spending that $75k ‘Knock Out of the Night” bonus.
Lightweights Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone also picked up some spending cash with their “Fight of the Night” bonuses. Nate cooked up the Diaz family recipe of 11-punch combinations and trash talk, and he served it to Cerrone for a full three rounds. “Cowboy” was overwhelmed by Diaz’s trademark punches in bunches, but did little to change up his game plan and alter his attack. He found success with kicks, sweeping the Stockton tough’s legs out from under him on several occasions, but then it was back to accepting the short end of the stick in a lopsided boxing match. For Cerrone it was a sour ending to a tremendous year, and for Diaz another imposing performance at 155 lbs.
After missing with a couple of wild strikes, Matyushenko charged right into a perfectly timed jab. Gustafsson dropped him with the strike and followed it up with ground and pound to end the bout in just over two minutes. It was the lanky Swede’s fifth win and fifth stoppage in the Octagon. The twenty-four year old’s long frame and composed dominance over a veteran like Matyushenko should raise some eyebrows at 205 lbs.
And what can you say about Jim Hette’s performance that the scorecards didn’t? 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26 pretty much sums it up. He sent Nam Phan flying repeatedly and beat him up on the ground. He needs to bring his cardio in line with the rest of his game, but he’s a perfect 10-0 with two impressive wins in the UFC and looks to be a very promising prospect in the featherweight division.
Full Results (via MMAWeekly.com):
Main Bouts (on Pay-Per-View):
-Alistair Overeem def. Brock Lesnar by TKO at 2:26, R1
-Nate Diaz def. Donald Cerrone by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
-Johny Hendricks def. Jon Fitch by KO at :12, R1
-Alexander Gustafsson def. Vladimir Matyushenko by TKO at 2:13, R1
–Jim Hettes def. Nam Phan by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)
Preliminary Bouts (on Spike TV):
-Ross Pearson def. Junior Assuncao by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
-Danny Castillo def. Anthony Njokuani by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Preliminary Bouts (on Facebook):
-Dong Hyun Kim def. Sean Pierson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
-Jacob Volkmann def. Efrain Escudero by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Matt Riddle vs. Luis Ramos: CANCELLED due to Illness
-Diego Nunes def. Manny Gamburyan by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Chris Colemon (@ChrisColemon)