The world’s premiere MMA organization finishes off the year with a bang this Friday night with UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem. Undefeated featherweight prospect “The Kid” Jimy Hettes (9-0) takes on Nam Phan (19-10) in the main card’s opening bout. “The Janitor” Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5) collides with the fast rising “The Mauler” Alexander Gustafsson (12-1) to see whose stock gets a lift in the light heavyweight division. Johny Hendricks (11-1) is looking to get into the higher echelon of the welterweight class but will first have to grind it out against former title challenger Jon Fitch (22-3). The main event is seen as the classic “grappler versus striker” formula as former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar (5-2) and current K-1, DREAM, and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (34-11) fill the roles, respectively. The co-main event is receiving just as much acclaim as the marquee feature as Nate Diaz (13-8) and “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone (16-4) butt heads in a lightweight match-up. Diaz and Cerrone are two of the sport’s most enigmatic personalities but once the cage door seals, this clash of personalities will turn into a battle truly worthy of remembering.
At First Glance: As if the main event were not big enough, the lightweight division’s top killers are set to engage when Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone step into the Octagon. Donald Cerrone continues his tours as one of the busiest men in MMA when he makes his fifth appearance in the cage this year. With three of his past four bouts earning each a fight, submission, and knockout of the night, Cerrone is looking to cap off 2011 with another lightweight competitor’s head on his mantle. This Friday Nate Diaz returns to the lightweight division, leaving his 2-2 tenure in the welterweight division behind. Diaz has always been a viable threat in the 155lbs. ranks and now that he is back in his right weight class, stopping Cerrone is all it could take for Nate to fly right into title aspirations.
In Depth: Styles make fights and with Diaz and Cerrone, there are two fighters who come looking to only finish fights, get paid, and move on to the next challenge. The “Cowboy” will enter this fight with the younger Diaz as the favorite, and with just cause. Since his transitioning from the WEC to the UFC in February, Cerrone made it very clear that he has stepped his game up in all facets. Just in 2011 alone, the world saw Cerrone’s striking go up a level when he derailed Vagner Rocha (6-2) and Charles Oliveria (14-2) with little opposition. “Cowboy” also holds a well-respected ground game as his two submission victories this year also support but the buck might stop here when compared to Nate Diaz. The TUF 5 alum is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu under Cesar Gracie but with a who’s-who of teammates at his disposal including his brother, top-10 welterweight “El Diablo” Nick Diaz (25-8), he rivals even the most seasoned black belts of the art. To add more ammo to his arsenal, Nate has sharpened his boxing skills exponentially. Fans do not need to look any further than UFC 135 as proof of Nate’s evolution when he picked aart “The Fireball Kid” Takanori Gomi (29-9) with his rangier, accurate striking and transitioned well between the Armbar and Triangle Choke submissions to finish the fight. If there were a downside to each man’s game plan, it would be their wrestling. Then again, neither are known to actively seek a takedown unless the opportunity is truly presented. Cerrone and Diaz both tend to plant the submission when taken down themselves or found in the scramble so unless one becomes truly desperate or gets rocked, what the crowd is most likely to see is a slugfest between two of the top strikers in the UFC’s lightweight division.
Wild Card: In the cage, Donald Cerrone is a man known to get the job done with no distraction. However outside the Octagon he has been known to get ill-tempered at times even over the most miniscule of moments which have lead to him calling for pointless fights such as with fellow lightweight “Magrinho” Cole Miller (18-5) and featherweight Nam Phan. Diaz has already gotten onto Cerrone’s bad side after refusing to shake hands with him at an open workout. It is well known that when a Diaz is in the cage, trash talk will be thrown out just as if it were a third arm to punch with. These taunts by Diaz may be a natural tendency to draw up action but said to hotter heads, it effectively pulls the opposition just close enough into range for him to tee-off and do work. If Cerrone becomes too riled up by whatever words or gestures Nate inevitably tosses out and loses focus, he might see his 2011 ending abysmally.
The Verdict: The fight has the potential for “Fight of the Year” written all over it. The year 2011 has indeed been a good one for the “Cowboy” but unlike the other fighters in the UFC he has blitzed through, Diaz is extremely durable and at 155lbs., he is a very dangerous man. Never been knocked out, the only losses in the lightweight and welterweight division the younger Diaz has experienced all involved superior wrestlers who can utilize the double-leg takedown or superb hip/body tossers, neither of which Cerrone is. Cerrone has that potential to defeat Diaz but unfortunately at some point he will get carried away and just like others before him, will find himself on the bad end of a submission. Diaz via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 2