Brock Lesnar Looks to Finish Alistair Overeem at UFC 141
December 21, 2011
It would have been perfectly natural for Brock Lesnar to sit in the Honda Center in Anaheim, watching Junior dos Santos knock out Cain Velasquez to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship, and think, "It should have been me."
After all, the former champion was set to battle "Cigano" for the No. 1 contender's spot when he signed on to coach opposite the Brazilian star on the 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter this past spring. If he had won that fight at UFC 131, it would have been Lesnar challenging Velasquez for the title last month, in a rematch of their bout at UFC 121 last October where Lesnar lost the title in the first place.
Life, however, intervened, as a flare-up of Lesnar's diverticulitis – which had threatened his life and career once before – forced him to withdraw from the bout. Shane Carwin stepped in to face dos Santos, JDS won that bout in a commanding performance, and last month in Anaheim, he became UFC Heavyweight Champion, with Lesnar in the building to offer guest commentary on the TV broadcast.
So, it would be hard to blame Lesnar if he was angry as he watched the scene unfold, thinking that it should have been him in the Octagon with Velasquez, winning back the title he lost just over a year earlier.
But he wasn't.
Make no mistake: the experience of being in the arena for a UFC fight card for the first time since losing his title definitely elevated Lesnar's fighting spirit.
"For me," Lesnar said, "getting back in there felt wonderful. I'm a competitor, and everything felt good. There was definitely a lot of electricity in the air."
However, when it comes to Lesnar visualizing himself beating Velasquez and taking the title, those thoughts never entered the former champ's mind that night in Anaheim.
"I didn't sit there and envision myself out there at all," Lesnar said on Monday during the media conference call for his UFC 141 battle with Alistair Overeem. "I had some health issues, and I understood that. I'm happy for Junior, but I believe that someday, I'll get my chance at that opportunity."
"Someday" could come a whole lot sooner if Lesnar is successful next Friday night against Overeem. The 31-year-old Dutchman makes his UFC debut on an 11-fight unbeaten streak, which started with a victory over Paul Buentello for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship, and also included a win over Todd Duffee for the Dream Heavyweight Championship. In the midst of those four years without a loss in MMA competition, Overeem also won the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing championship in Tokyo. It's fair to say that Overeem represents the most dangerous striker that Lesnar has ever faced, which is part of the fuel behind predictions that the fight won't last past the second of five scheduled rounds.
"Looking at myself," Overeem said, "the type of fighter I am, and looking at Brock, the type of fighter that he is, we're very aggressive, and not the type of guys who back up, if you know what I mean. We're fighters who want to finish fights, and I'm going to be doing that December 30. I expect him to be doing that December 30. I don't see it really going past the first or second round."
"I feel the same," Lesnar said. "This is a heavyweight fight. We're both going in to finish this fight. I don't see it going five rounds."
Less than two weeks before they battle inside the Octagon, Lesnar and Overeem are certainly in agreement in that one department, if nothing else. The question now is whether Lesnar can use his NCAA Championship wrestling background to put Overeem on the mat en route to a TKO – as in his wins over the likes of Randy Couture and Frank Mir – or whether Overeem's hard-hitting stand-up assault will be too much for a fighter whose ability to withstand punishment has often been called into question.
Either way, Junior dos Santos is likely to have one hell of a challenge in his first title defense.
Photo: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC UFC/Getty Images