It was the last big event of 2011 as Brock Lesnar faced Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC 141, shown live in the early hours of New Year’s Eve on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began with featherweight action as Nam Phan went up against Jimy Hettes.
To say that I was impressed with Hettes would not be an overstatement. As soon as he scored with his first take down early in the first round he imposed his will on the fight, doing an excellent job of controlling Phan on the ground.
It really was a stellar performance from Hettes as he went for a number of submissions throughout the fight, Unfortunately he couldn’t get the finish, but his inability to make Phan tap didn’t phase him, especially when he was using Phan’s face for punching practice.
Phan’s good moments were few and far between, and despite the urgings of his corner he just couldn’t cope with his opponent’s onslaught.
With the fight going the distance the judges were called into action. No surprise here as Hettes took the unanimous decision, and by some distance.
An all-European light heavyweight encounter followed as Vladimir Matyushenko took on Alexander Gustafsson.
This one began with an extensive feeling out period with both fighters testing the waters a little, and Matyushenko almost falling on his face with a big swing and miss.
It wasn’t until about two minutes or so in that the fight came to life. A left jab from Gustafsson sent Vlad crashing, with the Swede following him down for the ground and pound until the referee stepped in to give Gustafsson the TKO win.
Then it was down to the welterweight division as Jon Fitch went up against Johny Hendricks.
The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the show. Just as Mike Goldberg was done hyping Gina Carano’s new film Hendricks connected with a big left. Fitch went down like the proverbial sack of spuds, and that was it. The referee stepped in after just 12 seconds to give Hendricks the knockout win.
More welterweight action followed in a fight from earlier in the evening as Dong Hyun Kim took on Sean Pierson.
This proved to be an entertaining affair. Kim did a good job of controlling the striking part of the game, keeping his man at bay with some crisp striking, making it difficult for Pierson to close the distance.
Pierson had a couple of good moments on the ground, especially in the first when he rolled with Kim’s judo throw.
Things almost came to an end towards the end of the second round when Kim connected with a jumping front kick that staggered the Canadian. As the old saying goes Pierson was saved by the bell, and it didn’t look like he’d make it to the final round as he walked on wobbly legs back to his corner.
Pierson did indeed make it to the third round but found himself on the receiving end of Kim’s ground game. Once again he had a couple of good moments, but they just weren’t enough to overcome the South Korean.
No surprise from the judges as Kim took the unanimous decision.
The co-main event saw Nate Diaz facing Donald Cerrone in the lightweight division.
Now this was a fight. For three rounds our protagonists gave us a thrilling back and forth striking battle.
They began early, before the bell, when Cerrone saluted Diaz, before beginning their excellent striking battle.
Diaz looked in great form as he took the fight to the Cowboy, particularly in the first round. Cerrone looked down on the pace as he moved around the cage with his bloodied mouth as Diaz beat him to the punch with numerous combinations, some of them five or six punches in length.
Cerrone came back a little in the second, achieving some degree of success with some leg sweeps and a head kick which saw Diaz go down after a delayed reaction. But Diaz easily stayed in the game, and by the time the third round started Diaz began to showboat, once again taking control with his excellent striking.
But despite all of this he couldn’t get the job done, so the decision went to the judges, with all three giving the fight to Diaz, and rightfully so.
The main event featured heavyweight action as Brock Lesnar faced Alistair Overeem.
This one certainly had that big fight feel about it. Lesnar tested the waters early on with a couple of kicks, but it wasn’t long before Overeem was centring his attack on Lesnar’s body.
Time and time again the Dutchman delivered knees and kicks, and a right kick to the liver. A delayed reaction sent Lesnar down as Overeem went in for the kill, Lesnar covering up as Overeem went for the ground and pound. It wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to give Overeem the TKO win, sending Lesnar into retirement.
The show rounded out with more filler material in the form of the featherweight encounter between Manny Gamburyan and Diego Nunes.
The story of this one was Nunes’ solid kicks as he centred his attack on Gamburyan’s lead leg. Gamburyan just didn’t seem able to find his range as Nunes attacked his limb, adding shots to the body and head for good measure.
Gamburyan’s best moments came in the second round, connecting with an overhand right that had Nunes in some trouble, as well as a brief stint of ground and pound. But by the time the third round began Nunes returned to his tactic of choice, switching his stance and attacking Gamburyan’s leg and body.
Once again the judges were called into action as Nunes took the unanimous decision.
In conclusion - Dana White and his team certainly ended their year in style.
Although us Brits who like to watch TV the old fashioned way were once again denied the chance to see the Spike prelims we were treated to another quality show. The Phan/Hettes encounter would have been the fight of the night for me, had it not been for the Diaz/Cerrone fight, and while some have criticised Alistair Overeem’s demolition of Brock Lesnar I thought it was a great way of sending out a clear message to the rest of the heavyweight division.
So in all UFC 141 gets the big thumbs up from this writer.