LAS VEGAS -- We entered 2011 with the introductions of smaller weight classes to the UFC -- we go out with a freight collision between two of the more prominent heavyweights to ever have such different muscular strategies. Both Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem are former champions. The wrestler has had to overcome diverticulitis; the kickboxer, interrogation. Overeem doesn’t mind media; Lesnar lets you know that the privilege isn’t his, and that he’s crouching down to meet the questions.
Lesnar is also media.
If there’s an odd shape to UFC 141, it’s that for all the opportunists involved, many are genuinely disgruntled for one reason or another. Lesnar doesn’t like the big city lights, nor the unimaginative redundancy of the questions lobbed his way. In fact, he treats most queries as boring and unsatisfactory, particularly ones that ask him what he thinks of what somebody else thinks. This has always been a no-no; if Lesnar has ever tried to make one thing perfectly clear, it’s that doesn’t care what you think.
And he let it be known at the prefight news conference. When asked about being a Vegas underdog against the veteran Overeem, Lesnar said, “the underdog with a big f---ing bite.” This was aimed more at the press than at Overeem. Later, when he was asked about his preference of being a former WWE star or the former UFC champion, Lesnar tried to be civil before working his way around to this: “I go as Brock Lesnar the UFC fighter. You guys can put whatever label you want on me, I really don’t give a s---.”
Needless to say, Lesnar would much rather be a quiet spectacle where you can decipher the answers to your questions. Mostly, he just wants to win his fight and get back to ice fishing for crappie in simple peace.
But this main event is figuratively huge, too. The winner will get a shot at Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight belt. Dos Santos was quoted this week as saying that he’s about 10 days away from being completely recovered from knee surgery. In other words, if the Lesnar/Overeem winner can come out of this thing in good health, a heavyweight title fight may be booked sooner rather than later.
And if Overeem has it his way, that’ll be his gig. He predicted that he would score a first round knockout of Lesnar this week, and stuck to his guns when asked about it at the news conference.
“If I look at the type of fighter I am, and he type of fighter Brock is, we’re not the guys that want it to go to the second round,” he said. “Judging him from his character and his previous fights he’s going to come in for the kill and so am I. One plus one is two.
“This fight is going to be my 69th fight, I’ve been fighting for the last 14 years. When I was 19, I had as many fights as Brock has now.”
Experience. Explosiveness. Stakes. Style clashes. Disdain. Tectonic plates shifting for PPV eyes. Is there anything better than Overeem/Lesnar?
Disgruntled: Part II
There’s Diaz, who doesn’t want to buddy up to the guys he has to fight and therefore made a very rude first impression when he met Cerrone a couple of months back. And there’s Cerrone, who instigates with the best of them, and likes to play mind games. Even with himself. It’s one man’s chaps versus the Stockton slaps.
And there are brink title components here. Cerrone is surging in 2011. He has won four fights, and is looking to turn Diaz into an exclamation mark to cap off his banner year. This is a different guy than the one who lost three times in a 15-month span not so long ago. When ESPN’s Brett Okamoto asked him how he changed things, Cerrone shook it out.
“Just getting my mind right,” he said. “My mind just wasn’t mentally ready [back then]. Those were big fights, title fights. I went to a sports psychiatrist, just getting my brain and my hands and everything to work together, and come Friday it will.”
You saw what happened next. When they squared off for the cameras, Cerrone said something unflattering to Diaz and Diaz responded by slapping the cowboy hat off his head and pushing him. Things are escalating, alright.
“Both of these guys are mean, they’re both nasty,” said Dana White. “They’ve had some words between each other, and they’re both very talented well-rounded guys.”
Disgruntled: Part III
He wasn’t part of the news conference, nor any of the festivities leading up, but Jon Fitch is back in action for the first time in over 10 months. He will face fellow wrestler Johny Hendricks, possibly for the right to take on the winner of Carlos Condit/Nick Diaz for the interim welterweight belt. (Note: This is pure speculation, which is where Fitch’s title hopes live).
The time away has made Fitch contemplative about the sport of mixed martial arts. For those hoping he spent the time figuring out how to incorporate a brawler’s attitude to make himself more attractive as a challenger, you’re about to be disappointed. Fitch has strengthened his resolve to fight the way he fights -- a nihilistic form of wrestling and tooth-gnashing ground-and-pound -- until somebody beats it.
“Like Bruce Lee said, ‘there’s no one best martial art -- it’s got to be mixed all together,’” he told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani. “So now you have guys who mix it all together, and it’s about games. Each individual game, and how they can put their game forward and use their skills set to win fights, and I want to make sure it stays true to that. Because that’s real to me.
“Just setting up two random guys on the street, which is exciting because they punch each other a lot, it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not a real fight to me. I want to see the best guys, with the best games, up against each other.”
The game between Hendricks and Fitch will be wrestling, and that’s one of the reasons so many are cautiously pessimistic about how it’ll turn out. But give Fitch this -- his resolve is as strong out of the cage as it is in.