Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem might just be one of the most highly anticipated heavyweight battles in UFC history.
Although there’s no championship on the line, this is one of the fights that fans have been begging for the past few years. There’s a title shot (and a whole lot of bragging rights) at stake. That, along with the main-event spot on the final UFC card of 2011, should be more than enough motivation for these two to put on a great show.
Add in the fact Lesnar and Overeem are two enormous beasts with an astonishing amount of power, and you have yourself a very exciting heavyweight tilt. Picking a winner might be tough, but if Lesnar wants to win, here are five things he will need to do effectively:
1. Put Overeem on his back
If Lesnar wants to beat Overeem, he knows exactly where the fight needs to end up: with "The Demolition Man" on his back. Lesnar knows how to hit hard, but he would be a fool to stand and trade with a K-1 level striker like Overeem. Lesnar needs to get this fight to the ground, and he needs to be in the top position, staying out of trouble and raining down big, huge ham hocks onto ‘Reem’s skull.
He’ll need to be careful during his takedown that he doesn’t stick his neck out too far. Overeem is known for a pretty brutal guillotine choke, even if Frank Mir thinks the Strikeforce defector’s biceps are too big to pull one off. Lesnar must also be on the lookout for submission attempts. But Lesnar’s best bet to win this fight is with it on the ground, with his enormous frame on top.
2. Use the speed he showed in his first few fights
Do you remember watching Lesnar’s first fight in the octagon against Heath Herring? Do you remember the collective gasp in the room when the former collegiate wrestling star shot across the ring toward Herring like a bolt of lightning?
I sure do. And, for Overeem’s sake, he better remember it too. Based on the images floating around the Internet (and based on word from Lesnar and his camp), this is the best shape Lesnar has ever been in, and that’s a very scary thought. Since the Herring fight, fans really haven’t been treated to that same kind of speed he showed in his UFC debut. Sure, he has plenty of takedowns and has racked up some wins, but that surprising speed and Octagon burst has waned a bit.
If we’re truly about to see the best Lesnar ever at UFC 141, that means will see him faster than ever. Lesnar will need that speed to get past Overeem’s strikes and take the fight to the ground.
3. Push the pace
Lesnar is an incredible athlete. Everyone knows this. Even while battling diverticulitis and not at his physical best, he’s still a better athlete than most of the other the other fighters on the planet. And with athleticism comes that collegiate wrestler work ethic, and with that work ethic comes cardio for days.
Even after being brutalized for the entire first round against Shane Carwin at UFC 116, Lesnar still didn’t look tired when the bell rang for the start of Round 2. Carwin was spent, however, and it didn’t take long for Lesnar to get the memorable arm-triangle submission.
If Lesnar is going to win on Friday night, his cardio could be a big factor. Overeem is a big, hulking muscular fighter who isn’t exactly known for his conditioning. In fact, Overeem is more known for wilting a bit when things aren’t going his way. Sure, that may have been the Overeem of old, but you have to wonder if he has kicked that mental deficiency enough to win against the very best competition.
If Lesnar can ride out the first few rounds on top, you could see a very tired and dejected "Demolition Man" in the last few rounds.
4. Hit Overeem consistently
It has been said so many times now that it has become a cliche, but it’s still true: Every fight starts on the feet. With that in mind, Lesnar is going to have to throw his huge hands at least a few times before he can get the fight to the ground. If he wants to win, he’s going to have to land his punches fairly consistently.
Sometimes the best defense against a high-level striker is to land strong, consistent strikes yourself. For Lesnar to win, Overeem has to know he’s in a fight right from the start. And that includes taking a few of Lesnar’s enormous paws on his chin. We saw what Cain Velasquez did to Lesnar with his strikes, and Overeem is a better striker than Velasquez.
Lesnar is going to have to put on his very best striking performance if he wants to keep ‘Reem’s punches at bay. At least long enough for him to take Alistair down.
5. Take a punch
Earlier this week, Lesnar claimed that he had "never been KO’d" and, while that may technically be true, everyone witnessed both Carwin and Velasquez make Lesnar look quite a bit more ordinary when they punched him square in the face.
Although I think we all learned that we can put an end to the "Can Brock Lesnar take a punch?" debate, we also learned that if there’s anything that makes Lesnar a lot more human, it’s strikes that land anywhere above that big sword tattoo on his chest. Overeem may just be the opponent in Lesnar’s career most likely to have the ability to land those exact strikes. Lesnar is going to get hit, and probably more than once.
If he wants to come out on top at UFC 141, he’ll need to be able to weather the storm, take a few tough punches and fight back. If he can do that, there’s a good chance he’ll end up with his hand raised at the end of the night.