Case Keefer, Las Vegas Sun
Conflicted is the best word to describe the mood after the UFC 141 main event.
Conflicted as to whether the more pressing issue was putting a eulogy on Brock Lesnar’s UFC career or a coronation on Alistair Overeem’s time in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion.
Overeem beat Lesnar worse than anyone ever had before Friday night, leading to a TKO victory at 2:26 of the first round and a retirement announcement from the former UFC heavyweight champion.
“I think he shouldn’t walk away,” Overeem said of Lesnar. “He’s a guy who goes for it. I think he achieved a lot in a short span. It would be a shame if he stopped now. I still think there’s more to gain from it.”
Overeem (36-11 MMA, 1-0 UFC) ought to prepare for disappointment, then, because Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) isn’t one to change his mind. And the 34-year old Lesnar has made up his mind.
Lesnar had decided before he walked into the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena that a loss would signal the end of his run as a professional fighter. Even if he won, Lesnar planned to only fight once more.
“I told my wife, my kids that if I won tonight, I would get the title shot and that would be the last fight,” Lesnar explained in his post-fight octagon interview.
A possible broken rib from an Overeem liver kick that ended the bout likely ensured no change of heart from Lesnar. It was the last strike in a series of body shots from Overeem and sent Lesnar collapsing to the canvas.
The finish served as the first round knockout Overeem had promised all week. The 31-year old Dutch kickboxer, who made his UFC debut against Lesnar, claimed he predicted the exact sequence that ended the fight when talking to his fiancé Thursday night.
“I’m not usually the guy who believes in aliens, UFOs or superstitions,” Overeem said. “But I just said I’m going to do this and do this and then a liver kick. It turned out that way.”
Not everyone believed in Overeem as much, most notably UFC President Dana White. Earlier in the week, White criticized Overeem for proclaiming Lesnar wouldn’t be able to take him down.
Overeem, sure enough, shook off both of Lesnar’s takedown attempts. He’s the only fighter Lesnar ever failed to wrestle to the ground.
White also questioned if Overeem was deserving of his unanimous top three ranking in the heavyweight division coming into the bout. White thought Overeem hadn’t faced the level of competition necessary to receive such accolades.
“I don’t give predictions, but I thought Brock Lesnar was going to beat Alistair Overeem tonight,” White said. “I was wrong. He looked damn good tonight.”
In addition to staying on his feet, Overeem plastered Lesnar’s body and face with knees for two minutes. He also fought through a cut on his forehead that bled into his right eye from the first jab Lesnar landed.
The performance gave Overeem a title shot against Junior dos Santos. The bout should take place sometime in the first half of 2012.
“It’s my goal, and at this point, the highest achievement for everyone in martial arts — holding the UFC title,” Overeem said.
It’s a plateau Lesnar reached just four fights into his MMA foray. The 6-foot-3, 266-pound giant will ultimately be remembered for the way he defeated the likes of Randy Couture, Frank Mir and Shane Carwin in championship bouts — not the beatdowns Overeem and Cain Velasquez administered in his final two contests.
Overeem could understand why everyone was a little nostalgic about Lesnar in the aftermath of UFC 141.
“Brock Lesnar came to me one night here at the MGM and pulled me aside and said, ‘I want to fight in the UFC,’” White reminisced. “And I laughed. He was 1-0 and came from the WWE.”
White caved and gave Lesnar an opportunity, which is a decision he’ll never regret. Lesnar made the most of it and headlined several of the UFC’s top selling cards of all time.
“He brought a lot of excitement to the heavyweight division,” White said. “What that man accomplished in a short amount of time is amazing. I get (Lesnar’s retirement). It doesn’t shock me.”