UFC 141 was the perfect event to end a banner year for the world’s premier mixed martial arts promotion. We saw the rise of young new stars with Alexander Gustafsson and Jimy Hettes. Alistair Overeem, Nate Diaz and Johny Hendricks fought to make their cases for title contentions. We also witnessed the retirement of one of the biggest draws in MMA, Brock Lesnar. Let’s take a look at what may be next for the fighters of UFC 141 in the coming new year.
“The Reem” passed his octagon debut with flying colors, overcoming changes in management, camps and training locations. He went back and forth from Holland to Las Vegas and back to Holland to take care of his ailing mother. Overeem is truly the consummate professional as in each interview prior to the fight he seemed calm and focused on his fight against Brock Lesnar, regardless of any distraction around him.
His calm demeanor followed him into the fight as he was not distracted by a dripping gash that was opened up above his right eye by a Lesnar punch. He defeated Lesnar with an array of knees and a text book liver kick that Bas Rutten would be proud of, but would not take credit for as Rutten states on his twitter (@BasRuttenMMA) “…I heard a liver kick was the KO? That’s awesome, Cor Hemmers taught him well!”
After his dominant performance against a former champion in Lesnar, Overeem is well deserving of a title shot against current heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos. The match up will showcase very different striking styles of Overeem’s Dutch kickboxing against Dos Santos’ orthodox boxing and will surely be much anticipated.
After a hard loss against Alistair Overeem, Lesnar had announced his retirement from the UFC. The timing of his decision makes a lot of sense. He has already made it to the pinnacle of the organization when he defeated Randy Couture to win the UFC heavyweight championship in only his fourth professional bout. Factoring in his 2 bouts against Diverticulitis which had set him back from fighting often for the past 2 years, he made the decision to call it a career
Although retiring from MMA, many media sources had question about a possible return to the world of professional wrestling where he gained the majority of his fame. UFC president, Dana White, has quickly squashed the idea as Lesnar may have retired, but he is technically still under contract preventing him from performing for the WWE.
Just as we have thought that the lightweight division title contention picture had been calmed after Ben Henderson defeated Clay Guida to solidify the next contender, Nate Diaz had to put on an impressive victory against another top contender, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone to shake things up. Diaz defeated Cerrone at the stand up game landing and incredible 258 out of 314 strikes. That’s 82 percent!
As the next lightweight championship bout does not happen for another 2 months in Japan, Diaz will have enough time to fight a title contender eliminator to solidify his spot. To win a rematch against Clay Guida or Gray Maynard would be enough to prove he can beat the strongest of wrestlers the UFC lightweight division has to offer and that he deserves a shot at gold.
2 time NCAA division I wrestling champion, Johny Hendricks, has done what neither welterweight champion, George St-Pierre, or former champion, BJ Penn, could not accomplish: stop Fitch, the number 2 welterweight in the world, before the end of the last round. Not only finish, but KO Fitch in the first round just 12 seconds in.
With that statement made, Hendricks throws himself right in the middle of the welterweight title picture. So long as former title contender Josh Koscheck can defeat Mike Peirce in February, it would be great to see Koscheck have a chance to avenge his stable mate, Fitch, against Hendricks, and solidify who gets a crack at the winner of Carlos Condit versus Nick Diaz.
Rise of the Young Guns- Alexander Gustafsson and Jimy Hettes
Both light heavyweight Gustafsson and featherweight Hettes are 24 years old and are considered the future of their respective divisions after they have dominated dangerous veterans this past weekend.
Sweden’s Gustafsson used his length and striking advantage to keep strong grappler Vladimir Matyushenko at bay and score a TKO victory taking him to a 5-1 UFC record. Many have compared him to Jon Jones as he has the same lanky build and has received a similar progression of fights in his early career. If we are following Jones’ recipe of success, Gustafsson’s next test should Stephan Bonnar.
Jimy Hettes extended his undefeated record to 10-0 with a dominating win against Ultimate Fighter reality show alumni Nam Pham. Hettes used his strong Judo and attempted several submissions en route to the decision victory. Up next for Hettes should be a test to see how he stands up against the next level of featherweights. A fight against another young up and comer Erik Koch would be a great choice so long as Koch is healed from injury.