Rundown of UFC 141 post-fight news and notes…
— 12,158 attendees filled the MGM Grand Garden Arena for a $3.1 million live gate.
— Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone were awarded $75,000 Fight of the Night honors for their thrilling three-round striking affair. Johny Hendricks earned Knockout of the Night for blasting Jon Fitch back into the losing column with a left hand that left his barely conscious opponent trying to wrestle the referee. There were no submissions on the card.
— Alistair Overeem did exactly what he needed to do last night to defeat Brock Lesnar. He stopped an early takedown attempt and pounded Lesnar with his K-1 level striking which culminated in a perfectly placed liver kick to end the fight that surely had Bas Rutten screaming “LIVER SHOT!!!” at the top of his lungs. Speaking to reporters at the post-fight press conference, Overeem revealed that he actually called his shot.
“The funny thing was, I predicted it the evening before to my fiancee,” Overeem said after using a huge liver kick not only to send Lesnar in retirement but also to earn a shot at UFC champion Junior dos Santos.
“She’s not here right now, or she would confirm it, but I said, ‘First I’m going to do this, then I’m going to do that, and I’m going to finish him with a liver kick.’ And yeah, I don’t know if it’s luck or strategy, but it turned out that way and I’m glad it did.”
Much was made about Brock’s perceived inability to take a punch before the fight, however Overeem hardly threw any before he blasted away at him in the final sequence. Instead, Overeem chose to focus on Lesnar’s midsection with knees once he realized Lesnar didn’t like it.
“After one of the first knees … he didn’t come for the takedown, as [I knew] he would,” said Overeem. “After that, we would come in the clinch and he would disengage. Usually, Brock is a guy that comes straight forward, but he was not doing that. Then I knew that the knees bothered him.”
Besides going for a rather weak single-leg that he only half-heartedly committed to, Lesnar never made any real attempt to shoot in on Alistair as expected. Whether he was afraid of eating a knee or getting caught in a guillotine, we’ll never know, but Dana White thought Lesnar should have at least tried.
“I was thinking, ‘Brock ought to try for a double,’ ” an ill UFC president Dana White said of Lesnar at the post-fight news conference. “A double would have been a better idea. You know, Brock’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s powerful and he’s a great wrestler.
“I was shocked he didn’t shoot or try to take a double, but he was in Overeem’s range getting picked apart.”
“Let me say in front of everyone here that I was wrong,” White said of Overeem. “I said it before Alistair came into the UFC and I said it leading up to this fight to myself because I never give predictions, but I thought Brock Lesnar was going to beat Alistair Overeem tonight. I did, and I was wrong.
“He looked damn good tonight. He made quick work of Brock Lesnar.”
That he did, and as a result we will find out in 2012 who’s the best heavyweight striker in MMA — Alistair Overeem or Junior dos Santos.
— The biggest surprise of the evening came immediately after the conclusion of the main event. Rather than tell the crowd that he was going to focus on improving his game now that he’s healthy again, Lesnar announced that he was retiring and it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. It’s what he planned all along.
“My hat’s off to Alistair Overeem,” Lesnar said in the Octagon after the fight. “I want to take my hat off to all my training partners, to my wife, my family. I’ve had a really difficult couple of years with my disease. I’m going to say officially, tonight was the last time you’ll see me in the Octagon. I want to thank everyrone. I want to thank the Fertittas [co-founders of Zuffa, UFC’s parent company]. Brock Lesnar is officially retired. I promised my wife and kids, if I won I’d get a title shot and it would be my last fight. It’s been a pleasure.”
At the post-fight press conference, Dana White claimed he had no idea the announcement was coming, but he wasn’t exactly surprised either. And despite Brock Lesnar being the UFC’s biggest cash cow, Dana has no plans to talk him out of it.
“I had no idea he was going to do that,” White said at the post-fight news conference. “Am I surprised? No. He’s made a lot of money in his career. He’s achieved a lot of things.
“Brock came to me one night here at the MGM [in 2007]. He said he wanted to fight in the UFC and I laughed. He had only had one fight. What that man accomplished coming in with only one fight is amazing. I get it. I doesn’t shock me. But I didn’t know it was coming.
“When a guy wants to retire, it’s his thing,” White said. “This isn’t a game where you hit a ball with a stick. You don’t half-ass this stuff. When you know it’s over, it’s over. The bad part is when I think it’s over and the guy doesn’t.”
The situation could get more complicated though if Lesnar decides to go back to the WWE. He still has time left on his UFC contract so it seems likely that he would need the UFC’s permission to do so. Nevertheless, if that’s what it comes to, Dana White doesn’t foresee it being an issue that can’t be worked out.
“I mean, when he retires, he retires under contract,” White said. “I’ve had my moments with Brock Lesnar, but I’ve had a great relationship with him. We’ll figure it out, no big deal. Never had a situation with a guy where we haven’t done the right thing.”
— It’s unknown when the heavyweight showdown between Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem will go down, but Overeem says he is very excited for the opportunity.
“Junior dos Santos is a very different fighter [than Lesnar], so the game plan will be very different. But both are very aggressive, and I like to be aggressive. I just like to be dominant. I don’t like to be going backwards, waiting. Sometimes you have to, but I prefer to go in there and beat the opponent up.”
“I’m very excited to be fighting for the title. It’s my goal and, at this point, the highest achievement for every martial artist in the world,” said Overeem. “My experience [with] the UFC is huge; I think it’s 100 times bigger than Strikeforce. K-1 is big, but [the UFC] is even a lot bigger than K-1. I was a little bit blown away with all the fans and when you walk in [the Octagon]. It’s crazy. I loved it, every second of it.”
Who isn’t pumped for that fight?
— Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone turned into bitter enemies before the locked horns in the Octagon last night. Their attitudes quickly changed though after three rounds of punishing each other. Cerrone chalked it up to doing his job — hyping the fight and giving the fans what they came for in the cage.
“It’s a show, man,” Cerrone said. “That’s what we do. We talk [expletive], we go in there and back it up, and then afterward, it’s like, ‘Hey, man, you know that was a good fight.'”
Meanwhile, Diaz says he doesn’t want to come off as the bad guy, but that’s just how it happens sometimes.
“I didn’t want to come off as a bad guy, but that’s just how it might have seemed. I just train hard. I come out to fight,” said Diaz. “The press, everybody was trying to get us real worked up. I try not to say anything. Fight day, you can get out there and get knocked down. I’m not a fortune teller. I can’t tell what’s gonna happen. I just try to say, I’m gonna go out there and work hard. But you’re not gonna catch me talking bad about somebody. I just don’t work that way.”
Nevertheless, Diaz turned in one of the best performances of his career last night which showed continued improvement in his boxing. Diaz hopes the win puts him in a position to fight for a title shot.
“[I want to fight] the best person in my weight division,” Diaz said at the UFC 141 post-fight press conference. “Whoever they would like to give me, the highest ranked contender, that’s what I’m after. I want to fight for the championship. I just want to show the world I can fight the best fighters and beat the best fighters.”
With his teammate Gilbert Melendez stuck in Strikeforce for the time being, it’s hard to argue that Diaz doesn’t at least belong in the discussion. The question is: Who will he fight for the opportunity? My vote goes to the Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis winner at UFC 144.
— Who would have predicted a Jon Fitch fight ending in 12 seconds? The only thing that would have made that more shocking is if Fitch was the one who was doing the finishing. Nevertheless, Johny Hendricks surprised pretty much everyone last night when he knocked Fitch out and hopes it will earn him a title shot.
“I want a title shot,” he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio) during a post-UFC 141 special. “If they don’t give it to me, I’m not going to complain or anything. But I sort of see myself right there. I did what GSP couldn’t do.”
Hendricks is probably still a win or two away from getting that opportunity, but he definitely made the welterweight title picture a lot more interesting last night. With the Fitch out of the discussion, the division is basically wide-open behind Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit. Josh Koscheck is in the best position now to fight the winner of that one, but there’s definitely room for others like Hendricks to emerge as solid contenders.