Experts' predictions for UFC 141
Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar (above) can earn another shot at the title with a victory Friday over Alistair Overeem. (AP)
SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt and Jeff Wagenheim provide their predictions for UFC 141 on Friday in Las Vegas.
Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem
FOWLKES: For all Overeem's accomplishments, we've yet to see him shut down a powerhouse wrestler of Lesnar's caliber. I have my doubts that he can stay off his back for long, and he won't do well with those engine blocks that Lesnar calls fists raining down on him. Lesnar by TKO.
HUNT: One of the harder main events to handicap in quite some time. Both have had some circumstances to overcome, but I just can't get past the rollercoaster camp Overeem has had in the last eight weeks. I'm banking on Lesnar playing it smart by only trading strikes with the K-1 champion to set up his takedowns. Lesnar by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: I’ve ranked Overeem higher than Lesnar among heavyweights for a long time. So Alistair’s the pick here, right? Um, no. As the bout has crept up, I’ve had a nagging suspicion that when Overeem is taken down -- and he will be, just like every Brock opponent has, including Cain Velasquez -- the bulky striker won’t have what it takes to get back up. Lesnar by TKO.
Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone
FOWLKES: Diaz's best chance is to submit Cerrone, but I don't think he has it in his DNA to admit weakness and take a fight down if he's getting beat on the feet. Cerrone's the more diverse striker, and the better tactician. Cerrone by decision.
HUNT: Behind Jon Jones, Cerrone has had the second most memorable 2011 campaign. I think he's figured out that if he comes out on fire, he's unstoppable. I'm banking on that same mentality against the second Diaz brother. Cerrone by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Diaz has stepped up his game since returning to lightweight. But “The Cowboy” simply has too much game for him. Cerrone by TKO.
Jon Fitch vs. Johny Hendricks
FOWLKES: What's that, you say? You didn't know Fitch was even on this card? That's because the UFC isn't exactly giving him a big push. He'll remind everyone why with another plodding, methodical display of technical dominance. Fitch by decision.
HUNT: Fitch continues to serve his Zuffa-imposed sentence in title-contender purgatory, but the Purdue-bred wrestler should be able to control Hendricks positionally (and avoid his wild power punches) to cruise. Fitch by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Put these guys in wrestling singlets and Fitch, who dominates most everyone on the mat, will have met his match. But this isn’t a wrestling match, it’s a fight. And there are few better fighters -- and only one better welterweight -- in the UFC. Fitch by decision.
Vladimir Matyushenko vs. Alexander Gustafsson
FOWLKES: Matyushenko's career has more legs than many expected when he joined the UFC, but I think he's in over his head against Gustafsson, who will keep it standing and exploit Vladdy's weaknesses. Gustafsson by TKO.
HUNT: The well-traveled Matyushenko, who's looked solid in back-to-back TKO victories, will be a great gatekeeper test for the Swede striker. Gustafsson by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Gustafsson suffered his only loss the first time he stepped up in competition (Phil Davis). If the Swede can handle this guy, he’s ready for another shot at the top tier of light heavies. Gustafsson by TKO.
Nam Phan vs. Jimy Hettes
FOWLKES: Phan is the more experienced fighter and probably the more well-rounded one, but he lacks Hettes' overwhelming specialty in any one area. Still, he's probably polished enough to squeeze by here, but just barely. Phan by decision.
HUNT: With a three-inch height advantage and the awareness to use it, I'm taking Hettes, the plucky newcomer. Hettes by decision.WAGENHEIM: Hettes is 9-0 with nine submissions. Nice work. Pham has faced far better competition, but has gotten schooled, with seven losses in his last 12 fights. Nam might present some new twists, but Jimy eventually will figure him out. Hettes by (what else?) submission.