The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
The two fighters in the main event of Friday night's UFC 141 in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, PPV) are plenty big. That goes for their stature, as Brock Lesnar cuts weight to make the 265-pound heavyweight limit and Alistair Overeem, at nearly the same size, is the only fighter on the planet who looks like an exaggerated, idealized version of a plastic action figure. There's going to be a whole lot of muscle squaring off on the night before New Year's Eve.
But when they enter the octagon, with a shot at heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos hanging in the balance, both Lesnar and Overeem will be weighed down by some heavy baggage.
Lesnar has not fought since Cain Velasquez demolished him for the heavyweight belt in October 2010. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with a relapse of diverticulitis, the abdominal ailment that had sidelined him for nine months while he was champion. Brock underwent surgery eight months ago, and many in the MMA community -- fans and fighters alike -- passed along their best wishes for his recovery from the life-threatening illness. But with Lesnar (5-2) having been a polarizing blowhard ever since joining the UFC, he's seen far less support for his fighting career after he crumbled against Velasquez following an early beatdown by Shane Carwin.
Overeem has doubters, too, despite having not lost in four years. But who's he beaten? Fabricio Werdum, not seen in the UFC since being destroyed by Dos Santos in a little over a minute. Todd Duffee, another Dana White discard. Brett Rodgers, who terrorized Strikeforce until he was put in with real fighters. And so on. That's the game the skeptics play with Alistair (35-11, 1 no contest), because he's been fighting in Strikeforce, Dynamite, Dream, and other promotions that don't bear the initials U, F and C. Like it or not, Dana's roster is the collective alpha male of MMA.
That's just the beginning of what Overeem and Lesnar face. Because of their bulk, accusations of steroid use have been flung in their direction -- particularly Alistair's -- despite the fact that neither has ever failed a drug test. (But if you've ever seen the lean Overeem who fought at 205 pounds in Pride, you can understand the whispers.) Then there's the criticisms of their fighting styles. Because Lesnar is a former NCAA Division 1 champion wrestler and Overeem is a K-1 champion kickboxer, they're both accused of being one-dimensional -- especially Lesnar. But don't forget that Brock won the UFC belt with a TKO of Randy Couture that was set up with a punch, not a takedown. And Overeem, while admittedly most dangerous as a striker, has 19 career submissions.
Of course, they're not perfect fighters. Overeem had ended nine straight bouts in the first round before facing Werdum, and during that three-round decision we learned why "The Demolition Man" tries to get out of there as quickly as possible: He gassed out badly. Lesnar showed an amateurish inability to defend himself while under fistic attack in his last two fights. It wasn't that Brock's chin was suspect -- he took a lot of punches and the lights didn't go out -- but he simply didn't have an answer, other than to cover up and cower. If Lesnar can put that flaw behind him Friday night, he'll take the fight into deep waters and we'll get to see whether Overeem has addressed his flawed cardio.
Or we'll see who's fallen farther.