Alistair Overeem has conquered the world of kickboxing and most MMA promotions. He is the last K-1 World Grand Prix champion, the last Dream heavyweight champion, and the last Strikeforce heavyweight champion. Overeem is looking to add to his collection of belts and his first step toward the UFC title starts at UFC 141 tonight in Las Vegas.

In Overeem’s way stands a giant roadblock in the form of Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, a former UFC champion, is looking to make his own way back to the title. After coaching on TUF season 13, he was scheduled to face Junior dos Santos but had to pull out of the fight due to illness. If he can win on Friday night, he will get his fight with dos Santos, but this time it will be for the title.

The bout headlines a card that features several fights that will have title implications. Donald Cerrone will look to win his fifth fight in the UFC this year when he faces the always dangerous Nate Diaz. Also, the consensus No. 2 welterweight Jon Fitch puts his ranking and a potential shot at the interim title on the line when he faces the heavy-handed wrestling ace Johny Hendricks. It all goes down at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and airs live on pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET.

The MMA Corner’s panel of Joe Atkins, Brian McKenna and Richard Wilcoxon look at all five main card contests in this edition of the Round Table.

FW: Nam Phan (17-9) vs. Jim Hettes (9-0)

Atkins: After losing two consecutive fights, Nam Phan got a much-needed victory at UFC 136 when he fought Leonard Garcia for the second time. I think Phan’s striking is some of the best in the division. He doesn’t have one-punch knockout power, but his technique is always sharp and I like how he uses body shots against opponents. Also, he’s a lot better than his record implies.

Jim Hettes is somewhat of a phenom. He’s undefeated and has won all of his fights via submission. What makes him even more interesting is his Judo background, and at just 24 years old, the kid’s no joke.

I like how these two fighters match up. I’d give Phan the edge in striking, although Hettes is no slouch on the feet, and I’d give Hettes the advantage on the ground despite Phan holding a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I’m going to predict Hettes continues his submission streak and catches Phan in a triangle in the second round.

McKenna: I’m on board with Joe in this fight. Personally, I know very little about Hettes due to his youth and only having one fight in the UFC, but the numbers with that kid do not lie. A record of 9-0 with nine submission victories speaks for itself, the kid knows how to grapple. Beyond that, it is one thing to know how to grapple, but it is another to be able to do it within the confines of the sport. It is one thing to have great jiu-jitsu skills, but if you can’t do it effectively with gloves on and without a gi, you’re not going to last long. He proved he could do it at the top levels of the sport too by taking out “Bruce Leeroy” in his inaugural UFC fight.

Even though Phan is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, I have to agree with Joe and give the edge on the ground to Hettes. But also like Joe said, the striking edge is most likely in favor of Phan. Even if they’re somewhat even, Phan has been at this a lot longer than Hettes, which should show in the striking department as far as angles and tempo are concerned. Having fought with Strikeforce and Sengoku on his way to the UFC have produced tougher opponents than smaller shows within Pennsylvania and Maryland, as Hettes has come from.

But when it comes down to it, I am also going to take Hettes by submission. It might take him a little while, but “The Kid” will be able to get the fight to the ground where it won’t take long for him to end it.

Wilcoxon: Phan is quickly becoming known for having exciting fights. However, this is generally related to his willingness to stand and brawl. But don’t let his willingness to brawl make you overlook his skill. He holds high ranks in Karate, Quyen Dao Vietnam and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

As both Brian and Joe pointed out, Hettes has won all nine of his professional fights via submission. He seems to be a prodigy on the ground with both Judo and BJJ. However, he has been boxing for 10 years.

Phan will try to make this a brawl. Hettes will use his boxing to survive on the feet before looking for a throw or takedown. On the ground, Phan is not helpless. In fact, he has never been submitted in his career. I look for that streak to continue, but he will lose by decision.

LHW: Alexander Gustafsson (12-1) vs. Vladimir Matyushenko (26-5)

McKenna: It will be youth versus experience in the second fight of the pay-per-view as Gustafsson will take on Matyushenko. In September of 1997, Vlad “The Janitor” won three fights in the same night, his first three professional MMA fights. When this occurred, Gustafsson was just six years old. Because of that, I think it is fair to give the experience edge to Matyushenko, but that does not mean that his opponent is a cake walk.

“The Mauler” enters the cage with not only an impressive 12-1 MMA record, but he enters with a professional boxing background where he went 8-0. This has clearly translated to his MMA game as eight of his MMA victories have come by knockout. But Matyushenko likes to stand and bang too, as he has a knockout and technical knockout in the two-fight winning streak that he is currently riding.

Alexander Gustafsson (Ryan O'Leary/Sherdog)

What stands out to me the most here is that Matyushenko has only lost to upper echelon fighters in his career. I would not say that Gustafsson is that good of a fighter just yet and because of it, “The Janitor” will grind out a decision. The age factor here will make it a close fight, but Vlad gets the nod on this night.

Wilcoxon: Brian is right. This fight is experience versus youth. It is also a wrestler versus striker fight.

Matyushenko has a ton of experience. He even fought for the UFC light heavyweight title way back at UFC 33. He tends to use a grinding style that has led to 10 decision victories in his career. That leaves Gustafsson as the striker. He has finished eight of his 12 victories via TKO.

Brian also is right that Vlad has only lost to top-level competition, but the same holds true for Gustafsson. However, Vlad also has not beat a high-level opponent in years. Recently, Vlad has been trying to stand and strike more and, in addition, if Vlad loses, it tends to be by knockout. I think that gives one of the most exciting young fighters in the MMA the opening he needs. Gustafsson wins after landing a flush strike in the second round.

Atkins: After being manhandled by Jon Jones, I thought Matyushenko was done. I thought he’d hang ‘em up and wave goodbye to the world of mixed martial arts. I’m glad he didn’t though, because he looked outstanding in his next two fights, especially against Jason Brilz. That fight was fleeting, sure, but in those 20 seconds he showed speed, technique and most of all, improvement. Vladimir Matyushenko still has a lot of fight left in him and won’t be an easy opponent for Alexander Gustafsson.

Gustafsson is a very promising fighter. He might still be in the early stages of his career, but he has been improving at a rapid rate with the help of Phil Davis and the guys at Alliance MMA. At 6-foot-5, he’s one of the taller members of the light heavyweight division, and with a background in boxing, he utilizes his reach well against opponents. Gustafsson’s takedown defense will be put to the test in this fight, but I don’t think Matyushenko will be able to get him down, let alone keep him down.

I see this fight staying primarily on the feet, and like Richard, I think Gustafsson will earn a TKO victory in the second round.

WW: Jon Fitch (23-3-1) vs. Johny Hendricks (11-1)

Wilcoxon: Jon Fitch is the consensus No. 2 welterweight in the world and has been for years. The former Purdue wrestling captain utilizes technically sound striking to supplement his grinding wrestling. He is also a black belt in Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu, which he uses primarily to defend submission attempts.

While Fitch is a monster, this may be his toughest fight since Georges St-Pierre. Johny Hendricks is a collegiate wrestling legend. He is a two-time NCAA Champion and a four-time All-American. In MMA, he has shown heavy hands, winning six of his fights via TKO.

Jon Fitch (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Styles make fights. Fitch struggled when Penn came out and aggressively wrestled him. Hendricks is a more decorated wrestler than Penn and could provide the same type of challenges for Fitch. But Fitch has an additional motivation. If he wins this fight, Dana White will be hard pressed to keep him from facing off with the winner of Diaz/Condit for the interim title. I think that motivation along with the high level of competition Fitch has faced gives him the advantage. Fitch wins this, but Hendricks makes him wait for the judges’ cards to make it official.

Atkins: Can Hendricks stop Fitch from doing what Fitch does best? I don’t think he can. Hendricks does have an estimable wrestling background, and he’s a veritable powerhouse of a man, but I just can’t see him defending every single one of Fitch’s inevitable takedown attempts. Once he’s put on the mat, he won’t be getting back up.

I predict Fitch will employ the same game plan he always does. And why not? It works. It’s ugly, but it’s effective. If he can’t take Hendricks down with conventional single and double legs, he will clinch up and drag him down, that or keep him pinned against the cage. In his fight against Alves, Fitch did impress me with his striking. He threw some good kicks and showed he’s capable of being more than just a grinding wrestler.

If this fight should somehow stay standing, I actually believe Fitch is the better striker. Hendricks will have the power advantage, but Fitch has better technique. But that’s not how I see it going down. I’ll agree with Richard and predict Fitch will take Hendricks down and beat him up for three rounds.

McKenna: It would be difficult to breakdown this fight and not predict an outcome that has Jon Fitch taking this fight by decision, but considering his last nine fights have gone to the judges’ scorecard, I have to give this fight to Fitch by decision. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter is a beast as far as being able to take top position and control the fight. Sure, for the fans it may be boring, but along the lines of what Joe said, don’t fix what isn’t broken. Fitch’s style is like a baseball team just hitting single after single in baseball, it is not too exciting, but it is effective and scores points.

Johny Hendricks is indeed no slouch though, and as mentioned above, he very well could out-wrestle Fitch. On top of all of that, Hendricks has not looked too bad in the striking department, where he recently took a Knockout of the Night honor from TJ Waldburger. The guy is good, but on Friday he won’t come out on top.

LW: Nate Diaz (14-7) vs. Donald Cerrone (17-3)

McKenna: Fireworks are sure to fly from the co-main event fight between Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone. These two fighters both fight angry, and it is clear that they do not like one another. Diaz, the season five winner of The Ultimate Fighter, has been walking a tightrope lately with his UFC career as he was riding a two-fight losing streak when he was headed into his last fight, but put on a dominating performance over Takanori Gomi at UFC 135.

But if you want to talk about dominating performances, you have to talk about Donald Cerrone throughout his short UFC career. Since the WEC merged with the UFC, “Cowboy” has gone 4-0 with two submission victories, a TKO victory and a unanimous decision where he took three rounds from his opponent. Before his time with the UFC, Cerrone was one of the best fighters that the WEC had to offer.

On paper, you might not think that Cerrone likes to stand and trade due to him only having one victory by knockout, but that is far from the truth. “Cowboy” first started fighting kickboxing, where he held a dominating record of 28-0-1. A lot of his 13 submission victories have come from rocking his opponent and pouncing on them to slap on a submission, which is exactly what happened in his last fight against Dennis Siver.

It is in this fashion that I see this fight going, as Cerrone continues his perfect run with the UFC and chokes out Diaz in the second.

Atkins: This is a brilliant fight. I love watching both of these guys go to work in the Octagon, and I don’t know who I’ll be rooting for.

Diaz will be looking to re-establish himself as a legitimate lightweight contender. He’s a mirror-image of his brother, Nick. He uses the same skill-set, boxing and jiu-jitsu, and he even carries himself with the same standoffish attitude. In the past he has struggled against big, strong wrestlers, but I don’t think he will have to worry about wrestling in this fight.

Cerrone will be more than willing to stand and trade with Nate. Cerrone is a good kickboxer, and he uses his long limbs well in the Octagon. Something he does better than Nate is kick. His leg kicks are brutal. He’s also slick on the ground, not good enough to submit Nate, but perhaps good enough to avoid being submitted.

This is a likely candidate for Fight of the Night. I think both men will meet in the middle of the Octagon, Nate will talk some shit, and fireworks will ensue. After three rounds of back-and-forth entertainment, I see Nate Diaz walking away with a decision victory.

Wilcoxon: It looks like I get to be the tie breaker on this one. I agree with both Brian and Joe that this should be an entertaining fight. Both guys possess entertaining styles and rarely fail to please the audience. Both guys’ weakness is wrestling, but both guys are good strikers and good on the ground. Cerrone is probably a better striker, while Diaz is more proficient in grappling.

While I think this fight will be entertaining, I really don’t think it will be that close. Gray Maynard outstruck Nate Diaz and Maynard is nowhere near the level of striker Donald Cerrone is. I don’t believe Diaz has the wrestling to get this to the ground and I doubt Cerrone would be foolish enough to help Diaz out. I look for Cerrone to take a few solid shots from Diaz, but really overwhelm him standing on his way to a unanimous decision.

HW: Brock Lesnar (5-2) vs. Alistair Overeem (35-11)

Atkins: I’ve been anticipating Alistair Overeem’s UFC debut for a long time now. Admittedly, I’ve been one of his most emphatic supporters on MMA forums, so apologies in advance if my analysis and prediction of this fight is a little biased.

Overeem is the best kickboxer in mixed martial arts. There’s no doubt about it, in pure striking matches he has defeated some of the top fighters in the world, including K-1 bad-boy, Badr Hari and Golden Glory stablemate, Gokhan Saki. However, I don’t believe he’s shown the best of his striking in MMA.

Unfortunately for Overeem, I don’t think Brock’s going to want to stand and trade. Lesnar is going to be utilizing his wrestling to the utmost degree in this fight. I predict he will shoot for a double-leg in the first thirty seconds of round one. I think he will be able to get Overeem down, too, but despite his massive advantage in wrestling, I don’t believe he will be able to keep him down.

I see this fight ending when Alistair Overeem and Brock Lesnar engage in the clinch. Overeem will strap on the Muay Thai plum and go to work with knees to the body and head.

Wilcoxon: This may be the biggest non-title heavyweight fight ever in the UFC, both literally and figuratively. Both of these guys are huge and will be pushing 260 pounds. This fight will mark the return to action of Brock Lesnar, who has proven to be the biggest pay-per-view draw in UFC history. Overeem may not be a huge draw in the US, but he is a proven commodity, winning both kickboxing and MMA titles around the world.

Lesnar is a pretty proven commodity at this point. The former NCAA wrestling champion mixes impressive speed and athleticism with his power, size, and wrestling skills. Lesnar will be looking to get this fight to the ground where he can work some vicious ground-and-pound.

Overeem enters this fight with equally impressive physique. He is a kickboxer and will look to keep this fight standing. He also possess a deadly guillotine choke.

Both fighters have something to prove in this bout. Overeem has headlined events around the world, but this is his first time inside the Octagon. Will he suffer from Octagon jitters and can he measure up to the elite in the UFC? Lesnar hasn’t looked good against big punchers in the past. How can he overcome maybe the most feared heavyweight striker in MMA?

There is one major point I keep coming back to in my mind. While Overeem has more experience, has he faced the quality of fighters Lesnar has? He just beat Fabricio Werdum by decision, but I just don’t see Werdum really being a threat to the title. Before that you have to go all the way back to 2006 to find a top-10 name on his record. Lesnar has fought the best each and every fight. Based on the competition faced recently, I am taking Lesnar to ground Overeem and beat him up on the ground until he finishes it in the third.

McKenna: There is always a special feeling in the air any time that Brock Lesnar is on a UFC card. Athletically, the guy is an absolute monster. People that are his size and weight are not supposed to be able to move as gracefully and quickly as he does, which is why the guy is so special. Then when you add in his boatloads of charisma, which he gets from his days with the WWE, along with the fact that he is fighting one of the biggest international fighters on the planet, and you have a huge pay-per-view draw. The question coming into this fight though is what Richard brought up: How will Lesnar do against one of the top strikers in the heavyweight division when he has not done well against strikers in the past?

My fellow panelists laid these two fighters abilities out wonderfully, so at this point I’ll dive straight into my analysis of the fight. If Lesnar tries to stand and trade with Overeem, the fight will go the way of “The Demolition Man’s” fight with Todd Duffee: Short and sweet with a quick knockout. But I’m sure that Lesnar and his camp are not stupid and realize that he won’t be able to stand and trade. The way that the former UFC champion can win this fight is if he comes out and does exactly what Chael Sonnen did to Anderson Silva and press the action to him. If Brock is able to immediately close the distance and take Overeem down and keep him down, he will come out on top. But if the Pride veteran can defend the takedown and keep it standing, Lesnar stands no chance.

The thing is, Lesnar will be able to take him down and keep him down. The way that Cain Velasquez got off of his back against Lesnar will not happen again, he won’t let it. Overeem is a huge guy, but I don’t know if he has ever gone up against a guy that is as big and strong as Lesnar, which will make it extremely difficult for him to get off of his back. That will tire Overeem out and wear him down and Brock will capitalize with a second-round ground-and-pound TKO victory.

Top Photo: Alistair Overeem (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

About The Author

Richard Wilcoxon
Staff Writer

An East Coast native, Richard Wilcoxon grew up a die hard fan of traditional team sports. In the early 1990's, he stumbled onto the sport of MMA and has been hooked ever since. He started writing about the sport on his Sporting News member blog in 2005 where he worked to spread his passion for the sport. He eventually became an official staff writer for Sporting News' "The Rumble" MMA/boxing blog before joining The MMA Corner.