The poster for UFC 141 may as well have been the VHS cover of a 90s action movie.
On one side, Brock Lesnar’s square head, monstrous physique and the words “Six foot three, 265 lbs.” On the other, Alistair Overeem, one of the only men in MMA who could make Lesnar’s muscles seem unimpressive and the words “Six foot five, 256 lbs.”
The bout on December 30, 2011 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas represented the wildest dreams of what heavyweight fighting could be.
These two giants would be locked in a cage. And then Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) would test his wrestling game against the dangerous strikes of Overeem (44-17 MMA, 9-6 UFC).
Overeem was making his UFC debut after amassing a 35-11 record on secondary stages such as PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan, and Strikeforce in the U.S.
After moving from the 205-pound light heavyweight division to heavyweight, Overeem became jacked to the gills. He began running through opponents en route to becoming the hottest non-UFC heavyweight in the world.
He would bring an 11-fight winning streak to the Octagon for his debut against Lesnar, the former college national champion wrestler and WWE superstar.
Lesnar was one fight and 14 months removed from losing the UFC heavyweight championship to Cain Velasquez. In addition to running into a buzzsaw in Velasquez, Lesnar had been sidelined for a second time with severe complications from diverticulitis. The intestinal disorder forced Lesnar out of his scheduled UFC 131 bout with Junior dos Santos.
“They removed about 12 inches of his colon, repaired it, he feels great,” UFC President Dana White said in May 2011. “He said he’s a little sore, but the operation was a huge success.”
Lesnar’s recovery, and the signing of Overeem, matched up perfectly. It resulted in the bout which Overeem took, rather than sit on the sidelines for six months, and receiving an automatic shot at the heavyweight championship.
Overeem’s decision to throw down with Lesnar may have been helped by how he felt their respective styles matched.
“His weaknesses are my strengths,” Overeem said ahead of the bout. “Brock doesn’t like to get hit and that’s exactly what I’m going to do to him. I’m going to hit him, and I’m going to hit him as hard as I can. And I’m pretty good at it. If you think Cain Velasquez hits hard, wait until you see what I’m going to do. I’m going to beat Brock up, it’s going to take me no more than two rounds to do that.”
The idea that Lesnar doesn’t like getting hit, in many ways, seemed unfair. He’d been in with heavy hitters but had only fallen to Velasquez (and Frank Mir by sudden submission in his UFC debut) while he’d weathered a big storm from Shane Carwin two fights prior. Not to mention, who likes getting hit?
Lesnar was asked about this during the pre-fight press conference.
“I’ve just been working on trying to become the best heavyweight fighter I can possibly be,” Lesnar said. “Obviously, I’ve been through a lot of things in the last couple of years. I’ve been focused on my stand-up game. Everybody knows I’m a wrestler. I really don’t know anybody that enjoys getting hit in the face.
“It’s not that I don’t enjoy getting hit, it’s just that we’ve worked on things to try to overcome my defects.
When the two men actually stepped into the Octagon, Lesnar’s striking defects may have been worked on, but he couldn’t catch up to a world class kickboxer.
Lesnar was working to figure out range with kicks to the legs and a pawing jab in the opening moments of the bout and even managed to open a cut on the eyebrow of Overeem.
Overeem figured out Lesnar’s soft spot was his body as he landed a series of knees that sent Lesnar reeling. Another knee to the body forced Lesnar to cover up and eat punches to his head while he attempted to recover.
From that point, Overeem didn’t let off the gas. He targeted the body of the former WWE champion and landing a massive body kick that left Lesnar defenseless against the cage. Overeem fired away with punches until the referee awarded him the TKO victory at 2:26 of the first round.
It’d taken Overeem less than half of a round to not only defeat Lesnar, but send him into retirement.
“I’ve had a really difficult couple years with my disease,” Lesnar said in the cage following his loss. “And I’m officially going to say this is the last time you’ll see me in the Octagon.”
He’d later liken the Overeem kick to “being kicked by a horse.”
Lesnar would eventually return to the Octagon in July 2016. He scored a dominant decision win over Mark Hunt which was eventually overturned to a “no contest” after a failed drug test. Rumors are currently swirling he’ll return for a 2019 bout with UFC champ Daniel Cormier.
As for Overeem, he has 15 UFC fights under his belt and will square off with Aleksei Oleinik (57-11-1 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the UFC on ESPN+ 7 main event Saturday at Yubileyniy Arena in St. Petersburg.
He will be looking for his second consecutive win as he attempts to battle his way back to a shot at the championship. He lost in his only title bid when knocked out by Stipe Miocic at UFC 203.
You can relive the full fight between Lesnar and Overeem here: