How remarkable is Alistair Overeem’s physique? The former 205 pound fighter -- who has ballooned to in excess of 250 pounds while competing in the freewheeling fight culture of Japan -- is so awesomely proportioned that most of this week’s dialogue revolves around whether or not his urine sample cup should be stainless steel. Handicapping his fight with Brett Rogers has become an afterthought.
That kind of extracurricular drama is shared by the other major show of the weekend: in employing professional boxer Ricardo Mayorga, the Florida-based Shine Fights promotion has invited the wrath of Don King Productions, which has filed an injunction claiming sole ownership of Mayorga’s athletic career. Against Din Thomas, a mixed-fight veteran who should manipulate his arms and legs in new and interesting directions, he’d better hope King gets it.
What: Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery, a 12-bout card from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo., (10 p.m. ET, Showtime); Shine Fights: Mayorga vs. Thomas, an eight-bout card from the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, N.C., (9 p.m. ET, pay per view).
Why You Should Care: Because for all his controversies, Overeem is a man who combines K-1 level striking with Brock Lesnar’s horsepower; because Andrei Arlovski with head movement is going to be a scary prospect for anyone in the heavyweight division; because light-heavyweight Roger Gracie is good enough on the mat to give anyone in his division problems -- if he can drag them there; and because Mayorga’s rejection of his reputation in boxing to take a huge risk in MMA has to be appreciated.
Fight of the Weekend: Strikeforce’s Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza vs. Joey Villasenor, which will probably be a longer struggle than the Overeem/Brett Rogers tree-chopping contest; Shine’s Luiz Azeredo and Charles Bennett picking up where Bennett and Chute Boxe left off in a backstage brawl in Japan years ago.
Hype Quote of the Weekend: “Your family needs to get dressed in black…I’ll be the man and you’ll be the woman…you have the hands of a little girl and I have the hands of a man.” -- Mayorga, respectfully handicapping his fight with Thomas during an April press conference.
Is Mayorga just picking up a check?
At 1993’s UFC 1, ranked boxer Art Jimmerson accepted a five-figure offer to get into a vaguely-worded no-rules fight with Royce Gracie. Considering that Jimmerson panicked and tapped at the first inkling of trouble, it was clear that he was more interested in money than bragging rights.
Seventeen years later, ranked boxer Mayorga is accepting what has to be a semi-decent monetary offer to face Din Thomas. Considering that Mayorga has no ground training of any note and likely no defense for when Thomas clinches with him, he may choose to find a quick exit from the cage if things don’t go his way. (Unless Thomas shows up sedated, they won’t.)
Is Overeem as formidable as believed?
Overeem’s inflated presence and a largely successful stint in K-1 have made him a much-discussed threat for Fedor Emelianenko. But he has yet to go past the first round in any of his MMA fights since 2007. Controlling a 250-pound body in kickboxing is one thing, but tolerating the acidic build-up when you’re grappling/clinching/defending takedowns is another. Rogers may find is best ally is round two.
Is Arlovski mentally recovered?
Arlovski suffered back-to-back KOs in 2009, once to Fedor Emelianenko and another to Rogers. Heavyweights like to hit and hit hard, so suffering losses is nothing unusual -- but the constant talk over Arlovski’s “glass chin” may make him a little more reluctant to take chances. The only thing worse than two consecutive knockout losses? Three.
Is Gracie dedicated to MMA?
After an impressive debut against a house-sized Ron Waterman in 2006, Gracie -- one of the few heavyweights in the family -- slid back into teaching, training, and grappling. Like Rickson and Ralek, he’s presented himself as more a dabbler in the sport than a full-on circuit fighter. That’s obviously his prerogative, but sporadic appearances against threatening competition don’t usually end well. Against Kevin Randleman, he has a clear submission advantage but will have to get through Randleman’s bursts of striking and wrestling defense to make any use of it. While inconsistent, Randleman may still wind up educating Roger that MMA is not good hobby material.
From the beginning, only one fight has really mattered for Fedor in Strikeforce: Overeem, the hulked-out kickboxer who’s gotten as much press for alleged steroid use as for his actual results.
Through business paralysis too unfortunate to go into, Emelianenko fights Fabricio Werdum in June while Overeem fights Rogers on Saturday. If the idea is to build anticipation for their meeting, it’s a foundation made of Jell-O: Rogers is a well-conditioned and heavy-hitting brawler who can put Overeem at serious risk, particularly if the fight goes past the five-minute mark. (Overeem would need an oxygen tank to power his 240-250 pounds of mass.)
It’s Rogers who has fought the stiffer competition in MMA in recent memory, including Emelianenko. It’s also Rogers who is under no scrutiny for any pharmaceutical help. Until Overeem is subject to a random test like the one installed in Nevada, his results -- including any possible advantage over Rogers -- will continue to be debated.
What It Means: For Overeem, an opportunity to wrap up a date with Emelianenko; for Rogers, completely suffocating Strikeforce’s biggest shot at big ratings.
Wild Card: Overeem’s celebrated run in K-1: while it has some application to what he can do in MMA, there is significant difference in being able to open up with strikes when you can parry with bigger gloves and not have to worry about someone scooping out your legs.
Who Wins: Rogers is tough, but limited. If Overeem can avoid sucking wind, he’ll either knee Rogers into a diaphragm spasm or sew him up on the ground. Overeem by TKO.