The paths of two of MMA’s most accomplished heavyweight will soon converge.
Former Dream and Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem will meet onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder Andrei Arlovski in the UFC Fight Night 87 main event on Sunday at Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the co-headliner, Antonio Silva squares off with Stefan Struve in a battle between two struggling big men. Scattered across the rest of the lineup are a few gems, including a welterweight showdown pitting Albert Tumenov against Gunnar Nelson and a light heavyweight clash pairing Nikita Krylov with Francimar Barroso.
Let us take a closer look at each UFC Fight Night “Overeem vs. Arlovski” matchup, with analysis and picks:
HeavyweightsAlistair Overeem (40-14) vs. Andrei Arlovski (25-11)
THE MATCHUP: At 36 and 37 years of age, respectively, Overeem and Arlovski have been around long enough to know for certain what works best for them. They have finished plenty of opponents -- 36 for Overeem, 20 for Arlovski -- and been finished plenty of times in return -- 11 for Overeem, eight for Arlovski. On the surface, those numbers suggest either man could finish this fight at any given moment, and that is true; however, they also give a sense of the wealth of valuable, if not always pleasant, experience at each fighter’s disposal.
How they have implemented that experience, however, is where these men differ. Arlovski is something of a minimalist nowadays. Aside from the backfist he employed against Travis Browne, Arlovski’s arsenal has not seen many major additions in some time. On the contrary, he has taken an already simple toolkit and pared it down. Arlovski, always a one-handed puncher, is now more reliant on his right hand than ever. He jabs less frequently and rarely follows his right with a left, except to measure for another right. This simplification has been accompanied by a clever change of style, however. Still one of the fastest heavyweights on the roster despite his age, Arlovski is less aggressive than before and contents himself with blocking and countering whenever possible.
Overeem, on the other hand, has grown more eclectic with age and practice. Once a bog-standard Dutch kickboxer, Overeem has eschewed the traditional Euro style and the coaches that teach it. In 2014, Overeem made the switch from Henri Hooft’s Blackzilians camp to Jackson-Wink MMA; and though the results have not all been good -- a first-round knockout loss to Ben Rothwell stands as a conspicuous reminder of Overeem’s fragility -- the change of camp has coincided with Overeem’s own change of style. Now “The Reem” is less of a bully than ever before or at least has learned to mitigate his bullying tendencies. Rather than rushing his opponents out of the gate and exhausting himself in the process, the new Overeem prefers to strike from range, picking his spots and allowing him to feel in control of the fight without putting himself at undue risk or relying on a quick finish.
That flexibility and variety makes this fight a little more predictable than a coin flip. Arlovski is quick and powerful, but technically, he is a limited fighter. His straight lunges and linear retreats make him predictable and often put him in the clinch, which is still a phase that favors Overeem. Then there is Overeem’s wrestling. Arlovski’s takedown defense has gotten worlds better in recent years, but he is more or less a sprawl-and-brawler. Overeem, on the other hand, is an excellent grappler who knows how to blend offensive wrestling into his kickboxing game.
THE ODDS: Overeem (-220), Arlovski (+185)
THE PICK: With two quick punchers known for their fragile jaws, this fight is not at all easy to pick. When looking for tactical advantages, however, Overeem is the better, more complete fighter. Not only is he quicker than the breed of heavyweights on which Arlovski usually feeds, but he moves intelligently, mixes up his strikes and presses his advantages whenever and wherever he finds them. If Arlovski lands a counter right and puts away Overeem, no one should be surprised, but the most likely result is a fourth-straight win for “The Reem.” The pick is Overeem by second-round TKO.
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