Alistair Overeem is 8-1 over his last nine appearances. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
HeavyweightsAlistair Overeem (36-12, 1-1 UFC) vs. Travis Browne (14-1-1, 5-1-1 UFC)
The Matchup: What do these two have in common, besides being much larger than the average member of the general population? Both have extremely disappointing losses to Antonio Silva in their not-so-distant pasts, albeit for entirely different reasons.
After a couple minutes spent looking the part of the quicker, better athlete against “Bigfoot” at UFC on FX 5, Browne tore his hamstring throwing a kick and was subsequently bludgeoned by the massive Brazilian in the first round. A loss like that is easily explained, as Silva is more than capable of laying waste to a relatively stationary target. “Hapa” has since rebounded, scoring a first-round TKO victory against Gabriel Gonzaga at “The Ultimate Fighter 17” Finale in April.
Overeem’s loss to the former heavyweight No. 1 contender was a bit more disconcerting. After controlling round one with knees in the clinch and round two with top control, Overeem left himself open to a barrage from Silva in the third. It led to an embarrassing loss that appeared to result from the Dutchman’s arrogance more than anything else. That, coupled with the constant cloud of suspicion stemming from Overeem’s past licensing issues, makes this feel like something of a must-win for the former Strikeforce and Dream champion, even though he is coming off his first defeat since 2007.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to gain much knowledge about Browne’s progression from either of his last two bouts -- the Silva loss because of the injury and the Gonzaga victory because of its abbreviated nature, not to mention that Gonzaga claims the majority of the elbows Browne used to win the fight were illegal. Overeem remains the far more experienced fighter, while the 31-year-old Browne, who began MMA in earnest at 25, could very much be described as a work in progress. Such accelerated growth, however, also suggests that the Hawaiian is a quick learner, blessed with athletic gifts that allow him to make marked improvements with each fight.
While Browne, a former college basketball player, might have slight advantages in quickness and overall athleticism, Overeem is by far the more technical striker. The Blackzilians representative has a diverse repertoire of attacks from which to work, and he lands nearly everything with a power that is rarely seen, even among the giants at heavyweight. In addition to being able to attack at different levels and angles, Overeem owns brutal knees in the clinch, an underrated submission game and powerful ground -and-pound. Browne, while capable of flashy strikes such as flying knees and the Superman punch, is not on Overeem’s level when it comes to pure technique.
Browne’s best bet would be to try and take down Overeem; the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product is a solid grappler, and Overeem, for all his dominance on top, struggles to defend and get up from his back. Sheer physical strength and good timing on takedown defense often allow the “Demolition Man” to avoid this predicament.
The Pick: Huge gains from one fight to the next remain a possibility for Browne, who has already honed his footwork and movement training at Jackson’s MMA in New Mexico. However, assuming he sticks to a smart game plan and is in the right frame of mind, Overeem still has more tools. The Dutchman wins via TKO in round two.
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