Alistair Overeem has not lost since September 2007. | Photo: Taro Irei/Sherdog.com
Alistair Overeem (36-11, 1-0 UFC) vs. Antonio Silva (17-4, 1-1 UFC)
The Matchup: A major hurdle was cleared at the beginning of January, when the Nevada Athletic Commission announced it had granted Overeem a fight license. Considering the licensing difficulties the Dutchman had prior to his bout with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 and the nine-month suspension he received for failing a pre-fight drug screen prior to UFC 146, this is no small victory.
With his imposing physique and knockout power, Overeem is clearly the guy the UFC would like to eventually challenge reigning champion Cain Velasquez. However, “The Demolition Man” had been out of action for too long to warrant an immediate title shot.
Overeem was the destructive force he was advertised to be in his first Octagon appearance, battering Lesnar with knees to the gut before finishing the bout with a devastating kick to the liver. Overeem easily defended Lesnar’s only takedown attempt and showed total disdain for his opponent’s striking as he imposed his will in the clinch. As impressive as the victory was, one has to wonder how much Lesnar truly had left after multiple battles with diverticulitis.
Meanwhile, Silva showed just how dangerous he can be when presented with an immobile target. After Travis Browne tore his hamstring attempting a kick at UFC on FX 5, “Bigfoot” wasted little time in pouncing on his injured foe, buckling him with a big right hand against the fence before finishing the fight with strikes on the ground. The victory had to come as a relief for Silva, who had suffered lopsided losses at the hands of Velasquez and Daniel Cormier in his previous two outings.
The Brazilian will face a familiar problem against Overeem, as he will struggle to close the distance against a quicker, more skilled opponent. While Overeem is not likely to suddenly change levels for a takedown as Velasquez did, he has a diverse set of tools with which to work on the feet -- and many of them are capable of ending a fight at a moment’s notice.
Silva is accustomed to having a significant size advantage come fight night, but even that will not be as pronounced as it usually is against the massive Overeem. “Bigfoot” will want to pressure Overeem, landing strikes so he can close the gap and force his foe against the fence. Doing so will require Silva to wade through heavy fire, however, and Overeem will be able to test the Brazilian’s suspect chin before he can drag the bout into his comfort zone.
In addition to his ability to land kicks, knees and various combos when upright, Overeem usually has a good sense of timing when it comes to defending takedowns. Silva will not want to labor too long in the clinch, as he risks eating the same powerful knees that eventually felled Lesnar.
The Pick: If Silva can avoid the knockout and test Overeem’s gas tank with his heavy top game, this fight could become interesting in rounds two and three. Getting there will prove to be too difficult of a task for Silva, as Overeem connects when the Brazilian attempts to press the action, winning by knockout or technical knockout in round one.
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