Alistair Overeem has been around the world and back, so much so that he is now making his second lap in facing familiar foes. At UFC 213, he’s completing the trilogy against Fabricio Werdum.
Overeem has reached this point a little later than expected. He opened his UFC career at 2-3 and many were beginning to wonder if “The Demolition Man” had been overhyped prior to entering the Octagon. He found the rhythm he needed in 2014, going on a four fight win-streak that saw him finish fighters like Stefan Struve, Junior dos Santos, and Andrei Arlovski.
The run brought him to a title shot against Stipe Miocic and it was a bout he was heavily favored to win. It was a contrast of styles to be sure, the legendary striker who had dominated competition around the globe against the average Joe who continued to serve as a fireman when not in training. Overeem had success early, dropping the champion and getting a grip on his neck for a guillotine. It was not his night however, as Miocic rallied to stop “The Demolition Man” later in the round.
Overeem bounced back with a victory over Mark Hunt, but it is the situation at heavyweight that has the Dutchman motivated for his bout with Werdum. Miocic recently dispatched dos Santos in May and in a few short months has seemingly cleared out the division. Hunt recently stopped Derrick Lewis, which leaves only surging contender Francis Ngannou as the conceivable new face to challenge for the title. First, “The Predator” has to go through dos Santos in September. Obviously, not an easy task.
That would leave Overeem as the biggest name at the top of the division, and riding a two-fight win-streak with a win at UFC 213. Depending on Miocic’s timetable, Overeem could find himself with another title shot in early fall.
For Overeem, it could be among his last opportunities to get the coveted UFC gold. He’s earned nearly every other accolade in combat sports, except the gold strap currently residing in Cleveland. At 37 years old in the heavyweight division, every setback draws questions of the inevitable decline. Overeem has over 50 fights in mixed martial arts, and 14 in kickboxing. Every outing now becomes a question of whether or not it will be the fight where his chin will fail him or if it is the night that the competition has finally become too fast for him to keep up with.
That night does not look to be this Saturday and Werdum is a puzzle he’s solved before. The Dutchman notched a win over Werdum right after the latter had submitted the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. The fight was criticized for its slow pace. Overeem did not take risks to try and finish Werdum, and the Brazilian stalled action by excessively trying to goad Overeem to go to the mat.
Since then, Werdum has made great strides in his striking but it is Overeem who remains the favorite. Werdum will look to hide his takedown with strikes, but he is a slower and more plodding fighter. Overeem should look to stay disciplined against Werdum and pick his spots on the feet. His best shot to set up will be the uppercut, catching the Brazilian as he has head low when he changes levels for a takedown.
On the mental side, Overeem should be less worried about Werdum having won the first fight as he should be that the Brazilian is also trying to earn his way back to a title shot. The Brazilian is also at risk of falling far out of the title picture with a loss and has plenty of pressure on his career moving forward with this fight. As such Overeem has little margin for error if he is going to take the victory on Saturday.
The heavyweight division has seen plenty of turnover in the last several years and the next wave is closing the gap on the veteran elite. Overeem could still cement his legacy in a short span, but with so much on the line he’ll need to prove that his inevitable decline is still a long way off.