The final fight of the evening is one of the most anticipated battles in recent memory for many fans. Current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (32-11-0; 1 NC, 2-0 SF) will bring his massive physique and K-1 level striking back to the United States to finally defend his belt as he takes on Fedor Emelianenko's last opponent Brett Rogers (10-1, 2-1 SF) in a heavyweight title showdown. As mentioned before, Rogers battled Fedor in his most recent bout, losing to Emelianenko in the second round via a brutal knockout punch. Overeem has been fairly busy as he's dispatched of mostly over-the-hill veterans or under-skilled opponents within the last year in MMA, and he participated in the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2009 with surprising results.
The biggest question in this fight is whether or not Alistair Overeem can overcome his past faults. One of the most talked about attributes has been his conditioning level, and while he's bulked up considerably since his decision to fight solely at heavyweight -- there is still a concern about whether he can work into the late rounds of a fight. His early days in MMA at light heavyweight were marred by negative results due to his level of conditioning.
Obviously, carrying around a massive amount of muscle and fueling those muscles for three or five rounds of action is a significant task for any athlete, but we won't truly know if his past problems were a result of cutting down in weight until we see Overeem pushed to his limit in the cage.
For Rogers, Overeem's size and power are going to be his main concern. The transformation of Overeem's physique has created a very dangerous striker with the ability to not only throw with immense power, but absolutely devastate and dominate opponents in the clinch. His K-1 stints have been impressive, and it's tough not to see how Overeem could end this battle with one knee to Roger's cranium.
As with most heavyweights, knockout power isn't tough to produce when your physical size is as immense as that of both Overeem and Rogers. Rogers has the capabilities to smoke Overeem with a heavy dose of straight punches and overhands, but Overeem's defense has improved with his size. His massive forearms act as a deep trench hiding his chin from the incoming artillery fire, but he isn't invincible to the "headache maker", as Michael Schiavello would say.
In my mind, Rogers needs to use his strength to put Overeem on his back as quickly as possible. While I think Rogers has a shot at putting leather on Overeem's chin, instigating a ground battle in which he can reign punches down from the top is not only a more effective route to winning, but it will answer questions as to whether Overeem can still work on the ground. It'll also work as a catalyst to wearing down Overeem.
Any heavyweight has a chance to land a downing blow, and in reality -- I think this is really the only way Rogers can win here. People tend to forget that Overeem was a decent ground fighter, and from top control with his massive strength these days -- he'd be nearly unstoppable in pulling off a keylock or kimura. Ultimately, I think Rogers will have significant problems dealing with Overeem's resistance to his attempts, and it'll wear him out a bit.
Unless Overeem tires rather quickly, I think he'll prove that he's one of the top guys out there in this fight. Right now, he's battled sub-par competition in comparison to what his skills have shown in recent times. He's just destroyed guys, and this will be the fight that either cements him as a guy who just can't compete with top talent or finally vault him into the top ten and make a legitimate case for him being dangerous to the mighty Fedor. I'm going with the latter. Overeem via KO, Round 1.