Alistair Overeem faces Brock Lesnar this Friday night in the main event of UFC 141 in what many are calling a battle of striker vs. wrestler. It's easy to understand given Overeem's success in kickboxing, having won the K-1 World Grand Prix, and Lesnar's phenomenal success as an amateur wrestler in college.
But, in his latest blog post at Yahoo! Sports, Overeem says that the bout is much more complicated than that:
While he doesn't have world-class technique, Mr. Lesnar is a big man who can punch, and I have trained to avoid Lesnar's strikes like I would any opponent. I will never give an opponent a chance he cannot create for himself by not preparing for any situation. It is not only about respecting Mr. Lesnar, but also respecting myself and the sport.
I'm an all-around fighter. I do everything. I've got wrestling, I've got submissions and I've got striking. Of course, I like to knock people out - and that is the plan Friday - and my striking is something that I focused on because I wanted to be the first MMA champion to also win the K-1 kickboxing Grand Prix, which I did a year ago. Obviously my strikes were my best weapons even before K-1, but they got a lot better because of the K-1 competition.
Right now, I don't feel anyone in the division can strike with me, but this is MMA and I have prepared very hard for any eventuality.
There's a chance I could use a submission. This fight isn't just a case of my strikes against his wrestling, I have won big fights with submissions, and while I think every fighter prefers to win by KO, at this level you take any chance to win.
While there is an obvious need for Overeem to not get hit clean by a big Lesnar punch, this is still a bout which is likely to be decided entirely by where it is fought. On the feet, Lesnar can not win the fight other than through a single knockout blow while Lesnar on top on the ground is a nightmare for Overeem. Alistair does have a decent submission game, but it's hard to see him getting a guillotine on Lesnar or being able to lock in a kimura (especially as fatigue sets in). If Lesnar gets on top and can sit in half guard and pound away, it's going to mean a lot of trouble for Overeem.
While no MMA bout is entirely as simple as "takedown wins it" or "defend one takedown and you win" this is very, very much a case of wrestler vs. striker.