Alistair Overeem stands over Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. Photo by Esther Lin/Forza LLC/Forza LLC via Getty Images
My friend turned to me after the final bell and said, "This is going to be close." I felt confident the judges would award last night's Strikeforce main event to Alistair Overeem, though I also expected the numbers to show Werdum with the advantage in volume striking. Werdum was hurt by his flopping and butt-scooting, not only because it's a passive action that looks bad in judges' eyes, but many of his flops coincided with Overeem punches, garnering a similar reaction as NBA and soccer players diving for fouls, only in reverse.
So, it did not shock me when Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced Alistair Overeem the winner of a unanimous decision, though I was surprised two judges scored every round for the Dutchman.
FightMetric, however, tells a different story:
- The effectiveness scores play out for Werdum 204-174, and the extrapolated ten-point must scoring also favors Werdum 29-28.
- As expected, the punching volume favors Werdum as well. He outlanded Overeem in every category, with the exception of body shots: 62-46 total strikes, 43-32 significant strikes, 51-31 head strikes.
- Overeem dominated the grappling by shutting Werdum down. Werdum went 1-12 in his takedowns, with Overeem standing up out of guard whenever Werdum successfully pulled the fight to the floor. FightMetric does credit Werdum for his kneebar attempt at the end of the fight.
- Related, FightMetric notes "Overeem is not credited with successful takedowns because a takedown requires that the attempting fighter establish a ground-based advantageous position."
- While all three rounds are contentious, the third was the closest round of the fight. The significant strike disparity is thin, 14-10 in Werdum's favor, but he did outland Overeem 24-16 overall. On the grappling side, Overeem fended off both of Werdum's takedowns, and, as noted, FightMetric credited Werdum for his kneebar attempt as time expired.
I scored the fight 29-28 myself, giving Werdum the first round. As Brent Brookhouse noted today, and as I've long argued, you can't look at fight stats and decide the winner. You have to take context into account.
Now, I'm not saying Overeem unequivocally won last night. There's a strong case that can be made in Werdum's favor. (There's also a strong case for a draw.) In a vacuum, without any personal attachment to either fighter, maybe I score it in Werdum's favor as well.
[Update] I spoke with Rami Genauer of FightMetric, and asked him for his thoughts on the bout:
The Overeem fight was weird if you consider the Unified Rules. I think striking was a wash because Werdum clearly landed more, but Overeem landed better. Grappling was a wash because Werdum didn't really do anything effective and neither did Overeem. I think you could make the case for aggression for either fighter or neither fighter. Flopping to your back isn't aggression, but you could make the case that pulling guard is if you can threaten off your back. And "cage control" doesn't really favor either guy. I think the only round I'm confident in is Round 2 going to Overeem, so that makes me lean toward him. But using the ten point must system, I think you could easily make the case for either fighter or a draw. Consider this a good piece of evidence for those that favor more five round fights, despite how gassed both guys looked.
The system picking Werdum is not surprising because it doesn't deal with aggression and doesn't care how many times you miss takedowns and flop to your back. Werdum landed more; that's a fact and not controversial to anyone watching both fighters. So the quantitative evidence is clear. That a qualitative assessment by most people would lead you to believe (as I do) that Overeem landed better is a good reason why judging is a qualitative art and not a quantitative science.