Few kickboxing rivalries have been as heated over the course of just two fights as that between Dutch mixed martial artist, Alistair Overeem and Moroccan kickboxing phenomenon, Badr Hari. What began as a classic Japanese New Years Eve freak show match became one of K-1's greatest storylines when Overeem pulled off the upset and knocked out the over-aggressive and cocky Hari in the first round. Alistair Overeem suddenly became public enemy number one in the kickboxing world, as can be attested to by the ludicrously biased commentary during their rematch in 2009, and it was up to Badr Hari to stop Overeem as the Dutchman went on a tear defeating Peter Aerts and Ewerton Teixeira in convincing fashion.
Here is a highlight of the entire rivalry by StillWill, possibly the best highlight maker out there, which should give you a sense of the drama throughout 2008 and 2009 in K-1.
The first meeting between Hari and Overeem took place on New Years Eve 2008 at K-1 Dynamite!! and served as the classic freak show match that is expected at a Japanese New Years Eve event. Typically these are fights which are put together on fairly short notice and while they are intended to act as an exhibition of the favourite's skills, they can backfire as often as they go to plan because they actively encourage complacency and overconfidence on the part of the favourite. The most recent notable example is Gegard Mousasi's one sided victory over K-1 Heavyweight Champion, Kyotaro. Kyotaro has not fought in kickboxing since and a year to the day after his defeat by Mousasi he made his professional boxing debut.
Clearly New Years Eve is the night when anything can happen in combat sports and Alistair Overeem found a way to not only beat Badr Hari, but to stop the kickboxing genius in the first round. Let's take a look at how Overeem was able to finish Hari.
The story of this first bout was Alistair Overeem's up-jab and Cheat Punch. The up jab or uppercut jab is a jab which is thrown with the palm up as one would throw an uppercut, but that drives straight toward the opponent on a slightly upward trajectory. This is a common feature of Overeem's game and was also used very successfully by Ricky Hatton during his pro career. The advantage of this punch is that it is very hard to parry as one would a traditional jab, and Hari's high forearms guard which keeps him safe against the majority of strikers, was almost tailor made for Overeem's up jab.
1. Overeem leads with his up jab. Notice how his elbow is pointed down as his punch comes upward between Hari's arms.
2. Overeem follows with a right straight.
3. Overeem pauses as Hari covers and moves his head.
4. As Hari comes up to punch Overeem unleashes a second up jab, snapping Hari's head back.
Alistair Overeem's use of the up jab is often coupled with a switch of stance which I refer to as a "cheat punch". A cheat punch is so called because it is a jab, but combined with a step it becomes a rear hand punch. This strategy was often used by Fedor Emelianenko and is a staple of Mauricio Rua's offense as well, and I wrote about Alistair's use of it against Peter Aerts at some length here. To cut to the chase, here is an excerpt:
1. Overeem throws his left up jab, but steps his right foot forward, outside of Hari's lead leg.
2. Overeem catches behind Hari's head with his right hand and brings the left knee up to meet Hari's face.
3. As Overeem releases Hari's head and drops his left foot back to the canvas he swings out a left hook on the same side - catching Hari as he stands up.
Hari managed to get up before the ten count but was clearly wobbling. He squared up with Overeem and attempted to throw a wild left hook, but Overeem countered with his own as Hari stood up. Notice that Hari's right hand drops while Overeem's remains high. Both men are hit but Hari's punch is forced to go through Overeem's glove and forearm.
Hari has always been easiest to catch when he is getting wild, as he is wont to do when he is looking for a finish. Hurting Hari simply makes him more aggressive and this ultimately became his undoing in this bout. Hari's wildly telegraphed left hook, dropping his right hand and standing bolt upright against an opponent who had only shown left hands for most of the fight, spelled the end of his night.
Overeem had proven that he could hang with a world class kickboxer through a combination of power and strategy, and Hari had egg on his face. Of course the rematch was an entirely different story which hinged around how Hari countered Overeem's left hand (a clue is in Hari's comeback victory over Ruslan Karaev). Tomorrow we will look at the rematch, don't forget to bookmark my SB Nation blog to stay up to date!