A heavyweight collision that cumulatively entails 12 feet, 9 inches of height, 13-and-a-half feet of reach and 510 pounds will occur this Saturday night, as Alistair Overeem meets Antonio Silva in main-card action at UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar. Featherweight champion Jose Aldo defends the strap against former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar in the headliner.
2010 was a pretty good year for 32-year-old Dutch striking whiz Alistair Overeem (36-11). He made history as the first MMA fighter to win the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix kickboxing championship while simultaneously holding a title in a major MMA promotion. Actually, not only did Overeem defend the Strikeforce heavyweight championship by slaughtering Brett Rogers, legitimizing the accolade after more than a 2-year hiatus, but he also became DREAM's inaugural heavyweight champion when he blitzed UFC competitor Todd Duffee -- and both title fights were sealed by devastating 1st-round TKOs.
On the heels of Overeem's loss to Sergei Kharitonov in 2007, "The Demolition Man" has rattled off a frightening 12-fight cyclone of sheer, unadulterated violence. In this sequence, Overeem notched 6 finishes via strikes and 4 by submission while tidying up 9 contests in the opening stanza. The only non-electric bouts in that stretch were a scrotum-shredding No Contest against Mirko Filipovic and a decision win over Fabricio Werdum that didn't live up to expectations. Despite the disappointment of the latter match, the win elevated Overeem to the pearly gates of the Octagon, where he nearly booted the entrails of former champion Brock Lesnar into the cheap seats for his most authenticating win yet.
To earn that shot at Lesnar, Overeem had to be extracted from the brackets of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, which left a guy named Antonio Silva (17-4) without an opponent. "Bigfoot" was soaring after a career-defining upset of Fedor Emelianenko at the time, but Overeem's replacement was Daniel Cormier, who steam-rolled Silva and eventually won the whole shebang.
Silva was shipped over to the UFC as well, where a pissed off version of current champion Cain Velasquez offered an unfriendly welcome and, suddenly, after hitting the apex of his career, Silva had suffered back-to-back beatings in the 1st round. He regained traction with another upset, this time over then-undefeated Travis Browne, who wrenched his knee in the early going and soon after absorbed a hail of top-side ground and pound.
Silva holds a triumvirate of black belts (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and Karate) but also throws the catcher's mitts he calls hands with improved prowess. While not quite achieving Lyoto Machida standards, Silva does employ the occasional front kick, which is pretty impressive for a 6'4" leviathan. Though without any gleaming collegiate wrestling accolades, Bigfoot is a viable threat in the takedown department, much of which stems from his Judo background in the clinch rather than rifling for singles or doubles from outside. The core of his arsenal is his slick submission grappling, which makes Silva an overbearing juggernaut on the mat with the dual-threat of submissions and striking, all of which is made more formidable by his hulking size.
Though commonly billed as a striking virtuoso, Overeem has a nasty guillotine and won the 2005 ADCC European trials. He's nowhere near as complex and polished as Silva, but he's far from an amateur, and taking him down is no picnic. Regardless, putting Overeem on his back is Bigfoot's ideal pathway to victory, and his clinch-centric takedown style will actually unfold as a positive in this match up.
Overeem, who will be perfectly content to handle business on the feet, does not strike like a traditional kickboxing champion. Rather than zig-zagging around with fancy angles and footwork while assaulting with fundamentally perfect kickboxing, Overeem is a close-range mauler, both in the K-1 ring and the MMA cage. His ferocity shines through at phone-booth range, as Overeem stalks forward in a low, crouched stance, staying poised to deliver his signature leaping left knee to the body or his devastating left hook. Once he closes the gap, Overeem loves to go high with the Thai plum or single collar tie and slam heavy knees to the head and body, which account for a huge number of his wins.
This tendency is quite relevant to the match up, as the bulk of Overeem's close-range weapons play much better into Bigfoot's clinch takedowns than strikes from the fringe would. His favorite weapon, the (usually leaping or step-in) left knee, could also be just like handing Silva his leg and jumping into his lap, i.e. it's an unwise strategy against a takedown artist, especially one who excels in clinch takedowns. Overeem typically enjoys a hefty reach advantage at 80", but Silva will be one of the few to top him at 82".
In addition to his edge in reach, Silva's boxing, though seriously inferior to Overeem's standing barrage, consists of long, crisp and straight punches, and Silva is sneaky in following directly behind them to lock horns in the clinch. Even considering this observation, Overeem still has a great chance to employ his world class striking at phone-booth range and beat Silva, but the risk of counter-takedowns or strikes are much higher. Nevertheless, Bigfoot is solid when he's leading the striking exchanges, but doesn't really have the exceptional speed or reaction time to catch Overeem with a counter (though his power is monumental when he connects).
Overeem is also pretty slippery on the mat and not a bad scrambler by any means, but Silva's BJJ knowledge complements his takedowns nicely, as the big fella sticks like glue and immediately slips in hooks or snakes his giant arms around the first available hold to lock his opponent in place. It will be interesting to see if Overeem adjusts for this with his distance and strike selection. If he doesn't, Bigfoot is a viable candidate for another upset.
My Prediction: Alistair Overeem by TKO.