The UFC Heavyweight division continues to bedazzle us as much as it puzzles. We have a heavyweight champion who has finally made a successful title defense. But does anyone feel confident in its stability? We cannot trust a cage fighting division that is not more deodorized today than it was yesterday.
But we can be entertained by it, and Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem certainly qualified.
Through a beer goggle prism, the fight resembled a demolition derby of overweight dispute. I feel like the abyss is still staring back at us in some ways. After all, Overeem would have made for a great champion. But then if he can't even qualify as a contender, what merit does that statement even have? Why can't I give Stipe enough credit? That's precisely what this week's sober play by play is here to find out.
I couldn't tell you much about Overeem's gameplan. If there's a reason his gameplan looked increasingly sloppy as the fight wore on, perhaps it has something to do with the way it started.
From the first twenty seconds or so Overeem would circle to his left for a few seconds, and the circle to his right for a few seconds. There's nothing technically wrong with this kind of movement for out fighters, but at such a distance the conventional boxing wisdom is to move back and forth, saving lateral movements for mid to close quarter combat. Overeem is kind of wandering more than anything. Stipe almost catches him with a left hook right hand combination as the first 60 seconds are about to expire.
Overeem lands a stiff left kick to the body (4:08), and that's when he does his first Usain Bolt impression (4:03). Stipe, already having deciphered Alistair's erratic movement, tries to catch him with a high kick like one of Cormac McCarthy's makeshift Southern weapons.
Rogan's first chance to blow his larynx with his patented caustic screaming comes as Overeem connects on a massive overhand left (3:58). Alas, we get to some pretend controversy. First off, I'd like to just as soon pretend that we live in a universe where we don't need a CSI team probing a concussed fighter to validate their claims. This isn't the first time Rogan has used a post fight interview to play Sherlock, but thankfully it sounds like it'll be his last. So ignoring all that, here's what Overeem gets wrong from a technical standpoint:
When Overeem rocks Stipe, he immediately goes for the guillotine. Alistair never actually pushes his body forward to stifle Stipe's movement (explaining why Miocic is able to leverage himself for counter movement), and never once has his shin inside Stipe's hip. The proper sequence of events for a guillotine is kick, curl, and crush. Granted, there a thousand different variations of the guillotine, and I'm not one of our many excellent technique experts, but if Overeem loses the guillotine it's because all he ever grabs is Miocic's neck. His positioning is never set, which is rule #1 for any submission. Alistair is a very good grappler. The fact that he failed to do a few things right doesn't mean he doesn't already know these things. It just means he missed these opportunities in this particular bout.
Once Miocic rolls out (and credit to him for keeping his hands available for disruption), Overeem immediately starts running like he's being chased by Cthulhu (3:46). Overeem goes back to circling left, and then circling right.
Because Overeem's movement is awkwardly telegraphed, Miocic makes him pay for it finally when he catches him with a left hook, straight right, left hook combination (2:55). The left in particular seems to stun Overeem who gets the "flight" switch turned on from here on out. Overeem is winging random left haymakers that don't even look like they're intended to land. He just wants to keep Miocic from pressuring him, so he's awkwardly keeping him at bay with raw power.
Miocic never blinks. His best punch is an uppercut to punctuate one of his combinations (2:37) as he tries to catch Overeem circling around. At this point, Overeem isn't circling in specific directions. He's just rolling around like a nesting doll with too much oxygen needed to get to an obscene amount of muscles. Overeem is visibly gassed but a lot of it is coming from high energy left hands that never come close to landing.
Overeme gets reprieve when he lands a left on the side of Stipe's head, jarring his equilibrium (1:58). But he goes back to winging those left hands with zero design, anticipation, or even technique. The best combination comes from Stipe who attempts a left, right, left jab, left hook, left hook, left hook (!) combination. Each left hook lands. They're not big punches. Just six inchers pounding Alistair's amygdala into ground horse beef. No extraneous windup required.
The end is all but telegraphed when both men fall into a Thing like combative heap of interlocking humanity (0:50). Miocic wasted no time landing punches from top control, even going to the body to open up the last right hands that overload Overeem's CPU.
Notes and Observations
As much as fun as the fight itself was, it felt like the best and worst of heavyweight: carnage and craft, but never the twain shall meet.
For Overeem, his future is a step above Cheick Kongo, which doesn't say much. Just when we thought he had done a fantastic job of covering up his 'intangibles problem' (gas tank, chin, pressure), all of them converged together for the weekend to remind us just how genetic heavyweight's defects are.
For Miocic, I'm not sure. It's a great win, and I thought his post fight interview was nice counterpoint to Mickey Gall's forced fratspeak. Intense, and crowd pleasing, but measured and sincere, I'll root for Stipe to do justice to the heavyweight division. Especially if he's next in the 'front kick Edmund' Warped Tour that Fabricio Werdum started. But as it is with most heavyweights, finding stability will be the key to success, should the MMA gods allow it.