One look at his record, and you can't help but think: It's been a long time since Alistair Overeem
has faced a top-level MMA competitor. He's faced tough guys, yes. Brawlers and he-man, and even former legends who have seen their skills eroded over time. But guys who were in their prime and really going to threaten him? Well, you have to go back to his Sept. 2007 matchup with Sergei Kharitonov
to find that one.
It's been a while since then, and Overeem is hardly the same fighter. He's markedly bigger (about 30-40 pounds), stronger and has taken his striking game up a few notches while participating in K-1.
So why then does he seem so vulnerable to Brett Rogers
Overeem, it should be said, has most of the advantages in this fight. He's sharper with his strikes, has a better ground game and is far more seasoned.
Yet I just can't shake the notion that Overeem's chin might not pass the test that Rogers' fists provide. Rogers (10-1) is well past the point where he can be considered a kid in the game. After matchups with Andrei Arlovski
and Fedor Emelianenko
, this is a man who has measured himself against a pair of studs, and walked away with confidence, if nothing else. After fighting Fedor, he's not going to be overwhelmed by the prospect of fighting for a title in front of a big St. Louis crowd.
Overeem (32-11, 1 NC) has not always looked good against big hitters, and Rogers is most certainly a big hitter. Because of his power, Rogers is going to be in any fight, and he's also never going to be out of a fight. His right hand is that much of a game-changer. He tested Emelianenko and showed he is a real factor in the heavyweight division. His big issue is that he has so much confidence in his chin that he keeps his hands low. After the Emelianenko fight, that needs to have been rectified. Unfortunately, we won't know if it's been addressed until Saturday night.
If it has not been fixed, it is something that will continue to be exposed by the division's best, and Overeem is likely to find that hole.
Rogers has also spent a lot of time working his wrestling with Antonio McKee
, so he's going to be able to threaten with more than one look. It doesn't have to be all hands, all the time. That said, Rogers knows where his bread is buttered, and that his best chance of winning is throwing hands. Fedor's overhand-right-from-hell aside, he has the ability to take a punch and loves to push forward.
Overeem, though, has plenty of weapons to fire off as Rogers advances, mainly due to a refined and varied striking attack. When Overeem's at his best, the damage can come from anywhere. Short elbows, flying knees, overhand rights, everything is on the table. Because of it, he is not easy to prepare for. Aside from that, he has excellent, underrated submission skills (it's easy to forget 19 of his 32 wins are by way of submission). His guillotine choke is particularly nasty and usual signifies the end.
Rogers has hardly been on the ground long enough to see just how good his jiu-jitsu defense is, but against Fedor, he escaped from a potential kimura and also withstood an attempt from Fedor's famed arm bar.
But while Overeem's most decided edge in this fight comes on the ground, I think jiu-jitsu will have little practical use in this fight. Overeem fancies himself a striker now and Rogers is willing to bet his power against anyone. So it will all come down to whether Overeem's varied attack can compile damage before Rogers manages to land his first heat-seeker. If Rogers can hurt Overeem early, the champ might begin to crumble. But if he can't find his target early, it will likely be a long night for "Da Grim."
Rogers is a live underdog. While Overeem is a big favorite on the books, this fight is not nearly so one-sided. But the books are going Overeem's way for the right reasons. He has many more weapons, and so you have to think he has many more ways to win the fight.
There is no way this fight is going five rounds. Overeem must beware the right hand, but the most likely scenario is that Overeem systematically chops Rogers down over time and Rogers runs out of steam first, leading to an Overeem TKO somewhere around the third round.