Alistair Overeem could get used to this whole Russia thing.
Competing in the country for just the third time, Overeem (45-17, 1 NC) picked up an impressive first-round TKO of Aleksei Oleinik (57-12-1) in the UFC Saint Petersburg main event at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Saturday.
Oleinik was stepping in on less than three weeks’ notice for originally scheduled headliner Alexander Volkov after health issues forced Volkov to withdraw and he was determined to take the fight to “The Reem”. Within seconds, Oleinik pulled guard and it looked like Overeem would become the next victim of Oleinik’s trademark Ezekiel choke, but Overeem stayed calm and eventually worked his way out of the predicament.
He was not in the clear though as Oleinik aggressively pursued him on the feet, throwing looping punches, one of which caught Overeem and put him in defense mode. Again, it looked like Overeem was simply biding his time as Oleinik connected with punches to the body while Overeem blocked most of the head shots.
@OleynikUFC w/ the early attack!#UFCStPetersburg pic.twitter.com/Lrrgz3DjkN— UFC (@ufc) April 20, 2019
Over and over again Oleinik landed with body punches, but Overeem answered with knees in the clinch. Initially, the knees struck Oleinik’s body, but his head eventually dipped into range for Overeem to drive them into his chin. One knee strike wobbled Oleinik and he went down with Overeem all over him.
KNEES by @AlistairOverem! pic.twitter.com/Rj9OsIaU4X— UFC (@ufc) April 20, 2019
The Dutch kickboxer went to work from there with ground-and-pound, forcing the stoppage at the 4:45 mark of round one.
#TheReem with the first round finish!@AlistairOvereem #UFCStPetersburg pic.twitter.com/T6r1f3WcoP— UFC (@ufc) April 20, 2019
Post-fight, Overeem spoke highly of Oleinik and the Russian fans.
“He’s a very strong dude, he’s a veteran of the sport, Overeem said. “We trained together, he’s a friend. I didn’t like to fight him, but I have to say the experience of fighting in Russia again, this is my third time, has been absolutely great. A lot of love from the fans, so it has been my pleasure to fight here and if it’s up to me I will be back. Let’s go.”
With the win, Overeem improved to 10-6 in the UFC and has now won 40 of his 45 career MMA bouts via knockout or submission. Looking ahead, he’s targeting the matchup with Volkov that was first booked for Saturday.
“I was originally supposed to fight Alexander Volkov,” Overeem said. “The fight did not happen tonight, but I’m very open to that fight in the future.”
Oleinik lost for just the second time in his last six appearances.