A Matchup Breakdown: Overeem vs Bigfoot
So I've been doing a lot of thinking about this fight and I'm pretty intrigued to see how it will turn out. As many of you are aware Alistair is coming off of a year long layoff after being popped for high Testosterone levels and Bigfoot is coming off of a win against Travis Browne. I wanted to do a breakdown on this fight and why I think this may be a very close and competitive contest.
What I usually like to do in the weeks before a fight I'm really hyped for is look back at the histories of the fighters involved. I do this to simply hold myself over until the fight comes and to get an idea of how each fighter will approach the contest come fight night. At the professional level MMA is very much still a style-based sport, each fighter has a particular set of tools that they try to utilize in order to defeat their opponent. Some fighters use very specific game plans, others use what has always worked, and some fighters are testing new found abilities for the first time. In this fight we have examples of the latter two.
Alistair Overeem is a fighter who really likes to use the same gameplan in each of his fights and has tools to deal with every situation imaginable. This is what causes him to have such great confidence going into each one of his fights, because he truly believes he has everything figured out and in most cases he does. Alistair's striking is his strongest suit, his wrestling has come leaps and bounds in the past few years and is bolstered by his raw strength and exceptional technique. On top of all that he also has one of the nastiest and most effective guillotine chokes of all MMA.
Bigfoot Silva is a fighter who used to rely on his Jiu-Jitsu game and his size but he's become more and more comfortable on his feet in the last few years, starting with his fight against Andre Arlovski. He still prefers to use his size and BJJ skills to pin opponents down and drop heavy shots, which is how he dismantled Fedor Emelianenko. His last fight against Travis Browne proved he is capable of winning fights without his ground game.
In watching Alistair's past fights, including his K-1 run in 2011, I've noticed he really likes switching stances and has really gone away from his kicking game in recent years. When he was at Light Heavyweight Alistair was known for throwing these really crazy jumping kicks and flying knees, but now that he's moved up to heavyweight he uses well timed knees and mostly a boxing oriented offense. Overeem also has really tightened his defense up, making himself one of the hardest fighters to hit cleanly in the Heavyweight division.
Overeem's switch knee is one of his go-to attacks and has been used effectively against a lot of his opponents in K-1 and MMA. He will start in a southpaw stance (sometimes orthodox) step forward with his left foot and then throw a rear legged knee to his opponent's mid-section. Sometimes he doubles his switch, meaning he will start southpaw, go orthodox, and then switch back to southpaw and throw a left knee. He loves to use this technique and goes to it often because he can close the distance quickly and also change the timing of it to really mess with the other fighter. He will often go into his stance switching and NOT throw the knee, instead throwing an uppercut or a hook through the guard.
Alistair is an extremely intelligent fighter and knows how to break down the defenses of an opponent who is shelling up well. The way he broke down Brock Lesner's guard is impressive enough but his performance against Tyrone Spong is just plain scary by the third round. He is also skilled enough to pull off devastating counter strikes, proven by his first round defeat of Ben Edwards where he dropped Edwards with two brutal counter rights and then destroyed what was left of Ben's guard with a chopping right hook. Alistair's method of breaking down fighters is systematic 1) bring the hands down by hitting the body, 2) force fighters to stay on the defensive with power shots, and 3) peel the guard away and attack the jawline with knees up the center or strong hooks from the side.
Bigfoot's methods of winning are equally brutal to Alistairs, but a little more simplistic. He likes to plod forward and put extreme pressure on his opponents before going for a takedown. Bigfoot's wrestling game is pretty good and he can usually get in pretty deep on a double-leg takedown. Very rarely does Bigfoot lose in the clinch and this is mostly due to his ridiculous size. The man is almost as wide as he is tall, seeing him next to Travis Browne is really unbelievable. Browne is 6'7" 240lbs and Bigfoot just looks like a regular stocky guy next to him.
The thing that is incredible with Bigfoot's striking is how effective his movement and defense are. He keeps his hands up at all times and understands how to gauge distance pretty well. He's one of the few Heavyweight fighters who utilize a jab and has a very good one at that. His defense against Fedor was very good and he managed to land several effective jabs in the first round before pressing Fedor against he fence and letting off some good flurries.
Bigfoot's wrestling and top game is really fascinating because of how simple and downright crushing it is. In the fight against Mile Kyle (if I remember it correctly) he basically got a single take down and just Kyle from there and against Fedor he used very minor transitions and used his size to systemically crush every little bit of effort Fedor put towards attempt. Even going for the arm triangle against Emelianenko was a safe move because he could easily regain side control with his strength and size. I think it's pretty safe to say if Bigfoot gets on top of you, you're not going to get up without some significant effort.
How do the two fighters match up against one another? I think the striking exchanges are going to be pretty slow for the most part. With Alistair's defense being as tight as it is and his favorite technique pretty much taken away from the get go (that switch knee I talked about) Alistair will probably rely on inside leg kicks in the early fight. Bigfoot will probably throw a few jabs out followed by the occasional right hand but I think his game plan will be to press Overeem up against the cage and attempt a take down. Overeem, though, is a strong clinch fighter and will probably use an outside leg trip to throw Bigfoot down like he did to Brett Rogers and Fabricio Werdum.
We all know that Overeem has no interest in going to the ground as shown in his fight with Werdum, but Bigfoot isn't entirely reliant on his ground game (specifically his bottom game which is pretty weak compared to his top game) and will be willing to stand and trade. I think if Alistair has a chance to finish the fight it will be off of a counter punch, similar to how Daniel Cormier stopped Silva. Because of Cormier's exceptional defensive wrestling and striking power Silva has very few options in that fight and started going for desperation take downs. Alistair's take down defense should be good enough to fend off the take down and his striking, as the fight goes on, should start freeing up. Ultimately I see Alistair unwilling to throw knees and might rely on body kicks from the outside.
I think Overeem takes the decision after an unimpressive performance from both fighters. This is what happens when two guys have tool sets that counter-act one another almost exactly. I'm no professional but I think I have an alright understanding of the fight game. Let me know where I may be wrong. Thanks for reading.