Velasquez Vs. Overeem
Could Cain defeat Alistair?
At UFC 121 on October 23, the undefeated Cain Velasquez dominated the defending UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, who at the time had suffered only one loss.
That night, Velasquez exited the Honda Center as the new UFC Heavyweight Champion and a phenomenon in the world of mixed martial arts.
While the newly crowned UFC Champion has grabbed the industry's attention with his rapid climb to the top of the division, Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem's image has not fared as well in the eyes of the public.
Since being crowned the first Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion in November 2007, Overeem has defended his belt only once, defeating Brett Rogers in May. Instead of competing in the United States, the Dutch heavyweight has opted to compete in Japan over the last three years and has also launched a thriving career in K-1, finishing 3rd in last year's World Grand Prix. Also contributing to the negative perception of the reigning Strikeforce Champion is the fact that he and MMA enigma Fedor Emelianenko, who recently lost for the first time in 10 years, have been exchanging verbal challenges for nearly the entirety of 2010 with no resulting title fight.
In the wake of recent rumors regarding potential "superfights" between Strikeforce and Bellator Champions, one can't help but wonder the outcome of battles between belt-holders competing for separate companies. Among the most intriguing "superfights" one could fathom would be a match-up between UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem.
On paper, a fight pitting the heavyweight Champions of the world's two biggest promotions has the potential of being one of the most explosive and entertaining contest in the history of the sport.
Velasquez, who trains with the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, has had in his hand raise in victory in each of his nine professional fights. Seven of his career wins have taken place in the Octagon, spanning from his UFC debut TKO of Brad Morris in April 2008 to his defeat of the behemoth Lesnar two weeks ago. His impressive list of victims includes Lesnar, Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell, and MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Only once has he failed to end a fight with either a KO or TKO- a unanimous decision victory over Kongo at UFC 99.
As proved in his decisive victory over the Goliath that is Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez boasts all-around competency in mixed martial arts. Mentored by head trainer Javier Mendes, the reigning UFC heavyweight Champion is one of MMA's most dangerous strikers, having the skill of knocking out nearly any opponent in the blink of an eye. Not only does he possess massive power in his hands, his accuracy is among the best in the sport. For example, at UFC 99, he landed a jaw-dropping 251 strikes against former Muay Thai World Champion Cheick Kongo. As for his ground game, Velasquez, a two-time Division I All-American in wrestling at Arizona State, easily neutralized the world-class wrestling of Brock Lesnar.
As for Overeem, a member of the Golden Glory Gym in the Netherlands, the 6'5" veteran, a former light heavyweight, has compiled a solid record of 33-11-(1) in 11 years of competition. "The Demolition Man" fought for Pride Fighting Championships from 2002 to its demise in 2007 earning a record of 7-7 in the promotion with notable wins over Vitor Belfort, Igor Vovchanchyn, and Sergei Kharitonov. He made his American debut in September 2006 defeating Belfort for the second time at the second ever MMA event promoted by Strikeforce. Just over a year later, he was declared the company's inaugural heavyweight Champion after a win over Paul Buentello. The following year he would return to Japan to compete for DREAM, an upstart promotion at the time, and to embark on a career in K-1, the world's premiere kickboxing promotion. All the while, he was never stripped of his Strikeforce belt. In December 2009, Overeem made his way to the semi-finals of the K-1 World Grand Prix Final before being eliminated by Badr Hari. On May 15, 2010, he defended the title for the first time in his three-year reign with an impressive TKO over Brett Rogers.
Even though his body of work is not known by the majority of the MMA community, much like Velasquez, Alistair Overeem's repertoire includes a broad range of disciplines. As evidenced by his success against some of the world's most talented strikers in K-1, Overeem's stand-up abilities could be accurately described as violent yet technically sound. His powerful knee strikes have arguably become the sport's most dangerous offensive attack. Because of his sheer size alone, any takedown attempt of the Strikeforce Champion can be easily negated. On the ground, Overeem has a strong guillotine choke and relentless ground and pound.
The fight itself between these Champions could be the stuff of legend. Not only do both fighters have all-around skills but also are two of the best conditioned and most resilient competitors in their division. While their knockout power has prevented them from claiming decision victories, it has become apparent by their endless energy in past fights that they have unquestionable endurance.
In this dream fight, I would predict an explosive start out of the gate. Overeem and Velasquez would exchange blows with the Strikeforce Champion gaining the early upper hand. However, the Dutchman would become a bit too confident with his hands and would be taken down by the UFC's standard-bearer at 265. Velasquez would land many shots from the top, but Overeem would be active as well from the bottom before round one ends in Cain's favor.
In round two, the fighters would be a bit more tentative, focusing more on the technicality of their striking rather than power. After two minutes of trading strikes, "The Reem" would land one of his trademark knees, bringing Velasquez to the ground. The fight doesn't end there though, Cain would quickly cover up and pull guard on Overeem. The final three minutes of the round would consist of ground and pound from the Dutch kickboxer who takes round two.
Round three begins the same as the previous two- a test of striking abilities. This exchange is longer than the others though, lasting the entire length of the round. Both fighters land numerous quality strikes; however, Velasquez is able to avert Overeem's leg kicks and knees with swift movement and quick hands and takes a two rounds to one advantage.
This would be both fighters’ first experience in championship rounds. As the fourth round begins, the fighters show signs of exhaustion, particularly the heftier Overeem. This allows the UFC Champ to secure an easy takedown a minute into the round. Velasquez begins to display his ground and pound skills when the more experienced fighters pulls guard. Now in control, Overeem uses his brute strength to apply a guillotine choke. After thirty seconds or so of maneuvering, the Strikeforce Champion is able to sink the hold in deep enough to claim the submission victory and hand Velasquez his first career loss.
Why is this my prediction? I believe Bob Cook and the A.K.A staff would provide Velasquez with a strong game plan, but Cor Hemmers and the staff at Golden Glory would give Overeem the strategic edge. While most would expect the Alistair to focus strongly on striking, he would look to greatly strengthen his ground game in training and would be able to use those skills to protect himself from Cain's devastating ground and pound. Experience would also be a strong factor in the outcome of the fight as Cain has limited exposure to defending chokes or being challenged for an extended period of time.
Even though some may disagree with my fantasized outcome, it should be noted that's all it is- fantasy. In the end, the chances of this "superfight" actually occurring are very slim. Unless UFC purchases Strikeforce in the future, or vice-versa, and a unification fight is deemed necessary, this bout would most likely only take place in our imaginations. There is no harm in dreaming, though.