In light of the upcoming UFC event headlined by Junior Dos Santos and Alistair Overeem, I thought it'd be worthwhile to look back on Alistair's K-1 fights. Fan predictions for Dos Santos vs Overeem are predictably varied, and I think rightly so. Some fans are quick to label Overeem as chinny, citing his Pride FC performances; others point out his vastly improved performance at heavyweight, where he has improved stamina, technique, power, and, most importantly, a much more solid mental game.
I think Overeem's main flaw, that he can be hurt -- especially when tired -- is still there, but he's learned to manage it much better with sound defense and safe gameplanning.
Tyrone Spong manages to hurt him in this bout from 2010, convincingly take a round from Overeem. His temporary advantage is due in part to an edge in speed but, man, does he have some sweet hook counters. Overeem, for his part, recovers well, and uses a solid pressure game to grind Spong down for a decision win with a standing eight count in the final round.
Why do I bring up this fight? Because Spong, technically as sound as the elite heavyweights, is not known for power. People doubted whether his frame could handle the one hundred plus kilos he was carrying, and he'd recently lost a decision to Jerome Le Banner without inflicting much damage of note. Yet, he manages to hurt Overeem.
Here's their bout from 2010. Overeem is in red, Spong in blue.
(Video from SimonJJ's Youku account)
After winning the K-1 Grand Prix 2010, Overeem's looked good in MMA rules against Brock Lesnar and Todd Duffee, but Dos Santos is one of the most dangerous heavyweight MMA fighters in all of MMA history. Skillwise, I think it's fitting to compare Dos Santos to mid to high level K-1 fighters like Spong. He's got excellent power and precision with his boxing, is fast, and technically sound. He also has a mobility edge over Overeem that will likely come into play because Overeem likes to strike from close range to be sure of landing his strikes, so as not to compromise his defense. The dearth of kicks and knees in Dos Santos's style makes him a little easier to prepare for. He hasn't shown much of his ground game or take down defense.
Based on their performances in the cage and the ring, if this match remains standing, I feel Dos Santos has a slight edge, maybe 55% to Overeem's 45% of winning. The reasoning being that, while Overeem can certainly finish Dos Santos, his stoppage win would likely come later than Dos Santos's, in the mid to later rounds when Dos Santos is tired and has been worn down by body attacks. However, heavyweight fights in MMA tend to finish early. Dos Santos does not start slow, and if he hurts Overeem like Spong did, he has the tools to finish. He has more power and reach than Spong and is free to submit or ground and pound a stunned Overeem.
That said, Overeem is a complete and very experienced MMA fighter. I would not be surprised to see him use his ground game in this fight. He is certainly aware that his chin can be exploited and has shown intelligent ways to manage that in all his recent fights. Expect to see him approach this bout having figured out three or four ways to end the fight in his favor while managing the threat of a knockout loss.