The opening bout of Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum" this Saturday night (June 18, 2011) is expected to be a compelling heavyweight brawl between two vastly different yet similarly-minded fighters in Chad Griggs and Valentijn Overeem.
Valentijn has spent the majority of his career in his younger brother Alistair Overeem's shadow. He's competed against some of the toughest heavyweights around from Japan to Europe and beyond.
After scoring an easy submission victory in his debut with the promotion earlier this year, he's ready to make his mark in Strikeforce.
Chad Griggs has built a reputation as a prospect killer in the organization. He handled both Bobby Lashley and Gian Villante in his first two Strikeforce fights, besting both by knockout. Now he'll be facing a completely different animal in the battle-tested brother of the promotion's heavyweight champion.
Can Valentijn step out of his younger brother's shadow with an emphatic finish? Will Chad Griggs graduate from prospect killer to veteran slayer? Which heavyweight will make their case to be a potential injury replacement in case someone can't continue in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix?
Let's find out:
Record: 29-25 overall, 1-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 2x (Rings: King of Kings 1999 Block A, Rings: King of Kings 2000 Final)
How he got here: Valentijn is the older, less dominant brother of Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. "The Python" spent much of his career fighting in the Rings organization in both the Netherlands and Japan.
Valentijn would score the most impressive victories of his career during the 2000 Rings "King of Kings" tournament, submitting both Randy Couture and Ranato "Babalu" Sobral in just over three minutes combined. He would go on to lose in the finals of the tournament to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via arm triangle choke.
That loss would begin a very troubling stretch of Overeem's career where he would lose 10 of 12 fights including all four in the Pride organization. Valentijn would bounce around many organizations after this period from Europe to Japan before earning a fight in Strikeforce against former Super Heavyweight champion kickboxer Ray Sefo.
"The Python" would squeeze the inexperienced (in MMA) Sefo in a neck crank and force a tap in just over 90 seconds to earn another fight and potentially step in as an injury replacement for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix if needed.
How he gets it done: Don't let his record fool you. Valentijn is a crafty veteran with solid technical striking skills and a respectable ground game which includes a vast array of submissions.
He'll definitely be looking to pick Chad Griggs apart with his overall technical advantage in the stand-up especially with his kicks. If he can keep his distance using his kicks and jabs and avoid Griggs big wild power strikes, he could really put a hurting on "The Gravedigger."
If the fight does go to the ground, Overeem has the possibility of using his advantage in submissions as well. Griggs' only career loss was via Kimura so if Overeem can score a takedown or put Griggs on his back somehow, he'll definitely be attacking with all kinds of joint locks or even chokes if he can find them.
Another advantage the Dutch fighter may have is in the clinch. If the Golden Glory striker can get up close and personal, he'll be able to neutralize Chad's powerful hooks and punish him with knees and elbows with his excellent Muay Thai skills.
Record: 10-1 overall, 2-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Chad Griggs was meant to be a speed bump for Bobby Lashley's road to MMA super-stardom. People were shocked that he was even included in the Strikeforce: Houston conference call and the only questions reporters could come up with were to ask him about balancing being a fireman and a professional fighter.
That all changed in the end of the second round when Griggs, after being stuck on his back for nearly 10 minutes, finally got to his feet and teed off on the gassed ex-WWE heavyweight champion and forced a stoppage in one of 2010's biggest upsets.
His victory would earn him a fight with upstart Strikeforce prospect Gian Villante on the main card of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva where Griggs would put on a show, trading bombs with the former Ring of Combat heavyweight champion and knocking him out in under three minutes.
Fans and media alike began to become attracted to his gritty persona, his willingness to brawl and his ridiculous mutton-chops. He earned another high profile fight against the older Overeem for a shot to potentially step in if someone can't continue in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
How he gets it done: Griggs is tough as nails. He's got a tremendous chin and he possesses some serious power in his punches. His technique is nowhere near the level of the other fighters on this card but he'll try to overcome that with pure heart.
If "The Gravedigger" wants to increase his odds of victory, he'll have to entice Overeem to brawl with him, plain and simple. Valentijn is a tough veteran of the sport but if Griggs can do something crazy like keep his hands at his hips and swing wild hooks, he just might be able to take the Dutchman out of his game.
Look for Chad to swing for the fences at 100% from start to finish. If he can find his range and clip Overeem, he has a realistic chance of winning this fight. His Golden Glory opponent has been knocked out nine times in his lengthy MMA career and all those knockouts and the damage sustained training at a world class kickboxing gym takes its toll.
One thing is for certain in this fight, there's no way Griggs sits back patiently and looks for an opening. He'll try to create an opening by force if necessary.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" in this fight has to be Griggs' defensive wrestling and submission defense. He was taken down pretty easily by Bobby Lashley in his Strikeforce debut and the ex-prospect passed to mount without much resistance.
If Chad wants to wade in and throw bombs with Overeem, he'll need to have improved his takedown defense because his ability to avoid Valentijn's jiu-jitsu is a huge question mark coming into this bout. Many thought Overeem would stand and trade with Ray Sefo in his last bout but he smartly took his opponent down along the fence and cranked on his neck until he gave up. He'll have no qualms about doing that to Griggs if he can.
Bottom line: Chad Griggs has evolved from a relative unknown to an exciting fan-favorite brawler. He's no world beater by any means, but he always looks to put on entertaining fights. If Overeem engages him in the stand-up and is willing to trade big strikes with "The Gravedigger," this bout is teeming with potential for a sloppy rock 'em sock 'em robots type of fight. Hell, even if Overeem takes Chad down and submits him quickly, it'll be entertaining. The likelihood for a finish in this match is at or neat the 98% mark. You definitely want to tune in for this one.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum"? Let us know in the comments section below!