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Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament: Breaking down 'Overeem vs Werdum 1'

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This Saturday night (June 18, 2011) Strikeforce will continue its adventurous attempt to finish the heavyweight grand prix tournament it started back in February of this year. The "Overeem vs. Werdum" fight card from the American Airlines Center will be held under the Zuffa banner and will still be one of the more interesting and intriguing ideas the sport has seen in recent years.

Strikeforce will boast a heavy-hitting main card that will finally give fight fans what they have been waiting for: The heavyweight champion's return.

After Josh Barnett and his catch wrestling skills are put to the test against heavyweight bruiser Brett Rogers, the division titleholder Alistair Overeem will make his long anticipated return after more than a year's hiatus. He will be facing jiu-jitsu wizard and impressively resurgent Fabricio Werdum.

The bouts will be part of the eight-man tournament that is considered the most significant in terms of rankings since the days of Pride Fighting Championships that initially put the Japanese promotion on the map.

On today’s agenda, lets breakdown the heavyweight clash between Overeem and Werdum as well as examine their first meeting under the PRIDE banner back in 2006.

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The underdog, Fabricio Werdum, is entering the bout on fire, scorchingly more hot than any fighter can possibly be. He is coming off an impressive showing when he handed "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko his first loss aside from his cut stoppage earlier in the decade.

Werdum finished the heavyweight deity in June 2010 with a triangle/armbar in just a little over a minute in the very first round. Not to mention his previous win was over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, another tournament competitor.

How does such a gigantic victory affect the mindset of Werdum? Will that fight help him in motivation knowing that he just defeated the world renowned number one heavyweight to ever grace the sport or will he allow the fight to get to his head and become overly confident?

Werdum at 14-4 is a true pioneer in the MMA game. He has fought several times for several major promotions including the UFC, Pride and now Strikeforce.

A second degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Master Sylvio Behring, Werdum has earned many accolades in the world of grappling. He is a three-time world jiu-jitsu champion as a black, brown and blue belt, two-time ADCC champion and two time Pan American champion. While being respected and well known as a jiu-jitsu practitioner, Werdum is also a black belt in Judo and Muay Thai.

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Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem is on the promotion's highest of pedestals. He is currently one of the more talked about fighters in the sport, as well as one of the most intriguing and debated. Sporting an enormously muscled physique and winning a kickboxing title in K-1, Overeem has quickly transformed into one of the sport's most intimidating fighters around.

While spending most of his time fighting overseas in Dream, Overeem has yet to fully mark his territory as top dog under the Strikeforce banner. He can do so by finishing Werdum in the most noteworthy fight of his career in the promotion.

With a record of 34-11, Overeem is well experienced and versed in the fight game. With lethal knees from inside the clinch and powerful strikes he has become the striker of strikers and has been a handful the last few years going 9-0-1 in his last ten MMA fights in addition to his victory in the K-1 World Grand Prix Championship.

Overeem and Werdum have already met previous to this weekend's bout. Pride Total Elimination held in May of 2006 showcased an Overeem only three fights into his heavyweight transformation taking on Werdum in the opening round of one of the famous Pride grand prix tournaments.

Oh, how things have changed. Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded.

Before we start, let me first give a thank you to Zombie Prophet for the .gifs. Check out his site (Ironforgesiron.com) -- he has .gifs and videos of fights up faster than anyone else on the 'net.

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Overeem quickly ducks under a combination thrown by Werdum to open the clip, in the clinch both fighters lobby for control of the legs in efforts to sweep. In the fray, both fighters hit the mat with Overeem clutching to an underhook on the left arm.

Werdum ends up on top just for a moment as Overeem quickly uses his right leg to elevate Werdum in the air, creating plenty space to get to his knees and explode up. Overeem lets go of a knee as they are coming up that connects flush to the face of Werdum.

So much has changed in this department. For starters, Overeem will boast a huge size advantage this weekend compared to his smaller frame in 2006. With the added bulk and muscle Overeem will not be easily controlled or bullied from inside. Expect any sort of clinch work to be Overeem’s go-to move as he loves to dirty box and throws knees from inside.

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Overeem has Werdum wrapped tightly in a body lock. The same body lock that controlled Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a fight Overeem was easily winning before his cardio let him down.

Overeem, a former light-heavyweight, has difficulties muscling Werdum to the ground. Werdum counters the attempted trip takedown with a whizzer on the right arm of Overeem and jumps into a guillotine attempt as he holds position from the north-south and back and side control positions. He stays heavy on Overeem’s back to secure the position.

This is another part of the first fight that will most likely play out differently. In this fight Overeem was new to the division and still filling into his lanky frame. The strength and size advantage will be very interesting to watch. Will Werdum concede this type of takedown by pulling guard or will he still be able to use leverage and momentum to counter the now 265-pound Overeem?

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Finally, Overeem is able to achieve his desired results. He takes down Werdum from the clinch. Overeem uses his right leg to sweep under the legs of Werdum and falls into a half-guard variation on the ground. Werdum has his left leg trapped under Overeem in what almost looks like a butterfly guard. Werdum has his right leg protecting the movement of Overeem from the bottom.

Fast-forward about a minute to the second clip. During the duration of that minute, Werdum threatened the arms of Overeem by isolating them and attacking with submissions.

Werdum sneaks his left arm over the left shoulder and through the left arm of Overeem to secure the Kimura set-up. He secures the isolated wrist of Overeem with his right hand and latches onto that right hand with his left hand. The "figure-four" hold of the Kimura is secured and Werdum pushes skywards with his right hand and torques the figure-four hold until he earns the tap-out from Overeem.

The jiu-jitsu skill is still there for Werdum as seen by his quick finishes of Fedor Emelianenko and Mike Kyle. He will still have the superior skills in the grappling department but will he be able to ground Overeem and control him there?

And if the fight stays standing well Werdum’s Muay Thai be enough to hold the beast at bay until an opening comes his way?

We will find out in just a few days. 

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