Tomorrow night (June 18, 2011), two of the biggest and best heavyweights on the planet will compete on the appropriately titled Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum" card in the main event as Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem battles Fabricio Werdum in a rematch over five years in the making.
Overeem is the defending Strikeforce, Dream and K-1 World Grand Prix champion in both MMA and kickboxing. He's proven that he's one of kickboxing's elite and now he's ready to finally confirm his ranking and answer the doubters by taking on one of the highest ranked heavyweights on the planet and avenge a 2006 submission loss.
Fabricio Werdum has been on a tear since leaving the UFC. He defeated Antonio Silva in late 2009 and pulled off the upset of the year in 2010 with a first round triangle choke submission over former pound-for-pound great Fedor Emelianenko. Both monumental victories have leapfrogged him to a top-five ranking in the heavyweight division. He's ready to prove he belongs by taking on the Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
Can "The Reem" redeem? Will Werdum continue his torrid streak of top victories over world class competition? Who will advance to face Antonio Silva in the semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix?
Our fight preview gives you all the information you need to know after the jump:
Record: 34-11 (1 No Contest) overall, 3-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (Pride Total Elimination Absolute), Mauricio Rua 2x (Pride 33, Pride Final Conflict 2005), Sergei Kharitonov (Heroes 10)
How he got here: Alistair Overeem got off to an inauspicious start with his MMA career as a light heavyweight. He fought some of the best in the world in the Pride organization but always seemed to come up short against the likes of "Shogun" Rua, Chuck Liddell, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum.
Then, of course, the transformation happened. Overeem started to bulk up and fill out his lanky frame to become "Ubereem." There's been plenty of speculation as to how he got so big and transformed himself so drastically but that's another story for another day.
Since become a full-fledged heavyweight, Alistair has been unstoppable, winning and defending the Strikeforce heavyweight title as well as the Dream heavyweight title most recently against Todd Duffee.
"The Reem" has been busy, also fighting in K-1 kickboxing events. He announced his presence to the world with a first round knockout of Badr Hari at Dynamite!! 2008 and he proved he belonged by winning the single night K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 Final this past December, defeating three men in one night.
Overeem is out to score the biggest MMA victory of his career tomorrow night.
How he gets it done: Alistair Overeem doesn't play any games in the cage. He wants to knock your head off. He possesses the most technical and powerful striking of any heavyweight in MMA right now and he's capable of using his burly arms to defend nearly any attack even from four ounce gloves.
Look for Overeem to stalk Werdum and try to land his powerful punching combinations. Footwork will be key here as he attempts to find the perfect range to land his most vicious attacks.
If his Brazilian foe gets too close, "The Reem" will not be afraid to clinch and launch his knees into "Vai Cavalo's" gut. Werdum has only ever been knocked out once before, but it was by a fighter with similar power and style in Junior dos Santos.
Overeem's defensive wrestling and jiu-jitsu have also improved significantly. He's toyed with his most recent opponents who've tried to take him down and his power in the clinch is difficult to fathom. He literally tossed Brett Rogers around the cage like a rag doll in his last Strikeforce fight in 2010 and he's likely even bigger, stronger and more confident now.
Overeem will try everything in his power to keep this bout standing and punish Werdum until he goes down for good.
Record: 14-4-1 overall, 3-0 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem (Pride Total Elimination Absolute), Fedor Emelianenko (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum), Antonio Silva (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers)
Key Losses: Junior dos Santos (UFC 90), Andrei Arlovski (UFC 70), Sergei Kharitonov (Pride 30)
How he got here: Fabricio Werdum has had a tough road. Even his beginning fights in Brazil were difficult, having to compete against Gabriel Gonzaga in 2003.
He then found himself in the Pride promotion where he consistently fought some of the best in the world like Aleksander Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and even recent UFC 131 fighter Jon Olav Einemo.
After Pride was purchased by Zuffa, he was signed by the UFC and immediately stepped in against some of the top fighters in the promotion like Andrei Arlovski, Gabriel Gonzaga (again) and Brandon Vera. Two victories in a row had "Vai Cavalo" in title contention but he showed up flabby and out of shape when he was signed to welcome a UFC newcomer in Junior dos Santos and he paid for it dearly, getting knocked out by a nasty first round uppercut just 81 seconds into the fight.
Werdum was released from his contract and has since competed against two of the toughest non-UFC heavyweights in Antonio Silva and Fedor Emelianenko, scoring impressive victories over both fighters. After the tremendous upset of Fedor, he took nearly a year off to have surgery on a nagging elbow injury and has since waited patiently while Strikeforce delayed the second half of the Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinals.
How he gets it done: Fabricio Werdum is a talented and well-rounded fighter. He was able to utilize his striking and knees to defeat fighters like Gabriel Gonzaga and Antonio Silva but against an elite kickboxer like Alistair Overem, he will absolutely have to do everything in his power to take the fight to the ground.
As evidenced by his last fight with Fedor Emelianenko, the ground is Werdum's world. He's incredibly sly on the canvas and is constantly searching for submissions and sweeps. His guard is incredibly dangerous and he's just as slick from top position. You don't become a two-time ADCC champion in jiu-jitsu without being one of the best, if not the best, in the world.
Look for Werdum to play it extremely defensively in the stand-up portion while he searches for opportunities to get the fight to the ground. Whether it's shooting for a takedown attempt, working trips in the clinch, or even pulling guard, "Vai Cavalo" wants this fight in his domain.
If he can get the fight to the ground, he'll be aggressively searching for every submission made available to him. Overeem will never get tired if the fight is kept standing for three rounds but if Werdum can force him to grapple, expect the Dutch fighter to begin to gas. Fighting on the ground is a whole 'nother form of conditioning and it's something "The Reem" hasn't mastered yet.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" for this fight is definitely Overeem's takedown defense. Fabricio Werdum isn't exactly known for his wrestling, but his grappling is world class. If Overeem can shrug off his takedowns, the fight is his. He simply has to keep a solid base as well as use his hips to thwart everything Werdum throws at him. If he can't keep the fight from going to the canvas, he's going to be in a world of trouble.
Overeem hasn't faced an elite heavyweight since his 2007 knockout to Sergei Kharitonov or perhaps his No Contest to Mirko Filipovic due to repeated groin strikes at Dream 6. There's a possibility that all of his MMA accomplishments recently have been overblown. This fight will truly tell if "The Demolition Man" belongs in the discussion as one of the best current heavyweights in MMA today.
Bottom line: There are so many possibilities and questions coming into this fight. How will Werdum react after recovering from elbow surgery and being away from the cage for a year? Will Overeem live up to his incredibly lofty expectations? There is serious potential for this to be one of the best heavyweight fights of 2011. This match is one of the most anticipated heavyweight fights of the year so don't miss it!
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum?" Let us know in the comments section below!