Two of the biggest and baddest heavyweights on the UFC roster will battle it out on Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) as Alistair Overeem takes on Antonio Silva on the UFC 156 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Overeem initially earned a title shot after defeating Brock Lesnar in his UFC debut, but an elevated testosterone level knocked him out of his opportunity at the belt last May. After sitting on the sideline for nine months, he's finally back, has his levels in order and wants to earn a crack at the title again with a victory.
Antonio Silva didn't have a great debut in the UFC against current champion Cain Velasquez, but he rose to the occasion in his last fight, handing Travis Browne the first loss of his MMA career and putting himself right back in the mix among the top heavyweights. He'll be trying to score another huge upset this weekend.
Will "The Reem" finally earn that shot at the title by squashing Silva? Can "Bigfoot" splay spoiler by smashing the former Strikeforce champ? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 36-11 (1 No Contest) overall, 1-0 in the UFC
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.
Since becoming a full-fledged heavyweight, Overeem has been unstoppable, winning and defending the Strikeforce heavyweight title.
When not fighting in MMA, "The Reem" remained 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 defeating Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki and then Peter Aertz in one night.
Overeem scored the biggest victory of his professional MMA career against Fabricio Werdum, avenging his prior loss and then he followed up by crushing former champion Brock Lesnar to earn a number one contender slot in his UFC debut. Unfortunately, he tested for elevated testosterone levels which kept him sidelined all of 2012. Now finally back, he's out to earn a shot at the champ if he can secure a victory.
How he gets it done: Overeem is ferocious. He's got some of the best kickboxing of any mixed martial artist and he's out to send a message. He's got the technique and power to take out anyone in the division.
His job here is to keep it standing, avoid lengthy clinch exchanges and try to keep his distance on the feet. If he can remain in the pocket, he has the speed and explosiveness to crack "Bigfoot" on the chin and make him hurt.
His goal is to connect his fist to Silva's face. While his kicks are powerful, there's no point risking being put on your back if a kick gets caught and used to take him down. If and when Overeem lands that heavy blow that rocks Silva, he's got to follow up and put him away.
Record: 17-4 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Cain Velasquez (UFC 146), Daniel Cormier (Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov), Fabricio Werdum (Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Rogers)
How he got here: Of all places, Antonio Silva actually began his MMA career in the United Kingdom. "Bigfoot" began his training at the Wolfslair academy in the UK. After destroying everyone in his path in England, Silva branched out, losing to Eric Pele at Bodog Fight before settling at EliteXC.
He would shine in EliteXC, winning four straight over the likes of UFC veterans Wesley Correira and Ricco Rodriguez before winning the promotion's heavyweight title against Justin Eilers. He would be popped for steroids after the victory and never got a chance to explain himself or defend his belt before the promotion folded with the Kimbo Slice debacle.
After a couple easy wins in Japan, Silva signed with Strikeforce to compete against its stocked heavyweight division. Silva would drop a decision to Fabricio Werdum in his promotional debut.
"Bigfoot" briefly found his stride, defeating the likes of Andrei Arlovski, Mike Kyle and most impressively of all, ground and pounding Fedor Emelianenko to oblivion in the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in a career-defining victory.
Silva would be upset by the eventual tournament winner Daniel Cormier, losing via first round knockout and before he'd get another opportunity to fight for Strikeforce, he was signed to the UFC's heavyweight division. When Frank Mir got a title shot, "Bigfoot" stepped up to the co-main event against Velasquez, but was brutally battered in the first round, losing via cut after being bombarded with elbows by the former heavyweight champ.
Silva got put back on the right track against Travis Browne, taking advantage of a leg injury and landing with massive power to hand him his first professional loss. Now he's trying to get in title contention by knocking off one of the most powerful and dangerous heavyweights in the world.
How he gets it done: Silva's size is his biggest advantage. He's got to find ways to make that size work for him and it's not going to be by standing in the pocket and trading punches.
"Bigfoot" needs to close the distance whether it's with a takedown attempt or by pushing Overeem into the fence. He's got a strong clinch game and could potentially wear Overeem out a bit against the cage by battling in the clinch, and working for takedowns while using his tremendous physical strength.
If Overeem has a weakness, it's his ground game. He's been finished on the ground many times throughout his career, although not recently. If Silva can drag him to the ground and utilize that tremendous size of his from top position, he can drop down some ferocious ground and pound or even work for a submission. "Bigfoot" has what it takes to hurt Overeem on the ground, but it's going to take some considerable effort.
It's not impossible, but it's his best way to win. Standing with Overeem would be a really, really bad idea.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest factor for this fight has to be Antonio Silva's chin. He's a powerful, massive heavyweight with a very dangerous skill-set, but his chin has betrayed him in the past. After scoring the biggest victory of his career against Fedor Emelianenko, he got knocked out by Daniel Cormier and then just massacred by Cain Velasquez. You also can't forget he was hurt badly by Mike Kyle. Alistair Overeem hits just as hard as all of them if not more and he's even more technical.
Silva has all the skill in the world, but that goes out the window if he gets caught with a big shot.
Bottom Line: Both Overeem and Antonio Silva are aggressive and powerful men. Both can hit hard on the feet and both want to finish fights. The only boring fight Overeem has been in was when Fabricio Werdum dropped to his back for three rounds, but "Bigfoot" won't do that, it's not his style. Expect Silva to attack at all times either on the feet, in the clinch or attempting to take the fight to the ground. Overeem has the power and skill to finish a fight at any moment, it just comes down to whether or not he'll land that kill shot. Expect to be on the edge of your seat in anticipation for it the entire time.
Who will come out on top at UFC 156? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!