This weekend (Aug. 17, 2013) at TD Bank Garden in Boston, Mass., Heavyweight monsters Alistair Overeem and Travis Browne will collide in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 26. The mixed martial arts (MMA) bout should be a heavy-hitting showdown that will play an integral part in how the 265-pound scene plays out for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) moving forward.
Both fighters will come in with a lot to prove, although it's not for the same reasons. Overeem, a former Strikeforce Heavyweight titleholder, badly needs a win to keep the critics off his back after a disappointing knockout loss to Antonio Silva at UFC 156. Indeed, his title shot hopes dissipated with one huge flurry from "Bigfoot," and now he's fighting just to prove he can actually hang with the elite fighters in the Octagon.
For Browne, this fight will be about showing exactly how far his skills have progressed. Browne sits atop a short list of rising Heavyweights who could find themselves within title contention very soon. Adding Overeem to his list of victims could see him fighting for a No. 1 contender spot sooner than later.
Let's take a closer look at the UFC Fight Night 26 co-main event match between Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne:
Record: 36-12(1) overall, 1-1 UFC
Key Wins: Vitor Belfort (Pride Total Elimination 2005, Strikeforce: Revenge), Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Mark Hunt (Dream 5), Fabricio Werdum (Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum)
Key Losses: Antonio Silva (UFC 156), Mauricio Rua (Pride Final Conflict 2005, Pride 33), Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pride 29, Pride Critical Countdown Absolute), Chuck Liddell (Pride Total Elimination 2003)
How he got here: Overeem's road to this point has been well documented. "Demolition Man" started his professional career way back in 1999, racking up a solid 11-3 record in promotions such as Rings and 2 Hot 2 Handle. He then made the transition to Pride FC, where he fought as a lanky Light Heavyweight.
Overeem fought some of the best in the world there to mixed results. After defeating Belfort, Sergei Kharitonov and Igor Vovchanchyn, he was finished off by the likes of Chuck Liddell, Fabricio Werdum and "Shogun" Rua.
In his worst stretch from mid-2006 to early-2007, Overeem was destroyed in rapid succession by Nogueira, Arona and "Shogun" (for the second time).
This prompted Overeem to reinvent himself by moving up to Heavyweight. Instead of undergoing a drastic weight cut prior to his fights, Overeem now began to pack on tons of muscle and utilize the power that came with it. It paid dividends, as Overeem netted the Strikeforce Heavyweight championship in late 2007, marking the start of a 12-fight unbeaten streak.
The newfound strength and success lead to him finally being signed to the UFC, where he faced off against former Heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar. Lesnar had gone through some intense bouts with diverticulitis, and Overeem took full advantage of this by nailing his opponent with a stiff liver kick that spelled the beginning of the end for Lesnar. The big name win earned Overeem a scheduled title shot against Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 146.
Then came the saga of the UFC 146 pre-fight press conference. Overeem and the rest of the all-Heavyweight main card were required to submit to random drug testing after the media event, and Overeem tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. This got him suspended for nine months, and he made his return at UFC 156 in February against "Bigfoot" Silva.
After winning the first two rounds despite fighting with his hands to his sides at times, Overeem's overconfidence got the best of him in the third round. Silva unleashed a series of blows that knocked Overeem out cold and left fans with their jaws hanging open. Because of this devastating loss, Overeem must now win impressively against Browne to prove that his hype is justified.
How he gets it done: On paper, Overeem has a lot of ways to get it done. He won the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix, which automatically qualified him as one of the most talented pure strikers in MMA. He's parlayed his deadly Muay Thai game into 15 knockouts inside the cage. Overeem possesses some of the most brutal knees in the game today. If he can get on a roll and find his timing early on, it could be a short night for Browne.
However, he's not at all one-dimensional, also showing a very underrated submission game. Overeem actually won the 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club European Trials on the strength of his absolutely vicious guillotine. Add that to the 19 submission victories to his name, and you have a supremely dangerous fighter on both the feet and the mat.
Unfortunately, Overeem was overconfident against "Bigfoot," even admitting that he didn't take his opponent seriously. That's not going to fly against a Heavyweight of Browne's caliber, and he'll need to be fully focused to have his hand raised at the end.
How he got here: Travis "Hapa" Browne started his rapid ascent at Heavyweight back in 2009, winning an incredible seven fights that year. He won both the VFC and Gladiator Challenge heavyweight Championships, and then made the inevitable transition to the UFC. He's gone 5-1-1 in the Octagon since then, and will seek to make a truly defining statement in Boston.
Like Overeem, Browne also lost to "Bigfoot" last year when he injured his hamstring early in the bout, leading to a brutal loss via TKO. Browne returned last April to face former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, and got back into the winning column by using elbows to earn a devastating TKO.
Browne is out to prove his only career loss was a fluke. He's on the verge of being one of the very best Heavyweights in the world, and a win over Overeem would be the next big step for him.
How he gets it done: "Hapa" is a lightning-fast power striker for a Heavyweight, evident by his four (T)KO victories in under a minute. He comes from a great training camp with Greg Jackson as his head coach, so you can rest assured that he'll be prepared with a great gameplan for Overeem.
Two of the few knocks on Overeem have been his chin and gas tank. Browne has only gone the distance three times in his entire career, so it's doubtful that his plan will be to draw the fight out into deep water. Instead, he'll most likely look to trade early and often with Overeem, which could be a double-edged sword.
That may not matter too much to Browne, who recently stated that one of the fighters is going out during this bout. Even though his opponent is a highly experienced former K-1 champ, Browne has the power to knock him out quickly.
His training has looked intense for this fight, and focusing on speed and agility should play to his strengths against the bulkier Overeem. Browne will be well-advised to stay away from the flashy kicks that caused him to get hurt in his only career loss against Silva. If he can quickly avoid "The Reem's" sledgehammer blows, he'll have a good chance to score a finish of his own.
Bottom Line: The bottom line here is that the winner of this bout will find himself in prime position to face off against a Top-5 Heavyweight. The division could have a serious shakeup at UFC 166 on October 19, 2013 from the Toyota Center in Houston, Tex., where champion Cain Velasquez will face Junior dos Santos in a trilogy-ending grudge match.
Although he's recently stated that he wants to wait for the winner of Velasquez vs. dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum could provide a great fight for Overeem or Browne. There's a shot that Overeem will be fighting for the title with a spectacular knockout in Boston, but Browne's chance at the same scenario is probably less likely. Regardless of who wins, it promises to be an exciting slugfest for the fans when Overeem and Browne lock horns at UFC Fight Night 26.
Which Heavyweight power striker will emerge victorious at UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston? Let us know your predictions for Browne vs. Overeem below!