Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir will do battle for high stakes on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of this Saturday night's (Feb. 1, 2014) UFC 169 event from Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The bout has been billed as a "loser leaves town" match given the recent track record of both fighters, but Dana White said that isn't necessarily the case.
Regardless, Overeem and Mir have lost five consecutive mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts between them. Their backs are up against the wall as their stock is fading fast, even in a division as shallow as heavyweight.
Overeem was last seen eating a vicious Travis Browne front kick at UFC Fight Night 26 in a fight he had largely dominated with his brutal knees, nearly finishing Browne early on. But somehow "Hapa" survived, and Overeem ran out of fuel.
He stood right in front of Browne and paid for it. It was the second straight loss in a fight Overeem was winning, following his highlight-reel knockout at the hands of Antonio Silva at UFC 156.
Mir hasn't fared much better.
He has to be commended for fighting the best in the world, but he's dropped three straight to Junior dos Santos, Daniel Cormier, and most recently Josh Barnett, in a one-sided beating at UFC 164. There's no question that Mir is one of the legends of the sport, but the fight game may have passed him by.
We'll find out on Saturday night. Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Overeem and Mir.
Record: 36-13 (1) overall, 1-2 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: Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 26), 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)
Keys to Victory: Overeem's key to victory obviously lies in his thunderous kickboxing. The former K-1 World Grand Prix champion mixes it up with an impressive arsenal of varying strikes, and "Reem's" physical strength can rival that of anyone in MMA.
He hasn't looked quite the same since getting popped for elevated testosterone at the UFC 146 media event back in 2012. Overeem came into the Octagon riding a ton of hype, and he initially backed it up by blasting Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. However, he's regressed ever since, badly needing a win to stay afloat in UFC.
To do so, Overeem moved his training camp to Thailand for this fight, returning to his Muay Thai roots.
And fortunately for him, Mir presents the kind of fighter that plays right into Overeem's strengths. Mir has been knocked out seven times throughout his career. "Reem" will look to use his superior strength to get Mir in the clinch and nail him with punches and knees.
If Mir looks to implement his black belt-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, Overeem will be ready. He may have 15 knockouts on his resume, but he actually has more submissions with 19. He also won the 2005 Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ABCC) European Trials, proving he's a force to be reckoned with on the mat as well as the feet.
But above all else, Overeem simply has to show up in shape. Carrying added bulk gained in his transition from a light heavyweight to a hulking heavyweight has made him look extremely out of shape. He gassed in the third round against "Bigfoot" and got knocked out, and he exhausted himself even earlier against Browne.
Mir may not be known for his cardio, but he certainly can put Overeem to sleep if he runs out of energy when it matters most. On paper, this should be Overeem's fight to win, but we've heard that story before. He desperately needs a finish to silence his many critics.
Record: 16-8 overall, 14-8 UFC
Key Wins: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC 92, UFC 140), Tim Sylvia (UFC 48), Brock Lesnar (UFC 81)
Key Losses: Josh Barnett (UFC 164), Daniel Cormier (UFC on FOX 7), Junior dos Santos (UFC 146), Brock Lesnar (UFC 100), Shane Carwin (UFC 111)
Keys to Victory: Mir has his hands full with one of the most devastating strikers in all of MMA. Despite his championship pedigree, strikers have always been Mir's kryptonite, and he hasn't exactly fared well against massive opponents, either.
Mir's edge in this fight would have to lie in his decorated submission skills, but we haven't really seen much of that from him lately. Instead, he's focused on trying to stand with his last three opponents, to horrific results. He needs to throw that gameplan out the window in New Jersey.
At this point in his career, he's not going to withstand an assault like the younger Browne did.
For that reason, he needs to attempt to get this fight to the ground. By no means will that guarantee success, but Mir stands a much better chance of staying in this fight if it goes to the mat. He's never been submitted and has the record for most submissions in UFC heavyweight history with eight.
Overeem has only tapped twice, so he'll be hard to put away. If nothing else, grappling with Overeem will keep Mir conscious long enough to score some points of his own. If he can outlast Overeem and go into the second and third rounds as the fresher fighter, Mir should be able to find an opening. He's a crafty veteran who knows his reputation is on the line.
If Mir did his homework, he'll show up to UFC 169 in the best shape of his life. Conditioning will play a part in this bout if Mir can survive "Reem's" initial onslaught. He's not going to win anything close to a slugfest, and he knows that.
Mir has to be the smarter fighter to win in Newark.
Bottom Line from New Jersey: The bottom line for this fight is that we have two respected former champions on downward trends fighting for their relevancy and respect. Mir has stated that he's not retiring if he loses to Overeem, but there's definitely not much left for him to accomplish if he does.
He'll be irrelevant at that point, and with a laundry list of UFC heavyweight records under his belt, there's no shame in riding off into the sunset as one of the best 265-pound fighters to ever grace the Octagon.
Despite fighting since 1999, the 33-year-old "Reem" still has the striking technique and power to put any heavyweight's lights out. He's just appeared to lose energy and focus in his recent outings, something that should be correctable with the right training. He's banking on a change of scenery to change his fortunes. Overeem also isn't dealing with the kind of power striker that he was in his last two fights.
Still, if he loses his third straight it could be curtains for him in UFC. He most likely carries quite a high price tag and the streak would have him labeled a major disappointment after coming in as the only man to hold three belts at one time.
The stage is set for him to knock out a reeling Mir, but we've heard that story before. Emotions will be running high with the careers of both men potentially on the line, so we should be in for a heated battle on Saturday night. Enjoy the fight.
It could be win or go home for both Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir at UFC 169. With both fighters backed into a corner, can Mir survive "Reem's" power to keep hold of his job?