Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweights Roy Nelson and Alistair Overeem will slug it out this Saturday night (March 14, 2015) at the UFC 185 pay-per-view (PPV) event inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
Outside of viciously knocking out the barely-functioning remains of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Nelson has been getting picked apart. Against his power punching foe, Nelson will look to score a knockout of his own and return to the win column.
Overeem is still struggling to find consistency. Despite his obvious skill and physical talents, the Dutch kickboxer has been knocked out three times in the last two years. Plus, his victories in that time period haven't been particularly impressive.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for both fighters.
Key Wins: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (UFC Fight Night 39), Stefan Struve (UFC Fight Night 21)
Key Losses: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 143), Stipe Miocic (UFC 161), Junior dos Santos (UFC 117)
Keys to Victory:
Keys to Victory: Nelson is well-known for his massive overhand right, which has separated a fair amount of the UFC's heavyweight division from its senses. Additionally, the portly knockout artist is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt, making him rather dangerous on the mat, as well.
In this bout, Nelson's durability is just as important as his ability to deliver the finishing punch. It's his biggest advantage, as the brawler is incredibly difficult to knockout.
Simply put, Nelson needs to encourage as many boxing exchanges in the center of the cage as possible. While Overeem will likely land some hard punches and kicks, he commonly leaves himself open to punches at this range.
Nelson can afford to absorb these shots; Overeem cannot.
While the frequent trading of blows should grant Nelson an opportunity to land his knockout punch, the distance at which it occurs is very important. Inside the clinch, the advantage shifts, as Nelson is not known for his power inside the clinch. Instead, Nelson should fight for underhooks and circle off the fence, where he can then return to firing off punches.
Record: 38-14 (1)
Key Wins: Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Frank Mir (UFC 169), Fabricio Werdum (Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum)
Key Losses: Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 50), Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 26), Antonio Silva (UFC 156)
Keys to Victory: Overeem is a well-rounded and dangerous fighter. He's a former kickboxing champion -- which should help explain his 16 knockout victories -- but is also a nasty submission grappler, known for his brutal guillotine choke.
Against Rothwell, Overeem faced a similar challenge to Nelson. "Big Ben" is a durable knockout puncher, but he isn't overly technical or nearly as physically gifted "Demolition Man."
Yet Rothwell found his chin.
For the short duration of that fight, Overeem was content to fight at range and bound forward with occasional punches. It earned him an early nap, so hopefully "Reem" has learned from that loss.
Instead of standing in prime overhand range, Overeem needs to manhandle Nelson and force him into the cage. Usually, Nelson has about one round of conditioning in which he's a competent fighter.
Overeem's violent knees to the body could cut that in half, if not finish the fight outright. Once Nelson is tired, Overeem should continue to work from the clinch -- "Big Country" is always dangerous -- or take his opponent to the mat.
Bottom Line: While neither man is likely to contend or be cut anytime soon, this will decide which fighter is worthy of his position in the bottom of the top 10.
Since Nelson consistently falls to top 10 fighters, this is the perfect test to see whether Overeem is currently among that rank. If he fails against the heavy puncher, then Overeem is not a top-10 fighter, which would be quite a fall since some pundits once ranked him as the best heavyweight in the world.
Alternatively, an intelligent game plan and victory could inspire some hope that Overeem will finally live up to expectations. He will have won three of his last four, which in the heavyweight division is enough to earn him a high-profile bout.
Nelson's position is pretty clearly established. Until his skills or body decline, he's the gatekeeper to the top 10. This fight won't affect that, it will only dictate which direction Overeem is heading.
At UFC 185, Roy Nelson and Alistair Overeem will engage in a heavyweight firefight. Which man will have his hand raised?