Despite never competing in mixed martial arts (MMA) before, it seems as if former WWE superstar CM Punk is garnering a decisive slice of the attention pie leading into his Octagon debut later tonight (Sat., Sept. 10, 2016) at UFC 203 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. As a result, some anticipation and excitement has been pulled away from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight king Stipe Miocic's first title defense opposite international knockout artist Alistair Overeem.
As two of the very best strikers in the heavyweight class today, Miocic and Overeem should deliver on arrival later this evening at UFC 203. With incredible athleticism, dexterity, speed and power fueling this epic collision of heavyweights, don't be surprised if the five-round title fight ends abruptly. In order to shift some attention back to UFC 203's main event, we take a deeper look at what Miocic and Overeem each need to execute in order to walk away with the divisional belt wrapped around their waist.
1. Attack early and often...
It's no secret that Overeem has developed under the tutelage of head coach Greg Jackson and renowned striking wizard Mike Winkeljohn. The former Strikeforce champion is more calculated on the feet, remains patient in the pocket, prefers to sync up his range and timing before throwing any overzealous strikes and understands how to reserve his energy better than ever before.
In order to attack Overeem's new found technique and make Saturday the most uncomfortable night of his UFC career, Miocic will have to attack early and often to throw the kickboxer off kilter. It seems easy enough, but the more time Overeem has to adjust to Miocic's speed and athletic advantage the worse it's going to be for the champion.
Miocic can frustrate Overeem early by mixing in a couple of takedown attempts, in-and-out combinations, leg attacks and punches of all shapes and sizes. If he can do this, Miocic will be able to set the pace early, make Overeem attack and defend before he settles in and drag the challenger into deep water before the first round ever comes to an end.
2. Utilize his wrestling against the cage...
With identical height, weight and reach credentials, it seem as if the action between Miocic and Overeem will even out along the cage. They're both athletic, agile, powerful in close quarters and capable of landing dirty boxing by the boatload.
But one thing Overeem possesses over Miocic is incredible knees in the clinch. Just ask Brock Lesnar and Travis Browne. In order to avoid these devastating and potentially fight-changing missiles along the cage, Miocic must utilize his wrestling background and agility to escape the death grip of "The Reem."
If Miocic isn't able to stay out of harms way along the cage, he could be in for a long night. Once Overeem smells blood, he'll unload crushing knees until Miocic falls to pieces on the Octagon canvas.
1. Target the body...
As arguably the best heavyweight kickboxer to ever compete in MMA, Overeem offers a plethora of attacks from varying angles. He can launch devastating liver kicks, debilitating knees, front kicks to the face and perfectly-timed power shots with his hands. Overeem's kickboxing background remains his biggest attribute today and one of the best tools the UFC heavyweight division has ever seen.
In order to utilize his best offensive weapon and put Miocic on immediate notice, Overeem must target the champion's body all the way through UFC 203's main event. Remember, Miocic had trouble with Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 13 after the Brazilian landed countless punches to his body. Dos Santos' attacks eventually helped wear Miocic down and allowed "Cigano" to pull ahead on the scorecards in the later rounds.
While Overeem's stance and innate speed would limit his ability to attack Miocic below the neck with punches, his legs work perfectly fine. And considering Overeem often circles away from his opponent to gauge distance, he may have more than one opportunity to find Miocic's body and instantaneously slow the champion down.
2. Avoid wild exchanges..
As previously mentioned, Overeem is not the same fighter he once was when he entered the Octagon for the first time in 2011. After moving to Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA a few years back, he has developed a keen ability to size an opponent up, pick his openings, confidently unleash his offense and avoid as much backdraft as possible.
At UFC 203, Overeem will have to continue his reserved ways if he's going to outlast a champion as durable and dangerous as Miocic. While "The Reem" has the technique and power to end Miocic's night early with one single attack, he's better suited to play the wait-and-bait game. In effort to utilize his world-class distance control, setups and kickboxing repertoire, Overeem must avoid any unnecessary exchanges with Miocic and let the champion punch his way into trouble.
Considering Miocic is defending his title for the first time in front of his hometown, he'll probably come out guns blazing. Overeem needs to remain patient, composed, methodical and refined with his striking. Any other means of attacking Miocic could get "The Reem" flattened in no time.
Prediction: Miocic via second-round TKO
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 203 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.