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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC 203's Alistair Overeem resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 203 headliner Alistair Overeem, who looks to finally capture UFC gold this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2016) inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

K-1 kickboxing veteran and former Strikeforce kingpin, Alistair Overeem, is set to do battle with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight roost-ruler, Stipe Miocic, this Saturday (Sept. 10, 2016) at UFC 203 inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

One of the most decorated and skilled Heavyweights to ever compete, many expected Overeem to route the division and capture the strap in short fashion when "The Reem" finally stepped into the Octagon back in 2011. It didn’t happen. Instead, Overeem suffered some tough losses and ugly fights, but he grew smart because of it. He enters this bout leaner and more disciplined than before, refined by the coaches of Jackson-Wink MMA, and ready to live up to his potential.

Let’s take a closer look at the Dutchman’s skill set:


Overeem has a ton of experience as a professional kickboxer in K-1, and he found plenty of success in that organization/sport. Unfortunately for Overeem, he picked up some bad habits (at least for MMA) that cost him badly once he moved into UFC and fought elite opposition.

Because of the big gloves of kickboxing, Overeem routinely would cover up tight and block punches. That’s a viable tactic in the ring, but small MMA gloves leave far too many openings for it to be effective. Similarly, Overeem grew accustomed to standing his ground while blocking, which simply isn’t a great idea with 4 oz. gloves.

In MMA, distance is the greatest line of defense. It’s far more important to understand and make use of range than for a fighter to simply keep his hands up. Overeem learned that the hard way, but he’s become a master of distance to solve his problems.

Nowadays, Overeem operates as an in-and-out kickboxer. His entire game is made up of attacks either from the kickboxing range, punches to suddenly close the distance, or clinch work Since Overeem is reasonably tall and long striker with so much kickboxing experience, he’s quite good at range. There are very few Heavyweights who want to exchange kicks to the body and legs.

In Overeem’s last three bouts, he’s done a majority of work at long distance. In each of those bouts, Overeem did serious damage before trying to close the distance. At the edge of his kickboxing range, Overeem keeps his arms wide and stance low. Moving often and switching his stance, Overeem is very much reading his opponent's reactions and movements. This is a man with 70 total professional MMA and kickboxing bouts -- he's experienced enough to quickly analyze his foes.

Plus, he’s not standing still and waiting around to be punched.

While he's analyzing and looking for opportunities to land massive, finishing blows, Overeem is working. Mostly, Overeem is looking to smash his opponent's lead leg with inside or outside low kicks. He'll fire both from either stance and is focusing on speed, which helps him safely score and further widen the gap between his movement and his opponent's own footwork.

In extremely Jackson-Winkeljohn fashion, Overeem has also added several linear low kicks to his game. Regardless of whether he's throwing a stomp kick to the thigh or an oblique kick, Overeem is simply making it more difficult for his opponent to close the distance.

As mentioned, Overeem is looking to find his kill shot. In terms of kicks, that's undoubtedly his left kick to the body. Usually fired from his Southpaw stance against an Orthodox opponent, Overeem can cause his opponent to crumble if this kick lands cleanly to the mid-section (GIF).

In his last bout, Overeem set up a crane kick wonderfully. He had already landed hard left body kicks and right low kicks on Arlovski, so the Belarusian was looking out for those strikes. When Overeem raised the right leg, Arlovski expected the low kick. Then, Overeem switched to kick with his left leg, and his foe expected the body kick.

Instead, the kick whipped straight up the middle into the chin (GIF).

Rather than walk forward and throw in combination, Overeem now looks to bounce in with hard strikes. Often, he lunges in from the Southpaw stance with a spearing left hand, commonly following up with a right hook as well. If his foe stands still, Overeem will enter into the clinch, but he can simply back away to his range if his opponent backs far off.

Overeem's destruction of dos Santos remains the best example. Early on, Overeem barely threw any punches, but he did score with a couple hard left overhands. By lunging in from a distance that dos Santos could not effectively strike from, "The Reem" was able to do damage while keeping his opponent's accuracy quite low.

As Overeem's distance control frustrated his opponent, he became more effective. By the second round, Overeem was chaining kicks together and landing far more frequently. His left overhand was more accurate, and he usually exited safely by rolling or ducking away afterward.

Finally, Overeem knocked out dos Santos. After spending so much time watching dos Santos, Overeem had his foe figured out. Switching to Orthodox after fighting most of the bout in Southpaw, Overeem pressured his shaken opponent, waited for the jab he knew was coming, then slipped inside and blasted his opponent with a left hook (GIF).

It’s no longer the main focus of his game, but Overeem's clinch work is still important and devastating. Overeem's left knee to the stomach -- from range or from in the clinch -- is infamous, and it's dropped or finished some very talented fighters.

Inside the Octagon, Overeem is exceptionally dangerous if he's able to force his opponent into the fence. From that position, Overeem excels at hand-fighting and controlling his opponent's posture, as he'll patiently create the opportunity to drive his knee through his opponent's liver (GIF).

Currently, the biggest issue with Overeem’s skill set is that he has a bad habit of shelling up along the fence. He’s rarely placed there, but it could easily add another knockout loss to his record if he continues to stand still and cover when trapped on the cage.


Overeem has never been the most determined wrestler, but he’s effective nonetheless. Recently, Overeem has looked for takedowns more often, which is a smart strategy considering his skill on the mat.

Overeem likes to land takedowns from the clinch, but he often shoots to get there. After changing levels and driving into his opponent's hips, Overeem will looking to move up into the clinch. From there, he'll often simply begin his assault on the mid-section, but Overeem has also spun around to the back clinch or overpowered his opponent to the mat in the initial entrance with a body lock.

Once in the clinch, Overeem can throw his foes with body locks but has always looked for the outside trip. It’s a favorite of his, and he used it well against Arlovski, hooking his foe’s leg and dropping his body weight down to the ground. Overeem’s takedown of the Belarusian was especially well setup as he had just landed a knee, shifting Arlovski’s focus from wrestling.

Once on top, Overeem's ground striking is devastating. That was his path to victory opposite Stefan Struve, as Overeem quickly threw his foe to the mat. Once there, Overeem did a very great job of controlling one of his opponent's hands while striking with the other, pounding his opponent into unconsciousness (GIF).

Defensively, Overeem is a very difficult man to take down. Unless he's gassed out, Overeem is either maintaining too much distance to be taken down or simply stalking his opponent from a low base that's difficult to penetrate.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Overeem is a very talented grappler. He's found success in grappling tournaments and has finished 19 of his opponents via submission. That said, Overeem hasn't submitted anyone since 2009, so this section will be fairly brief.

The most well-known technique in Overeem's arsenal is undoubtedly his guillotine, which accounts for a majority of his submission finishes. While it's undoubtedly a dangerous weapon, it's really not complicated. It's actually a bit funny how simple Overeem's guillotine is, but he’s tall, powerful and aggressive with the technique, which is more than enough to make him dangerous.


Overeem came in on a massive hype train and crashed in truly spectacular fashion. Unlike most, however, Overeem’s trip to the drawing board was successful, and he’s more than turned around his UFC career. On Saturday, Overeem has the opportunity to simultaneously live up to expectations and complete a remarkable career turnaround. Either on its own is admirable, but both is the type of accomplishment very few fighters can claim.


Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.

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