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UFC 218 card: Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou full fight preview

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Arlovski vs Ngannou Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou will collide this Saturday (Dec. 2, 2017) at UFC 218 inside Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan.

Overeem came up short against champion Stipe Miocic little more than one year ago, but he’s done well to remain active and get right back into the mix. He enters this bout off a pair of excellent wins, and a third could be just the push needed to earn “Demolition Man” another title shot. Ngannou, meanwhile, might have more hype behind him than anyone else. Hell, just last week UFC put out a video proclaiming Ngannou the heaviest puncher ever (watch it). Their testing methods and units of measurement were questionable, but the idea that Ngannou hits hard as shit is not difficult to believe.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:

Alistair Overeem
Record: 43-15 (1)
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 17), Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Mark Hunt (UFC 209, Dream 5)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 203), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 50), Travis Browne (UFC Fight Night 26), Antonio Silva (UFC 156)
Keys to Victory: Overeem is the craftiest Heavyweight striker on the roster. Since losing some size, Overeem has focused far more on his defense, maintaining a lot of distance before suddenly attacking with long kicks and counter punches. It’s all about avoiding that middle range, as Overeem will also close into the clinch and brutalize his foe with knees.

Ngannou is a terrifying fighter. He has a strong argument for being the most athletic man in the division, but he doesn’t fight sloppily in the least. He’s certainly a dangerous opponent for Overeem.

A big part of this bout will be patience for the veteran. Whether it’s a counter shot or takedown, Overeem has to wait for the perfect moment to really commit. Before that moment comes, however, Overeem can help it along by digging frequent kicks to the legs and body of the Frenchman.

To be frank, I’d rather see Overeem time his foe’s movement with a takedown attempt than a big punch, which can more easily be countered. If Overeem can get on top, his excellent submission game comes into play, which is a far easier realm to expose Ngannou’s relative inexperience. At worst, it lands Overeem in the clinch, where he’s quite deadly still and can look to wear his foe out.


Francis Ngannou
Record: 10-1
Key Wins: Andrei Arlovski (UFC on FOX 23), Curtis Blaydes (UFC Fight Night 86), Anthony Hamilton (UFC Fight Night 102), Luis Henrique (UFC on FOX 17)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: In just his fourth year as a professional fighter, Ngannou is a 2:1 favorite opposite Overeem. That’s astounding, and it says something about how highly the oddsmakers and general public feel about the freak athlete.

As mentioned, Ngannou has performed with far more composure and skill than one would expect of a super athletic newcomer. That will be key against Overeem, as maintaining an even pace is Ngannou’s biggest key to victory.

Ngannou has the physical attributes to pursue Overeem without being forced to reach on punches. His best move is to slowly walk Overeem down and cut off the fence, forcing exchanges. He doesn’t want to walk directly into a counter, but each exchange is a chance to put Overeem to sleep.

Countering the counter — much like Ben Rothwell did — is a wise move here.

In addition, Overeem tends to lose a bit of his sharpness as the fight progresses. He doesn’t gas terribly anymore, but Overeem grows more hittable late in the bout. If Ngannou shows restraint, the chance of him being knocked out early drops significantly, leaving him in great position to tee off late.

Bottom Line: Someone is going to sleep, while the winner earns his title shot.

For Overeem, it’s hard to fight for the title twice in a row against the man who just beat you. It requires a special win streak. Knocking out Mark Hunt, handing Werdum one of his two recent losses, and stopping Ngannou’s rise certainly qualifies as special.

Meanwhile, Ngannou is mighty special himself. He’s young, both in terms of age (31 years old) and fight experience. A Heavyweight rarity in that regard, the UFC would love nothing more than to see the Frenchman capture the belt and will certainly give him that chance with a victory here. A loss is a missed opportunity for either fighter. That’s not a huge problem for Ngannou, who will certainly be at the top of the division for years to come. However, Overeem is 18 years into his professional career and a dozen knockout losses deep, so the end could come at any time no matter how well he’s performing.

At UFC 218, Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou will battle in the co-main event. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?

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