Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight finishers Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik will clash today (April 20, 2019) from Yubileyny Sports Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
A pair of bad knockout losses in seven months saw Overeem lose his status in the title hunt, but Overeem has always adapted to his circumstances well enough. The longtime veteran switched camps and styles once more, moving to Elevation Fight Team in Colorado and adapting more of a clinch-and-wrestle approach to great success.
Oleinik, meanwhile, has had precisely the same style for the last two decades. “Boa Constrictor” lumbers towards his opponent and fires haymakers, waiting for an opportunity to tackle his foe and jump on the neck. Given his 45 victories via tapout, the Russian is doing something right.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 44-17 (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), Francis Ngannou (UFC 218), Curtis Blaydes (UFC 225), Ben Rothwell (UFC Fight Night 50)
Keys to Victory: Overeem’s own decades of combat have proven him a very talented technician. On the feet, Overeem possesses massive, one-shot power in his kicks, knees and punches. As mentioned, however, Overeem is quite a solid wrestler as well, and he’s scored 17 submission victories on his own.
On the whole, I like Overeem’s new approach. Most Heavyweights are terrible wrestlers who fatigue after defending a couple shots — easy pickings for “The Reem,” who is always at least a bit vulnerable when dealing with his foe’s punches. From top position, however, Overeem is just as deadly while far less likely to get knocked out.
Oleinik is an exception.
There’s no reason for Overeem to engage Oleinik in his wheelhouse, even if he could probably safely do major damage from top position. Overeem will be so much more effective at range, where his kicks will quickly debilitate the submission ace. A few kicks to the leg and body will render Oleinik rather immobile, at which point Overeem can pick his shots until the finish materializes.
Key Wins: Mark Hunt (UFC Fight Night 136), Travis Browne (UFC 213), Jared Rosholt (UFC Fight Night 57), Junior Albini (UFC 224)
Key Losses: Curtis Blaydes (UFC 217), Daniel Omielanczuk (UFC Fight Night 91)
Keys to Victory: Aside from his crazy submissions, there are no real surprises when it comes to Oleinik’s game. The strong Russian is clunky in all other aspects, but toughness and power have often made up for those flaws when Oleinik is in a tough spot.
The path to victory for Oleinik is clear, as the 41-year-old combatant must either take Overeem down or hurt him with punches. Either way, there’s no benefit to hanging around at range, where Overeem’s kicks could quickly end the fight.
Instead, Oleinik has to walk Overeem down and swing for the fences. Even at the best of times, Overeem’s defense has always been shaky — doubly so when faced with aggression. Plus, Oleinik’s 80 inch reach will be helpful in landing a fight-changing shot, as Overeem is accustom to have a reach advantage.
Oleinik’s best shot involves moving straight toward Overeem, swinging hooks, and potentially ducking down into a takedown. If he can make it ugly or land a big shot/takedown, Oleinik is a very live dog.
Bottom Line: It’s a fun Heavyweight battle between veterans who have somehow never fought one another.
Overeem needs this win to remain a relevant Heavyweight. The only men who have beaten him in recent years are top contenders, and despite Oleinik’s recent resurgence, “Boa Constrictor” is not in the top-five. If Overeem still has title dreams, then “The Demolition Man” simply has to have his hand raised.
Though it’s largely understood that Oleinik is not a true contender at 41 years of age, a win here does help to change that. A quality three-fight win streak at Heavyweight is difficult to come by, and back-to-back main event victories would also help his cause considerably. It would undoubtedly be the best win of his career, another unlikely step forward toward the elite of the division.
At UFC Fight Night 149, Alistair Overeem and Alexus Oleinik will go to war. Which Heavyweight will add another stoppage win to his record?
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 149 fight card, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 10:15 a.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 1 p.m. ET.