Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight veterans Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik threw down yesterday afternoon (Sat., April 20, 2019) at UFC on ESPN+ 7 from inside Yubileyny Sports Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Two men still relatively close to the top of the game after two decades in the sport faced off yesterday afternoon, both impressive examples of longevity in a difficult sport. Overeem is well-known for his physical and technical adjustments, changing his body and style to fit the type of competition as needed. Oleinik, meanwhile, has taken no such action, sticking to his straight forward approach of walking foes down, slinging heavy leather, and finding a way into top position. Once there, few men are nastier than “Boa Constrictor,” who had submitted a remarkable 45 foes already.
This proved to be an electric main event.
After an early guard pull from Oleinik, the two Heavyweights began trading in the center of the Octagon. Moments later, a big overhand right stunned Overeem, sending him to the fence where he covered up beneath a flurry of punches. “The Reem” survived, but Oleinik landed some real hard shots to the body in the process.
Overeem was able to scramble back to the center a couple times, but Oleinik was relentless with his aggression. Even with Overeem firing knees in his direction, the Russian kept advancing forward and firing punches. The result of all that aggression was Overeem getting jammed into the fence, where Oleinik would go back to his body assault.
For most of the round, Oleinik was in control and doing damage. However, Overeem’s tricky knees that tend to climb up around the side of the head in the clinch — the very subject of this week’s technique highlight! — began to land. In the final 30 seconds of the opening round, a pair of those knees slammed into Oleinik’s chin, causing him to crumple to the mat.
A few follow up blows from Overeem sealed the deal.
Overeem may be best-known for his monstrous power, but composure is a major reason for the veteran’s success as well. Both were on display here, as Overeem calmly navigated his way through Oleinik’s raw aggression. Make no mistake, Overeem was definitely stunned early, and those body shots were certainly fatiguing, but Overeem was never rattled by all the strikes coming his way.
Throughout the flurries, Overeem looked for opportunities to grab onto the head in an offensive clinch position. When in those spots, Overeem made his strikes count, landing hard blows to the body and jaw. Statistically, Overeem landed far fewer shots than his opponent, but a few knees from Overeem are worth dozens of punches from just about anyone else.
Dangerous moments aside, it was a very smart strategy from “The Demolition Man.”
Oleinik fought rather smart as well. He had no chance with Overeem at range, so Oleinik made it a point to never fight from that position. He charged forward, did damage, and got the close-range battle he desired; it just didn’t work out in his favor. One of the more neat tricks from Oleinik were his attempts to grab the Ezekiel choke when Overeem covered up, which always forced a reaction from the Dutchman.
If there’s one critique for Oleinik, I do believe the veteran shot for takedowns too often. It became clear after the first one that the takedown probably wasn’t going to happen, which meant that his attempts ultimately let Overeem off the hook when he was previously eating punches. At the same time, that’s only an easy criticism to make in hindsight — of course the man with 45 damn submission wins wants to take the fight to the ground.
Oleinik gave it a good go, but Overeem was the better man yesterday in St. Petersburg.
Yesterday at UFC on ESPN+ 7, Alistair Overeem stopped his opponent in the first round. Who should Overeem face next?
For complete UFC on ESPN+ 7 ‘Overeem vs. Oleinik’ results and play-by-play, click HERE!