When Alistair Overeem makes his tenth walk to the octagon at UFC 203, he will undoubtedly be playing a road game in Stipe Miocic’s hometown. The city that was starved for a champion, got just that when Miocic laid out Fabricio Werdum earlier this year. And Quicken Loans Arena will get a chance to welcome home their firefighting champ on Saturday. An entire arena, and an entire city, will be cheering for Overeem to fail. Some fighters might be rattled by this. But go ahead and name me one time Overeem has ever looked rattled before entering the cage. Don’t worry I’ll wait.
At UFC 203 Alistair Overeem Eyes More Titles
Put that octagon in any city, any country, or any planet you want, when the opening bell rings Alistair is right at home. He may only have nine fights in the UFC, but he has been a mainstay in the heavyweight division since 2007. Oh, and not to mention the fourteen times he’s competed in kickboxing, with spectacular results. Overeem won the K-1 Grand Prix, captured the Strikeforce heavyweight belt and the DREAM interim heavyweight title during his career. It’s fair to say Alistair has a resume that would make most mixed martial arts fighter blush. But one huge prize still eludes his trophy case. The UFC heavyweight championship.
There must a secret club somewhere for hall-of-fame caliber fighters who have never captured a UFC title. I assume Urijah Faber is in charge of snacks and Dan Henderson is the treasurer.
At 36-years-old, Alistair Overeem has been able to build unbelievable momentum towards this title shot. The way he knocked out Junior Dos Santos, a former champ, should have opened everyone’s eyes to the tidal wave that was coming. If that wasn’t enough to do it, he made everyone sit-up and take notice when he front kicked Andre Arlovski in the throat. Leading to an impressive win in his home country of the Netherlands back in May.
At 36-years-old, Alistair Overeem has been able to build unbelievable momentum towards this title shot
In that fight, he was ironically placed in the same situation that Miocic now faces–the pressure of performing in front of the home crowd. Another similarity is Overeem will now step into the same shoes Miocic wore in his title win–spoiler to the home town favorite. To add that missing piece to his title belt collection, Overeem must slay the reigning king in front of his own court, and he may even crack a sly smile if he breaks the hearts of the Cleveland faithful.
The dynamic of the hometown hero versus the outsider gets even more interesting when you look at the paths these two fighters are on. Momentum is a funny thing in MMA, and we’ve seen time and time again, the fighter chasing the title can often overwhelm a champion who has gotten too comfy at the mountain top. Miocic was on a roll, similar to Alistair, before he got his shot. Though, can he maintain that same drive, and train just as hard now that he’s accomplished what he set out to do? Miocic can bask in his custom suits, and enjoy interviews on Sportscenter, but all that gets stripped away once the cage door shuts. And once it does, can he really have prepared to fight with the same hunger as his opponent, who is still looking to grab the ultimate prize?
Overeem could very well be the most skilled striker in the UFC.
We won’t know if those traps have ensnared Miocic until we watch the fight Saturday night. At 31-years-old, Miocic is the young lion among a group of aging heavyweights. However, even if Miocic has avoided all the pitfalls that come with extreme success inside the octagon, he still has a monster of a man standing in front of him. Overeem could very well be the most skilled striker in the UFC (although Stephen Thompson and Joanna Jedrzejczyk could make compelling arguments). And he’s no slouch on the ground either. Miocic possesses some very good boxing, and wrestling. He likes to pressure his opponents, but if he takes that strategy against “The Reem,” I would bet the farm that we see a new UFC heavyweight champ.
On paper, this fight is as close as it can get. It is one of the best match-ups we will get to see all year in the UFC. But fights aren’t fought on paper. The training camps, media obligations and mental state of each fighter will all be factors in a fight where both are looking for the slightest edge. When all of those things start to come into play, it seems clear that momentum is wearing the colors of the Netherlands. When Overeem steps in that cage he’s calm, he’ll feel like he’s right at home, even while he stands in the center of enemy territory and attempts to complete his championship collection once and for all.