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Heavy Wait: An In-Depth Look at Overeem vs. Rogers

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Will "The Grim" Demolish the "Demolition Man", or Will Overeem Make Brett Regret Taking This Fight? PdW2kX Takes an In-Depth Look at the Main Event for Strikeforce: "Heavy Artillery"

At first glance, the appeal for the upcoming Alistair Overeem vs. Brett Rogers fight for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship is pretty basic: it’s two very large men with four very powerful arms trying to knock each other senseless. But upon closer inspection, this bout has a level of intricacy that few of today’s Heavyweight bouts can honestly claim to have.

At the center of controversy and criticism, yet paradoxically optimism and elation, lies Alistair Overeem, the “Demolition Man”, Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Champion that hasn’t defended the belt once since earning it in 2007. Detractors, chief among them Overeem’s opponent Brett Rogers, say that Overeem has been running scared of the USA’s heavyweight division and has been finding success in Japan only due to his (alleged) use of steroids. Fans of the “Demolition Man” say that Overeem’s two-year hiatus from American MMA was a necessary evil in order to further his career, since his time in K-1 has both made him more money and allowed him to develop into a stronger, fiercer fighter.

But Overeem’s opponent, Brett Rogers, is also not without controversy. After riding high with ten straight (T)KO’s, with notable victories over James Thompson and Andrei Arlovski, Rogers had as good a claim as any to challenge for Strikeforce’s top belt, especially considering that, for the most part, Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division is rather weak in terms of “best in the world” talent. But then he met Fedor Emelianenko, who humbled Rogers early in Round 2 with a thunderous knockout blow followed by a barrage of punches that forced a referee stoppage. Many are now decrying Rogers and especially Strikeforce, with their point being that Strikeforce is giving a title shot to a man that not only lost his last fight, but lost it in a very decisive, humbling manner. Fans of “The Grim” see things a little different: Rogers held his own against Fedor and achieved more in defeat than most could hope to achieve in victory, and that with Emelianenko mired in contract disputes that have only just barely been resolved, Rogers was the most logical choice given his previous ability to viciously separate a man from his consciousness, and especially due to the fact that Rogers had called out Overeem on multiple occasions in the past.

So who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong? Will the “Demolition Man” reestablish himself among the Heavyweight elite both in Strikeforce and around the world with another dominating performance, or will “The Grim” get back to his thunderous KO’ing ways and claim the gold that will most likely put him on the path of a rematch with Fedor? My name is PdW2kX, and I’m delighted to present my first article for Total-MMA.com: “Heavy Wait: An In-Depth Look at Overeem vs. Rogers”.

Let’s start out by comparing the numbers. When it comes down to experience, it’s clear that Overeem’s record eats Brett’s alive. While Brett has over ten professional fights, Overeem has over ten years as a professional mixed martial artist. Alistair Overeem may have eleven losses, but Brett Rogers has eleven fights, period. But this of course should not discredit Rogers’ ability, 10-1 with ten KO’s is nothing to be ashamed of. Win or lose, Brett Rogers approaches every single fight with the clear intention of knocking his opponent senseless. That kind of killer instinct, the one that makes fights so entertaining to watch, should always be commended. But when it comes right down to it, Rogers is still a rookie to this sport, and Overeem has four times as many fights as “The Grim”. On paper, it’s hard not to give the nod to Alistair Overeem.

But of course, MMA is so much more than that. When you look at pure Knockout ability, Alistair actually has only two more knockouts than Brett. Two knockouts more, and over ten years of professional MMA experience. To make matters worse, Overeem’s knockout losses are actually more than his losses by submission and by decision combined. Even with his time in K-1, which many are pointing at as the clearest indicator that Overeem’s striking is leagues better than Brett’s, Overeem has been knocked out three times. I honestly don’t believe that Overeem has a glass chin, but those looking at his record and thinking that experience is all Overeem needs to win this fight should learn to call a spade a spade. At the end of the day, I can absolutely picture a world where Brett manages to finally land the bomb and does indeed put out Overeem’s lights.

So who has the better striking? That debate is a lot more complicated than you might think. Fans of Overeem rally behind the war-cry of “K-1 Level Striking”, as if competing in K-1 gives any Mixed Martial Artist a golden ticket to fast finishes and long win-streaks. Fans of Brett similarly shout “one-hit KO power” from the rooftops as if it’s gospel. The truth lies somewhere in-between.

While K-1 is without a doubt the best kickboxing promotion in the world, simply competing at a K-1 level does not guarantee instant victories in MMA. Some of the best K-1 strikers have outright failed at MMA. Badr Hari, one of K-1’s most beloved fighters, was so outright embarrassed in his one and only professional Mixed Martial Arts fight that he never again competed in MMA. Peter Aerts, who has nearly 100 K-1 victories, was submitted in thirty seconds in his second MMA fight. The days of the one-dimensional striker have long since died out, and “K-1 Level Striking” is, at its heart, a clever little buzz word that sounds impressive but ultimately lacks substance.

What we should be focusing on is not Alistair Overeem’s ability to fight at a K-1 level, but his ability to compete in general. Fighting and winning (and sometimes losing) in K-1 did not cause Overeem’ striking ability to magically shoot up several notches, his raw power and surprising technique was there all along. Regardless of whether it’s in K-1 or MMA, Overeem has a long record of fighting smart, fighting hard, and knocking people out. I don’t think anyone could call Overeem’s striking a technical masterpiece, but oven ten years of fights have left his hands more precise and deadlier than ever. Let’s not forget that Brett Rogers lost to a smartly-timed counter punch. In a straight punch-for-punch exchange Brett Rogers would probably have the advantage, but if an opportunity presents itself, Overeem has all the tools necessary to give “The Grim” his second straight TKO.

In regards to Brett Rogers, I’ve heard many describe his punching style as “raw” and “aggressive”. But “raw” is just a nicer way of saying “neglectful”, and “aggressive” is a nicer way of saying “reckless”. More often than not, that’s worked to his advantage. But the fight with Fedor proved that Rogers’ style can and most likely will continue to be picked apart so long as Rogers keeps facing the best competition that Strikeforce has to offer. If his opponent can withstand Rogers’ penchant for bull-rushing and wild bomb-throwing (and admittedly, Andrei Arlovski was not able to), Rogers’ “let ‘em fly” style opens itself up for smartly-timed, possibly KO-inducing counter-striking more and more as the fight goes on.

This of course should not discredit the simple fact that Brett Rogers can KTFO you before you know what’s happening. His killer instinct has skyrocketed him to the top much like current highly-touted UFC newcomers Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez. Despite the inherent recklessness involved, “The Grim” looks for the knockout every second of every fight, and up until the Fedor fight, that strategy was all he ever needed. This may seem like a glorified attempt at expanding upon the long-held notion of the “puncher’s chance”, but I truly believe that “puncher’s chance” doesn’t even begin to describe the deadly power of Brett Rogers’ striking.

However, as we all know, MMA is so much more than striking. This match opens itself up to a lot of interesting questions if it hits the ground. In comparing both men’s ground games, it becomes clear that Alistair Overeem has the advantage. In the past, Brett Rogers’ ground game has been starkly one-dimensional: many times he only ever follows a fighter to the ground if he’s landed a big bomb and is looking to follow up with a barrage of punches to force a stoppage, and when put on his back, his main strategy is to use his brute strength to shove his opponents off of him. Against a fellow muscular behemoth like Alistair Overeem, Rogers may find it very difficult indeed, although not impossible, to get the “Demolition Man” off of him. Let’s also not forget that Alistair Overeem actually has more submission victories than he does knockout victories. And while most of those submission wins were against pure strikers, few can deny that “pure striker” is one of the best ways to summarize Brett Rogers. In the end, Overeem’s ground game has always been underestimated, and Rogers’ ground game has been virtually non-existent. Even fans of “The Grim” must admit that Overeem has Rogers at a disadvantage if he decides to take it to the ground.

One of the final points that his detractors hold against Alistair Overeem is his inactivity in American Mixed Martial Arts, having not competed in American MMA since 2007. “Ring rust” is a very real thing, no matter how high of a caliber of athlete you are, and some believe that this alone will be the deciding factor in Alistair Overeem’s supposedly impending downfall. Yet Alistair Overeem has actually remained fairly active in MMA. Even though the fights were in Japan, you simply don’t develop ring rust if you remain active: Overeem competed in professional MMA fights four times in 2008 and three times in 2009, in the midst of his most recent six-fight stint in K-1. Plus, remember that Fedor Emelianenko helped prove that top-level athletes can remain dominant no matter if they fight in a ring or cage. His prolonged absence may have left Strikeforce high, dry, and without a Heavyweight champion to call their own, but seven fights in two years, regardless of who it was against or where it took place, is more than enough to effectively shoot down any thoughts of Alistair Overeem suffering from “ring rust” when he steps back into the Strikeforce cage.

Those decrying Brett Rogers for being awarded a title shot after a loss have more of a leg to stand on, but ultimately not much more. Barring in mind that a fighter’s status as a championship contender and what it takes to achieve such a status can vary wildly from person to person, no fighting promotion is immune to circumstances that allow for fighters to leapfrog over other, possibly more-deserving fighters and get their shot at a championship. However, very few of those cases ever involve men who were coming off of losses when they got their shot at the title, which brings us back to “more of a leg to stand on”.

Yet ultimately, Brett Rogers was the best possible choice to face Alistair Overeem. Fedor Emelianenko was mired in contract disputes and, if you believe the rumors, was very close to leaving Strikeforce several times during the M-1 Global/Strikeforce renegotiations. Fabricio Werdum consequently found himself in limbo as well, since he had been scheduled to face Fedor and is currently still scheduled to face him.  In regards to the rest of Strikeforce’s meager (though growing) Heavyweight division, everyone else either isn’t ready for a title shot yet, is already scheduled to fight someone else, or simply isn’t well enough known to warrant a shot at claiming the division’s championship. And let’s not deny the fact that Brett Rogers vs. Alistair Overeem is a highly marketable fight. Overeem’s return from a long excursion and Rogers’ return from a humbling defeat both pose a lot of interesting questions. There’s also some bad blood between these two, as Rogers has called out Overeem several times in the past and even accused the man of ducking him. Plus, both men are known for their heavy hands. While I enjoy a technical chess match of a fight as much as the next MMA purist, none can deny the massive appeal of two powerful men doing their best to knock each other’s heads off. So I can grudgingly agree that Strikeforce is setting a dubious precedent by giving out a title shot to a man coming off of a loss, but when it comes right down to it, I think the potential for greatness in this fight far outweighs any negatives.

One way or another, the heavy wait for Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division is almost over. Whether it is “The Demolition Man” or “The Grim” who ascends to the throne, Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division will finally have more to fight over than just pride. With a clear goal in sight and a clear champion to measure oneself up against, I think Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division will soon re-establish itself as one of the promotion’s best weight classes. With the return of big names like Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, and Andrei Arlovski, Strikeforce in general and the Heavyweight division in particular are out to prove that they aren’t going down without a fight, despite the current and lingering controversies surrounding both Strikeforce’s Heavyweight division and the promotion as a whole.

When it comes to the two men tasked with bringing relevance back to the Heavyweight division, I truly believe that both men are absolutely deserving of their place atop the Heavyweight hierarchy. Despite all his flaws, Alistair Overeem is an expert, well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist that any promotion would be proud to call their champion. Despite coming off of a loss and more or less being a “victim” of circumstance, Brett Rogers is a knockout machine, and knockout machines always bring in new fans and big ratings with their very basic but very wide-ranging appeal. While I don’t think anyone will ever call this match “The Fight That Saved Strikeforce” once all is said and done, I think Alistair Overeem vs. Brett Rogers is an important piece of the puzzle and will go a long way towards both rebuilding the significance of the Heavyweight division and adding to the credibility of Strikeforce.

 

 

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