With Alistair Overeem’s brutal dismantling of Brett Rogers on Saturday night, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion answered a thousand questions about how he would fare against top-flight opponents in American MMA. Make no mistake—Brett Rogers is a top heavyweight. As evidenced by his beatdown of Andrei Arlovski and his gutsy effort against Fedor Emelinenko, Rogers has the size and power to frustrate any fighter in the division. But Overeem essentially had a sparring session with Rogers in St. Louis; he busted up his legs with a few thunderous kicks, tossed the Minnesotan to the mat and then pounded him into oblivion.
Considering Overeem’s opponent was a legitimate top-10 heavyweight, I was shocked to witness what looked like a collegiate athlete beating up his adolescent brother. Naysayers who would contend that the Dutchman shouldn’t be mentioned amongst the elite of the division were surely convinced otherwise. And MMA fans are now presented with the tantalizing prospect of Overeem facing Fedor in a battle of epic proportions.
For approximately one year fans have clamored for Fedor to step in the Octagon against Brock Lesnar, perceiving the UFC heavyweight champion as the man to dethrone Fedor. Sure, Lesnar poses some interesting conundrums for the stoic Russian. Brock Lesnar is a rare combination of size and athleticism, with a sterling wrestling pedigree to boot. But there are gaping holes in Lesnar’s game that a fearless tactician like Fedor would undoubtedly exploit.
Lesnar is a mediocre boxer who was clearly at a disadvantage standing during the Randy Couture and Frank Mir fights. He’s got power, but it’s slow power like Gabriel Gonzaga’s. As often as Couture was able to connect against Lesnar, Fedor would be doubly effective with his one-punch KO ability. Furthermore, Lesnar is almost guaranteed to get you to the ground but Fedor is almost as deft off his back as Big Nog; his craftiness would prevent the feeble position Frank Mir landed in during his rematch with Brock. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lesnar ended up on his back considering the sneaky trips Fedor employs in the clinch. Stamina is a different matter completely.
Overeem, on the other hand, has far more advantages against Fedor. I’d posit that Overeem is a better kickboxer than Mirko Cro Cop, who busted up Fedor more than any fighter previous or since. But underneath Overeem’s elite K-1 credentials is a submission skill set with which he’s registered most of his victories. Fedor is the superior grappler, no doubt. But Overeem would have the same primary advantage that Lesnar would have against Fedor: brute strength. My point is that Overeem would not be utterly tooled on the ground and could possibly power out of dangerous positions. Considering that Fedor tends to dance in the alley of his opponent’s strengths, this fight would likely take place on the feet where Overeem is the most lethal fighter in the division.
Would I pick Overeem? Well, I’d have to take into account his questionable chin, undemonstrated (at his new size) cardio, and Fedor’s ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But it wouldn’t be an easy choice, I can tell you that much.