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The Complete Guide to UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem

Patrick WymanMMA Senior AnalystSeptember 7, 2016

The Complete Guide to UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem

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    Stipe Miocic defends his UFC belt in front of his hometown crowd.
    Stipe Miocic defends his UFC belt in front of his hometown crowd.Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    The UFC heads to Cleveland for the first time on Saturday, September 10 with a fine offering on pay-per-view.

    In the main event, heavyweight champion and Cleveland native Stipe Miocic makes the first defense of the belt he won from Fabricio Werdum in May in front of the hometown crowd against challenger Alistair Overeem.

    Overeem has followed a long and winding road to get back to the top after being pulled from a scheduled title shot in 2012 due to a failed drug test. The Dutchman has won four in a row, including knockout wins over Junior Dos Santos and Andrei Arlovski.

    The rest of the card is teeming with interesting matchups. In the co-main event, Werdum takes on Travis Browne for a second time in a rematch of their 2014 fight that saw Werdum beat up Browne for five rounds on Fox. Urijah Faber attempts to hold onto his slot among the bantamweight elite against Jimmie Rivera, while a strawweight action fight between Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Andrade opens the card.

    Last but not least, CM Punk makes his highly anticipated UFC debut against Mickey Gall in a fight that should draw more eyeballs to the event.

    The preliminary card isn't as appealing as it was before Mairbek Taisumov and Damir Hadzovic were pulled with visa issues, but there are still a number of action bouts. Ray Borg and Ian McCall open the Fox Sports 1 card with an outstanding flyweight matchup, while Jessica Eye and Bethe Correia headline that portion of the event in a bantamweight fight that promises action.

    Let's take a look at each individual fight.

The Fight Pass Prelims

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    Yancy Medeiros headlines the Fight Pass portion of the card against Sean Spencer.
    Yancy Medeiros headlines the Fight Pass portion of the card against Sean Spencer.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Lightweights

    Drew Dober (16-7, 1 N/C; 2-3, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Jason Gonzalez (10-2; 0-0 UFC)

    Journeyman Dober takes on the debuting Gonzalez in a potentially entertaining lightweight bout. Dober saved his job with a decision win over Scott Holtzman in January, but he's still on the cusp of a pink slip with just two victories in six UFC outings. Gonzalez has beaten a combination of cans and decent competition on the regional scene and replaces the injured Erik Koch on late notice.

    Nebraska's Dober is mostly a southpaw kickboxer who works at a quick pace but doesn't have much power. He's not a bad wrestler, either, and knows how to control on top. Gonzalez is a high-volume kickboxer who stands a rangy 6'2" and has solid wrestling and grappling skills to boot.

    Prediction: This is tough to call. Dober isn't a world-beater, but he's well-rounded and experienced, and with Gonzalez coming in on late notice, that should be enough. Dober takes a decision.

     

    Light Heavyweights

    CB Dollaway (15-8; 9-8 UFC) vs. Francimar Barroso (18-5; 3-2 UFC)

    Longtime middleweight Dollaway moves up to 205 pounds to take on Brazil's Barroso in a decent fight. Dollaway has lost three in a row, two of them by knockout, and is on the cusp of a pink slip if he can't right the ship. Barroso has failed to impress despite compiling three wins, and he too will likely be cut with a loss.

    Dollaway can do a bit of everything, and do it well. The former wrestler strikes with real power and showcases good technique on the feet, has outstanding takedown defense and an active arsenal of shot takedowns and does strong work from top position. His chokes in transition are likewise dangerous.

    Barroso is a grinder. He can work at range, flicking out a steady diet of awkward-looking punches and kicks, but he does his best work in the clinch and from top position. He's a good defensive wrestler but an abysmal takedown artist, though, which means he spends a lot of time tied up with his opponent without accomplishing much.

    Prediction: Unless Dollaway is a shot fighter, which is a possibility, he should take this handily. Dollaway finds the knockout shot in the second round.

     

    Welterweights

    Yancy Medeiros (12-4, 1 N/C; 3-4, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Sean Spencer (12-5; 3-4 UFC)

    Texas' Spencer takes on Hawaii's Medeiros in an fun welterweight scrap.

    Medeiros is moving up to 170 pounds after eight fights at lightweight in which he had mixed success as an action fighter, sandwiching losses to Dustin Poirier and Francisco Trinaldo around a contentious win over John Makdessi. Spencer has lost two in a row, falling victim to veteran Mike Pyle in February after getting robbed against Cathal Pendred the previous year.

    Medeiros is a rangy striker who likes to throw long, straight punches that pack surprising power. The occasional spinning kick adds some variety. His takedown defense is outstanding, and a nasty guillotine makes him a threat in transitions as well.

    Spencer is a low-power, high-volume kickboxer with excellent technical chops on the feet. While not a great athlete, he pushes a fantastic pace and knows how to dictate rhythm and range with his jab. Strong takedown defense keeps him standing.

    Prediction: This is a close fight. Both will probably be content to bang it out on the feet, where Spencer's more technical approach contrasts with Medeiros' power and willingness to exchange. While it wouldn't be surprising if Spencer exploited Medeiros' porous defense and won on points, the pick is Medeiros by knockout in the second round.

The Fox Sports 1 Prelims

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    Bethe Correia takes on Jessica Eye in the feature fight on Fox Sports 1.
    Bethe Correia takes on Jessica Eye in the feature fight on Fox Sports 1.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Flyweights

    Ian McCall (13-5-1; 2-3-1 UFC) vs. Ray Borg (9-2; 3-2 UFC)

    Borg, the 23-year-old blue-chip prospect, looks to rebound from a loss to Justin Scoggins against the veteran McCall. While he entered the UFC as one of the top flyweights in the world, McCall has repeatedly come up short, most recently against John Lineker. The winner will be on the cusp of the top 10 in a thin division.

    Borg's game is all about transitions. His strikes disguise his ultra-quick double-leg takedown, his takedowns lead directly into back-takes and submission attempts in the scrambles and he sneaks in strikes as his opponents try to stand. If he gets stuck in a single phase, though, he doesn't necessarily have the skills to compete with veteran opponents.

    McCall can do everything at this point in his career. He has a mobile striking game that focuses on volume, he wrestles offensively and defensively with real skill and he has an excellent top game. The problem is decision-making: McCall often chooses to wrestle when he should strike or strike when he should be wrestling.

    Prediction: The X-factors here are Borg's improvement—he recently began working with the excellent coaches at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico—and McCall's tendency to fight against his own best interests. As it stands, though, McCall's depth of skill should win him a decision.

     

    Middleweights

    Brad Tavares (13-4; 8-4 UFC) vs. Caio Magalhaes (9-2; 4-2 UFC)

    Tavares returns from a 17-month layoff to face Brazil's Magalhaes in a matchup of mid-tier middleweights. Despite his clear talent, Tavares has never turned the corner and become an elite fighter, and the Hawaiian has now lost three of his last four fights. Magalhaes won four in a row over low-level competition, but he suffered a submission defeat to Josh Samman in July 2015.

    Tavares can do a bit of everything, though he doesn't stand out in any one area. On the feet he's a volume kickboxer with some pop, though not as much as you might expect. A strong defensive wrestler and clinch fighter, he can hit the occasional takedown for variety.

    Magalhaes has legitimate power, but he's not a terribly technical striker. Relentless if not terribly effective takedowns lead him to his best skill set: top control.

    Prediction: Unless Magalhaes lands the knockout shot, he's going to spend all night shooting bad takedowns without a setup against an opponent with good takedown defense. Tavares takes a decision.

     

    Lightweights

    Nik Lentz (26-7-2, 1 N/C; 10-4-1, 1 N/C UFC) vs. Michael McBride (8-1; 0-0 UFC)

    Iowa's McBride steps up on just five days' notice to take on the veteran Lentz, who was originally scheduled to face Chechen Mairbek Taisumov until a visa issue led to Taisumov's withdrawal from the card. Lentz returned to lightweight in December after a six-fight run at 145 pounds and took a close decision from Danny Castillo. McBride has mostly beaten journeymen on the Midwestern MMA scene.

    Lentz is a grinder, but one of the most talented and skilled versions of the type in the sport. He's a relentless clinch and takedown artist with great cardio and variety of skills who does outstanding work in scrambles and transitions, and he's competent on the feet to boot. McBride mostly likes to wrestle and work from the top, based on the little recent film that's available.

    Prediction: This bout would seem to pit two similar fighters, but Lentz is at the top of the heap in terms of his skills, while McBride isn't. Lentz grinds out a decision.

     

    Bantamweights

    Bethe Correia (9-2; 3-2 UFC) vs. Jessica Eye (11-5, 1 N/C; 1-4, 1 N/C UFC)

    Former title challenger Correia dropped her return engagement to Raquel Pennington after her 34-second loss to Ronda Rousey and now badly needs a win. She faces Cleveland's Eye who needs one even more desperately, having lost four in a row, albeit against the cream of the bantamweight division.

    Correia isn't a great athlete, but she's a high-output striker who does her best work in the pocket with combinations of counterpunches. She has made real improvements to her technical skills in the last year. Eye too likes to work at a quick pace on the feet and throws successions of jab-cross combinations at a high rate. She has a bad habit of making bad decisions in the heat of the moment, though.

    Prediction: This should be a fun, back-and-forth fight between two strikers who like to push a quick pace. Eye has physical advantages, but Correia is every bit as skilled and has a much higher fight IQ. The Brazilian wins a tight decision.

Joanne Calderwood vs. Jessica Andrade

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    Joanne Calderwood is on the cusp of being a contender.
    Joanne Calderwood is on the cusp of being a contender.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Strawweights

    Joanne Calderwood (11-1; 3-1 UFC) vs. Jessica Andrade (14-5; 5-3 UFC)

    Scotland's Calderwood takes on Brazil's Andrade in a crackling strawweight matchup that enters the evening as the favorite for Fight of the Night honors.

    Calderwood was one of the favorites to win The Ultimate Fighter 20 and emerged from the show as a built-in contender, but a bad loss to Maryna Moroz set back her progression. She has won two straight since then, though, defeating Cortney Casey and former top contender Valerie Letourneau. For her part, Andrade dropped to strawweight after seven fights at 135 pounds and beat the crap out of Jessica Penne in June.

    The winner will be only a fight or two away from a title shot in a division that's still sorting itself out.

    Calderwood is a slow starter and has a bad habit of backing herself into the fence early in fights, where she eats far too many punches for comfort. Once she gets going, which usually takes a few minutes, she's an effective range striker who fires off a steady diet of front and round kicks.

    An increasingly sharp jab and crisp right hand add another dimension for her opponents to worry about, and Calderwood has improved both her movement in the cage and her footwork, which allows her to find better angles from which to land. 

    Pace and attrition are the strengths of Calderwood's game on the feet. She works fast and wears her opponent down with a steady diet of shots to the legs and body, picking up volume as the fight rolls along.

    While she's solid at range, the clinch is Calderwood's wheelhouse. Her 5'6" frame gives her great leverage from which to control her opponent while sneaking in elbows and knees at a rapid pace, and she has recently added some trips to her repertoire as well. She has yet to concede a takedown in the UFC.

    On the mat, Calderwood isn't a wizard, but she knows how to eat up time from the top while landing strikes. 

    Andrade throws hands like a female version of John Lineker, but at an even faster clip. Per Fightmetric, for example, Andrade threw 208 strikes in under eight minutes against Penne in her last outing. That's not an unusual pace for her.

    When she pulls the trigger, which she does whenever her opponent throws at her or hits the fence, Andrade unloads a stream of head-body combinations that contain anywhere between three and 10 punches. Opponents who wait for her to stop throwing are going to be waiting a long time, because Andrade simply won't let up. Shelling up against the cage is the worst possible response to her barrage of strikes.

    With that said, Andrade isn't a particularly powerful puncher. She has some pop, but volume and attrition are the foundation of her game, not raw force.

    The clinch is a strong secondary area for Andrade. Despite standing only 5'1", she excels at bulling her opponent against the fence and using head pressure to control while slashing away with elbows and knees. Nice trips add another thing for her opponents to worry about, as do some shot takedowns. She's a strong defender of takedowns, even more so at strawweight than when she was giving up size at 135 pounds.

    From the top, Andrade has power in her ground strikes and a nice guillotine in transition. She struggled to maintain position against bigger opponents at bantamweight, though perhaps that will be less of an issue now.

     

    Betting Odds

    Andrade -130 (bet $130 to win $100), Calderwood +110 (bet $100 to win $110)

     

    Prediction

    This is a close matchup. On the one hand, Andrade starts fast, and Calderwood is the definition of a slow starter, so the Brazilian should be able to back her up and land combinations from the opening bell.

    On the other hand, Calderwood's much better at range, and she should be able to pile up damage from a distance at which Andrade can't touch her. Moreover, Calderwood's clinch should negate some of Andrade's work in the pocket. 

    While Andrade could finish early and should probably win the first round, Calderwood will turn it up after the midway point of the fight. The Scotswoman wins a tight decision.

Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera

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    Faber tries to hang onto a slot among the bantamweight elite.
    Faber tries to hang onto a slot among the bantamweight elite.Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Bantamweights

    Urijah Faber (33-9; 9-5 UFC) vs. Jimmie Rivera (19-1; 3-0 UFC)

    Fresh off his second loss to Dominick Cruz, perennial contender Faber takes on the up-and-coming Rivera in an outstanding matchup at 135 pounds. In his 10-year career under the Zuffa banner, Faber has never lost to a non-champion, but at 37 years of age, his hold on a slot among the elite is slipping. For his part, Rivera has won three in a row since joining the UFC. He took a decision from Iuri Alcantara in January.

    While Faber's job in the UFC will always be safe, he needs this win to guarantee the big-name fights on which he thrives. For Rivera, this is an opportunity to establish himself among the best bantamweights on the planet.

    Faber is a veteran fighter with a ton of craft and experience, and despite his age, he still boasts excellent speed and athleticism. 

    Transitions and efficiency are the two keys to understanding Faber's approach. He tends to work slowly and patiently to set up the fight-ending moment, and while no single skill set is overwhelming at this point in his career, the way he flows between them is nearly without peer in MMA.

    If he gets stuck at range for long periods of time, Faber looks underwhelming against elite competition. He tends to stalk his opponent, feinting and probing to create an opening for his potent right hand, either moving forward or on the counter. The occasional low kick adds some variety, but that's about it. His footwork is solid but not outstanding, and he doesn't throw much volume.

    For the most part, Faber's strikes serve to create openings for his takedowns. If his opponent looks to counter the right, Faber will duck under for a takedown. If his opponent shells up in response to a punch, Faber ducks under. If his opponent freezes, Faber walks into the clinch, where he's strong, and works a variety of elbows, knees and hip tosses. The double is Faber's specialty, and he finishes it with authority.

    If forced to do nothing but wrestle, though, Faber can struggle. He's only an average defender of takedowns and relies on his strikes or timing to get in on the hips for his shots.

    From the top, Faber is a bombing ground striker with huge power, even from inside the guard. The scrambles are where he really shines, though. He excels at grabbing the front headlock as his opponents try to scramble and then working a guillotine, or dropping in hard punches and elbows, when his opponents think they're wrestling.

    Rivera is a 5'4" ball of energy. Despite his muscular frame and the legitimate pop in his hands, he's more of a technical volume puncher than a true knockout artist. 

    Combinations are the heart and soul of Rivera's game, particularly on the counter. Despite his lack of height, he fights long, pushing his way forward behind a crisp jab and the occasional low kick.

    Once he gets into the pocket, the jab or feints draw out his opponents' response, and Rivera then responds with a vicious head-body combination of three to six punches. He takes great angles and has a knack for working around, through and under the opponents' guard.

    Rivera isn't unhittable, and the pace and range he likes to push ensures he'll get hit. His head movement, parries and subtle footwork make it harder than it might appear to hit him cleanly in the pocket, though. 

    If he can't keep the fight in the pocket, Rivera is happy to move into the clinch. He's about as difficult to move as a stubborn tree stump, and he likes to bury his head in his opponent's chin or chest against the fence as he works the legs and body with knees and short punches.

    Rivera's footwork and low center of gravity combine with exceptional defensive wrestling skills to make him a great defender of takedowns. Nobody has succeeded in getting him to the mat in the UFC. Conversely, he has a nice double-leg takedown he likes to use at the end of rounds to cement them in his favor. He's nothing special from top position, but knows how to control and eat up some time.

     

    Betting Odds

    Rivera -140, Faber +100

     

    Prediction

    It's somewhat surprising to see Faber as the underdog here, but the matchup variables are difficult for him. Rivera is a strong defensive wrestler and a technically sound striker who pushes an excellent pace, meaning he can keep this on the feet and outwork the efficient but low-output veteran.

    While you can't count Faber's craft and experience out, this just seems like the right up-and-comer with the right skills at the right time to end Faber's successful run against non-champion opposition. Rivera takes a tight decision.

CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall

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    CM Punk makes his long-awaited UFC debut.
    CM Punk makes his long-awaited UFC debut.Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Welterweights

    CM Punk (0-0; 0-0 UFC) vs. Mickey Gall (2-0; 1-0 UFC)

    It's been 21 months since CM Punk appeared on the UFC 181 broadcast to announce he'd signed a deal with the UFC, and he'll finally make his debut against the unknown Mickey Gall. Gall arrived in the UFC courtesy of Dana White's Looking for a Fight and defeated Mike Jackson to punch his ticket to the big fight, while CM Punk has yet to appear in a professional fight.

    We have no real idea what CM Punk will look like in his first fight, but he's 37 years old and has spent 15 years as a professional wrestler. He was never much of an athletic specimen even in his physical prime, and repeated injuries, some of them serious, can't help in that regard.

    The public training and sparring footage hasn't been pretty. Punk seems slow and wooden on the feet, as you'd expect an guy in his mid-30s with no prior training to look. Maybe his takedowns will be more effective, though it's hard to say. On the mat, Punk has spent years sporadically training BJJ, so it's a possibility that he'll have a solid ground game.

    Gall is a legitimate talent. The 24-year-old trains with UFC veterans Jim and Dan Miller, and he fights like an orthodox version of Jim: hard punching combinations mixed with sharp kicks on the feet, functional takedowns and an aggressive, technically sound grappling game. He's a native of MMA, and that shows in the way he blends strikes with level changes and jumps straight to chokes when his opponent is hurt.

    While he got to the UFC early courtesy of his call-out of CM Punk, Gall is the kind of fighter who would probably end up in the UFC anyway. He went the distance with grappling phenom Gordon Ryan in a no-gi match in 2015; while still learning on the feet, he throws natural combinations and packs real power.

     

    Betting Odds

    Gall -420, Punk +335

     

    Prediction

    There's no real reason to think CM Punk will win this fight. Gall is younger and isn't beat up from decades as a professional wrestler. Every bit of visual evidence we have suggests Gall is the better athlete and the more skilled fighter. He knocks Punk down and finishes with a submission in the first round.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne 2

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    Werdum returns to action for the first time since losing his belt.
    Werdum returns to action for the first time since losing his belt.Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Co-Main Event: Heavyweights

    Fabricio Werdum (20-6-1; 8-3 UFC) vs. Travis Browne (18-4-1; 9-4-1 UFC)

    Former heavyweight champion Werdum returns to the Octagon for the first time since dropping his belt to Stipe Miocic in May. The Brazilian was originally scheduled to face Ben Rothwell, who pulled out with a knee injury three weeks before the fight.

    Into the breach steps Travis Browne, whom Werdum previously defeated by five-round decision in April 2014. Browne has alternated wins and losses in four fights since then. He most recently fell to Cain Velasquez in the first round at UFC 200 in July. Prior to that, Browne beat Matt Mitrione in January with the aid of a series of egregious eye-pokes.

    The heavyweight division is still wide-open, and the winner won't be too far from a title shot.

    Werdum began his career as a pure grappler and still picked up ADCC world championships well into his run as an elite MMA heavyweight, but he has evolved into a well-rounded and dangerous fighter in every phase.

    On the feet, Werdum is crafty and plays to his height, reach, aggression and pace while minimizing his lack of serious power and speed. The jab is the foundation of his game, which he fires early and often to set his preferred long range and disrupt his opponent's rhythm. Consistent front kicks serve the same purpose, and they combine to keep his opponent on the outside.

    With his opponent stuck at distance, Werdum gets into the real meat of his game, forward-moving combinations. The jab-cross-left kick to the body is his bread and butter, and all of his round kicks carry vicious power.

    Werdum excels at picking and placing his shots, which he accomplishes by carefully reading his opponent's reactions. He's smart and has the confidence to force his opponent into fighting his kind of fight.

    With that said, Werdum has some real weaknesses. His response to pressure is to plant his feet and wing punches in the pocket, which can be effective but leaves him open to taking damage. When he gets too aggressive coming forward, he tends to leave his chin out there for crafty counterpunchers to hit.

    Still, forward movement plays into a real strength of Werdum's game: the clinch. His height gives him great leverage, particularly when he grabs the double-collar tie, and he has an exceptional understanding of the technical nuances of hand positioning and footwork. His knees are vicious and come with regularity as well.

    Werdum isn't the best wrestler in the division, but he's come a long way since shooting terrible takedowns with no setup against Alistair Overeem in 2011. His fundamentals are better, and he has both a strong single and double. 

    On the mat, Werdum is a wizard. His guard is one of the most dangerous in the sport, with quick and impossibly smooth triangle-armbar chains, while from top position he excels at floating from position to position while raining down strikes and looking for the submission finish. It's impossible to overstate how good he is on the mat.

    Browne is huge for the division at 6'7" and possesses great speed of both hand and foot. He has cleaned up his punching mechanics in the last several years and throws a much cleaner jab and cross than he did in the past, and his footwork has improved as well. He'll still throw the occasional front or round kick, but his focus has shifted to boxing.

    That's both a strength and a weakness for Browne. He always struggled with opponents who were willing and able to throw with him at kicking distance, and that's even more of an issue now that he's not setting the longest possible range. On the other hand, he doesn't telegraph his punches as much and is much more dangerous on the counter.

    Pace is a strength for Browne, and whenever possible he works quickly. He relies almost entirely on his length to avoid strikes, though, and is particularly vulnerable to the legs and body.

    The clinch used to be a major weak point for Browne, but it's more difficult to hold him against the cage now. His double-collar tie is nasty when he chooses to use it, though he mostly wants to break off and create space.

    Browne has excellent takedown defense, particularly against the cage where he can support his weight and rain down elbows as his opponent tries to pull him off the fence. It's not bulletproof, though, and skilled takedown artists have succeeded in getting him to the mat. He can hit the occasional trip or double of his own for good measure.

    On top, Browne maintains a heavy base and drops absolute bombs. He's a punishing ground striker, and his control is surprisingly fluid.

     

    Betting Odds

    Werdum -225, Browne +185

     

    Prediction

    Browne is a bully of a fighter who needs to feel like he's in control. That's a hard feeling to capture against Werdum, who won't back down and won't be intimidated. In their first fight, Werdum's willingness to engage and his refusal to be cowed by Browne's size and power clearly shook the American, and it was all downhill for Browne after that became clear with about one minute, 30 seconds to go in the first round.

    While Browne has the power to finish Werdum with a single shot, the Brazilian's craftiness and confidence should be the difference. Werdum takes a decision.

Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem

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    Miocic makes the first defense of his title.
    Miocic makes the first defense of his title.Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    Main Event: Heavyweight Championship

    Stipe Miocic (15-2; 9-2 UFC) vs. Alistair Overeem (41-14, 1 N/C; 6-3 UFC)

    Heavyweight champion Miocic makes the first defense of his belt in his native Cleveland against the Netherlands' Overeem.

    The Dutchman has been an elite heavyweight for the better part of a decade, but many ups and downs have finally led him to the UFC title shot he was scheduled to receive back at UFC 146 in 2012. He has now won four straight over the cream of the division, including a knockout of Junior Dos Santos.

    For his part, Miocic's road to the top hasn't been free of bumps. A blue-chip prospect when he signed with the promotion in 2012, he has put together several impressive winning streaks, but losses to Stefan Struve and Dos Santos halted his momentum. Wins over Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski put him back on track, and he capitalized by putting champion Fabricio Werdum to sleep in just under three minutes in May.

    The 36-year-old Overeem has reinvented himself since moving to Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, one of the Meccas of the sport. Formerly a tank of a kickboxer with a preference for forward pressure, heavy punches and walking himself into the clinch, Overeem now makes use of his still-prodigious speed and athleticism to play a stick-and-move game on the outside.

    With decades of experience as a striker under his belt, Overeem has the understanding of range, timing and footwork to utilize that kind of approach to great effect. He prefers southpaw, which gives him a few extra inches of precious distance, and then fires off a steady diet of crushing round kicks at range before leaping in with heavy single punches or two-strike combinations. 

    This isn't the most exciting approach, and Overeem spends a great deal of time feinting and moving before committing to a strike. He doesn't throw much volume, but he's accurate and lands everything with great power.

    Slowing the pace also protects Overeem's fragile chin, as it allows him to pick and choose his shots with care while avoiding prolonged exchanges in the pocket. He immediately moves his head, cuts an angle, and, if necessary, runs to get out of his opponent's range after he throws, and while it can lead to long stretches where not much happens, it's the most effective way of guaranteeing he eats few strikes.

    Long range isn't Overeem's only option, though. Part of the reason he's happy to explode forward with combinations is his outstanding clinch game, which remains one of the best in the history of the sport. While he's less physically imposing than he was five years ago, Overeem's technical command of leverage and how to get serious force behind his knees is without peer in all of MMA.

    Wrestling is another strength of Overeem's game. He's been taken down just once in his nine-fight UFC tenure, and his constant movement and preference for long range makes it hard to get a clean shot at his hips in the first place. Offensively, he has a lovely arsenal of trips and throws in the clinch.

    From top position, Overeem is a monster. He packs fight-ending power in his ground strikes, controls with great skill and knows how to pass. His guillotine makes it dangerous to scramble with him as well.

    Miocic is a meat-and-potatoes fighter with excellent speed, athleticism, power and, above all, cardio at his disposal. There's nothing particularly flashy about what he does, but his technical skill and physicality make that basic game function at a high level.

    On the feet, Miocic is mostly a boxer. He fires a consistent, punishing jab to gauge and set the distance, and then follows with a sharp right cross. A steady diet of low kicks help to score and wear his opponent down.

    The real meat of Miocic's striking game comes when his opponent throws. The Ohio native is an excellent counterpuncher with clean fundamentals in the pocket, including solid head movement, great timing and above all, precise footwork in tight spaces. Miocic excels at finding crisp, subtle angles from which to land, especially his backstepping right cross and check left hook as he pivots out.

    This makes it difficult to pressure Miocic. Opponents who come in too recklessly, like Fabricio Werdum, risk running face-first into a crisp, technically sound counter, and Miocic's fine footwork means he excels at getting off the fence without exposing himself to danger.

    With all that said, Miocic's striking game isn't foolproof. He's not a bad defensive fighter, but he's still hittable, especially to the body, and his pace ensures he's often in range for his opponent to land strikes.

    Wrestling is a strong secondary component of Miocic's game. He has a strong preference for the single-leg and high-crotch takedowns and finishes them with slick technical acumen. His setups are likewise excellent, and his gift for counterpunching opens up opportunities for him to duck under in the pocket and quickly lock up a leg. While not bulletproof, he has strong takedown defense as well.

    Miocic is mostly content to control from the top. He's not a grappling wizard, but maintains a strong base, especially in side control, and rains down a steady stream of hard strikes that wear his opponent down.

     

    Betting Odds

    Miocic -135, Overeem +115

     

    Prediction

    This is a razor-thin fight. Miocic has never much been into pressure, and he has a tendency of getting a bit too stationary in the middle of the cage, which should create opportunities for Overeem to stick and move around him, landing to the legs and body while picking his spots to land bigger shots.

    Mark Hunt was able to do this quite effectively in the first round of their fight, before Miocic's takedowns and top control eventually took their toll. Overeem won't stick around in the pocket long enough for Miocic to get much done on the counter, either.

    On the other hand, Miocic is an exceptional counterpuncher, and he should have some chances to land on Overeem as he blitzes forward. He's also a hard-enough puncher to make those shots count on the fragile Dutchman.

    That's the most likely scenario here. It wouldn't be surprising if Overeem stuck and moved, piling up damage to Miocic's legs and body and even winning rounds, but if he does it enough times, the durable Miocic should find an opening to sneak in a knockout shot.

    Miocic finishes with strikes in the third round.

     

    All betting odds via Odds Shark.

    Patrick Wyman is the Senior MMA Analyst for Bleacher Report and the co-host of the Heavy Hands Podcast, your source for the finer points of face-punching. For the history enthusiasts out there, he also hosts The Fall of Rome Podcast on the end of the Roman Empire. He can be found on Twitter and on Facebook.

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