Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum, Is Alistair the Best Heavyweight in MMA?
Making his first appearance in Strikeforce since his dismantling of Brett Rogers on May 15, 2010, Alistair Overeem outpointed Fabricio Werdum on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
While his performance was hardly impressive, he still has a date with Antonio Silva in the semifinals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
To many, the winner of this fight was widely considered to be the best heavyweight in Strikeforce and perhaps in all of MMA, but does Overeem's lackluster performance hinder his place among the great heavyweights?
Junior dos Santos
Junior dos Santos versus Alistair Overeem is one of the greatest matchups in MMA today. They're extremely similar in style—aggressive, heavy-handed strikers with knockout power that like to keep the fight standing.
However, based on Alistair's struggles against a grappler in Fabricio Werdum, Junior dos Santos seems to have the superior stand-up in several ways.
His boxing is more technical. Shown by his performance against Shane Carwin, Dos Santos effectively utilizes his jab and head movement to leave himself less susceptible to getting hit. While Alistair hasn't lost in 11 fights, his last loss was via knockout to Sergei Kharitonov. Overeem has lost via KO or TKO six times.
Junior's ability to keep the fight standing is also superior. He was able to take down a quality wrestler in Shane Carwin and while Werdum struggled to get Overeem to the ground, the fight only spent about eight minutes standing.
Finally, while they both defeated their common opponent in Werdum, the fight went very differently for both of them. Junior dos Santos knocked Werdum out at 1:21 of the first round. Overeem, on the other hand, did a decent job of avoiding the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu of Werdum, but still got beat up on the feet. While Werdum was considered to be completely out of his depth standing, he still landed more strikes throughout the bout—69 in comparison to Alistair's 48.
While Cain Velasquez was known for his wrestling more than his hands, his striking has quickly evolved to match his grappling and eight of nine victories have ended via KO or TKO.
Unlike most of the top heavyweights, Velasquez is extremely well rounded. His wrestling can take the fight wherever he wants it to go and his striking is good enough to hang with anyone in the division. Also, he's one of the few top heavyweights that implements leg kicks into his striking arsenal.
Velasquez has also proven his ability to deal with big heavyweights, as he easily disposed of Brock Lesnar at UFC 121.
Lastly, one of the most important things that sets Velasquez apart is his conditioning. He's never even appeared to be fatigued in any of his fights.
Given Alistair's lack of serious competition before his bout with Werdum, there's not much reason to believe that Overeem could compete with Velasquez.
Alistair Overeem may not be the greatest heavyweight in MMA today, but he sits firmly at No. 3. His striking is still elite, even if it may not be superior to Junior Dos Santos or Cain Velasquez.
Soon, many of these questions may be answered as the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix continues. Antonio Silva will be Overeem's next test, followed by either Sergei Kharitonov or Josh Barnett if he wins.
This will be the most dangerous competition Overeem has faced in years and could solidify his place among the greats. It may even earn him a shot at the winner of Cain Velasquez versus Junior Dos Santos.
Until then, Overeem deserves a spot in the top five, but certainly not in the top 2.