Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and former Strikeforce heavyweight champion and K1 Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem are slated to face off against each other at the end of the year to determine the No. 1 contender to newly minted champion Junior Dos Santos.
Everyone saw what Dos Santos did to Velasquez in just over a minute during UFC on Fox 1: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos, it is going to take a very solid performance to dethrone the current champion.
Both Lesnar and Overeem pose very different challenges for the current champion and both men have the potential to be the toughest tests of Dos Santos' UFC career.
Should Lesnar beat Overeem, expect a classic wrestler vs. striker matchup against Dos Santos.
The winner in this fight will be determined by who can dictate where the fight takes place. Many people will be thinking Lesnar's best chance is to get the fight to the ground and Dos Santos' best chance is to keep the fight standing. Although this is true to a certain extent, there is one more place Lesnar can work from where he should have the advantage.
Lesnar is a strong wrestler with a lot of weight to force his opponents to carry, and as we have seen with Dos Santos in the past, he does get tired as the fight wears on.
If Lesnar can't secure a takedown, simply closing the distance and and clinching Dos Santos against the cage and leaning his weight on him in a fashion similar to Randy Couture's style could be the formula for success. This would have the potential to tire and frustrate Dos Santos, who would prefer to be at striking range.
Although Lesnar was beaten badly by Cain Velasquez, he did score two takedowns against him, and if he would have continued pressing Velasquez against the cage as opposed to dropping for his second takedown Lesnar may have fared better.
How Dos Santos fares when a 280-pound man is leaning on him against the fence has yet to be determined, but it is definitely something that would tire him out as the fight wears on—in fact, it would tire anyone out.
People also forget that in Lesnar's seven-fight career he has taken down all seven opponents. Of course, guys have gotten up quickly from the big man's takedowns, but those guys were high-level collegiate and Olympic wrestlers like Randy Couture, Shane Carwin and Velasquez. Watch Frank Mir, Heath Herring or Min Soo Kim against Lesnar, and getting up from under him doesn't look so easy.
The problem with Lesnar is that Dos Santos hasn't shown any weaknesses in his takedown defense and for now has looked good in close quarters.
If Dos Santos can keep the fight at striking distance there is no doubting he will pick Lesnar apart and probably finish the fight no matter how hard Lesnar has been working on his striking this past year.
Even if Lesnar does close the distance, Dos Santos might perform well regardless, depending on his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and ability to work out of the clinch.
Alistair Overeem, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. He doesn't have the wrestling of Velasquez or Lesnar, but he is probably the only fighter in the heavyweight division who's striking may be equal to or even better than Dos Santos'.
Overeem is a big, strong heavyweight similar to Lesnar, but has the standup technique to compete with the world's best strikers not only in mixed martial arts, but in professional kickboxing as well.
In 2010, Overeem won the K1 Heavyweight Grand Prix, a tournament where the best strikers on the planet compete.
Overeem knocked out Badr Hari during his career, which is impressive, to say the least. Watch Hari's fights, the guy is a monster. Anyone who can knock out Hari has legitimate skills in the standup department. Hari has moved on from K1 now and is preparing for his debut in professional boxing.
Of course, mixed martial arts is different than kickboxing, but it isn't as if Overeem is a fish out of water when the fight hits the mat or takes place in the clinch. He is a former Abu Dhabi Combat Club European champion, the prized organization for submission grapplers to compete. Not to mention the fact that 19 of his 35 wins come by way of submission, eight of which were his patented guillotine choke used to choke out Brazilian Jiu-Jitu black-belt Vitor Belfort.
Overall, Overeem is the tougher matchup for Dos Santos. He doesn't have the wrestling of Lesnar, but is the only heavyweight that has the striking prowess to match Dos Santos in the standup and his ground game is strong enough to threaten with submissions.
The two knocks on Overeem are that he hasn't fought the toughest competition and that his cardiovascular conditioning isn't up to par, as evidenced in his last fight against Fabricio Werdum. That being said, despite not fighting top guys all the time, the guys he has faced have been annihilated by him and even if there are questions surrounding his endurance, Dos Santos receives the same criticism.
In any case, Lesnar or Overeem are both very challenging fights for Dos Santos, but Overeem is the tougher fight because of his level of striking and his experience with over 60 professional fights to his name. Overeem has the ability to make Dos Santos uncomfortable in the place he is most comfortable, and that is standing up.
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