Fans get excited when two heavyweights with knockout power face off with each other. They get even more bang for their buck when the two heavyweights are some of the scariest men in the world. On Saturday at UFC 218, the co-main event of the evening features two extremely scary heavyweights. Those men are Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou. However, before the fight, we are gonna debate who is gonna win. Two of our staff writers Jordan Carroll and Cory Groeneveld argued the outcome. Jordan argued for Overeem, while Cory debated that Ngannou will win.
Why Alistair Overeem Is Going to Win By Jordan Carroll
Stop me if you’ve heard this storyline before. A tough and accomplished veteran of the sport with a history of being knocked out is matched up against a promising young prospect that the UFC is pushing as the next big thing. This weekend, at UFC 218, the “next big thing”, and rising star Francis Ngannou will finally get his long-awaited opportunity to change his place in the heavyweight division from prospect to contender. This opportunity will come in the form of a fight against a legendary mixed martial artist and kickboxer, the number 1 contender in the UFC’s heavyweight rankings, Alistair Overeem. The stage is set for Overeem to pass the torch to the younger, more explosive Ngannou. The future of the heavyweight division is finally about to become the present, right? Wrong.
Ngannou is 10-1 in his relatively brief MMA career, and with five finishes in his five appearances in the UFC, he’s looking as impressive as any heavyweight prospect that I can recall. The Predator is coming off of a first-round destruction of former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, Knocking him out in just 92 seconds. He’s fast, he’s powerful, he’s explosive, and at 31 years old, by the division’s standards, he’s young. Alistair Overeem, however, at 37 years old and with 59 professional MMA fights on his resume’, is a bit more seasoned than his emerging opponent. He has a penchant for reinventing himself as he keeps up with the sport, as he’s gone from lanky light heavyweight in Pride FC in the early to mid 2000’s, to Heavyweight striking powerhouse, and Strikeforce/Dream champion from 2008-2011, to one of the most well rounded and dangerous contenders in the UFC’s heavyweight division. He finally made it to the UFC in December of 2011, introducing himself to the promotion and its fans with a first-round stoppage of the former champion, and pay per view superstar Brock Lesnar. Overeem had a tough start to his UFC tenure, however, going 2-3 in his first five appearances. He’s righted the ship in the last few years and has won six of his last seven, with his only loss in that span coming to current champion Stipe Miocic in his first shot at a UFC title in September of last year. He most recently defeated the former champion, and the number one contender at the time, Fabricio Werdum.
So first of all, I’d like to address the elephant in the room, the obvious chink in the armor of Overeem and the reason that the majority of the people I’ve talked to are picking Ngannou. Alistair Overeem has been knocked out on multiple occasions(13 between MMA and Kickboxing), and never had the most reliable chin in the game. Couple that with the explosive power of the freakishly athletic and fast Ngannou, and it sounds like a recipe for disaster if you’re a fan of Alistair’s. The thing is, in order to take advantage of Overeems questionable ability to absorb punishment, Francis Ngannou will have to hit Alistair Overeem, and I don’t believe he will. I could be wrong, all it takes is one, 15 minutes is a long time not to get caught with a clean shot, insert any other cliche’ combat sports term you’ve heard, but I don’t think that I’m wrong, and here’s why. Overeem has gotten pretty good at not getting hit over the years, during his UFC tenure, he has absorbed an average of just 9.5 significant strikes per round, and has allowed his opponents to hit him just 34.4% of the time when targeting his head(via foxsports.com).
As explosive a striker as Ngannou is, he’s nowhere near as accomplished or technical as Overeem is. Overeem is a former K-1 Grand Prix champion and has not only faced but defeated the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt and Junior Dos Santos in the last two years alone. If none of those fighters were able to land that big shot that puts Alistair away, why should I believe that Ngannou will? Win, lose or draw, Overeem has never faced an opponent in this sport that he couldn’t hit, and I don’t anticipate Ngannou being the first.
I also believe Alistair to be the better grappler, he has the same number of submissions on his record as he does knockouts at 19 apiece. Ngannou’s biggest win was his last over Andrei Arlovski. While beating a former UFC champion looks great on paper, it becomes a tad underwhelming when you consider that this particular former champion is 1-5 in his last six, and failed to even make it to the final bell in four of those contests. Overeem meanwhile, holds victories over five former UFC champions since 2011, including a knockout win over Arlovski as well. Overeem is a pretty youthful 37, and though he has admittedly taken a lot of damage in his career, still retains his athleticism and fight IQ that he’s always had.
To recap, we have a matchup between an inexperienced, not very accomplished, but talented prospect, and a legend of the sport, who looks the best he has in years and has the experience, striking ability and grappling ability all in his favor. From where I’m sitting, Ngannou’s only way to win this fight is to catch an elite, high-level striker with a big enough shot to put him away, while worrying about the fact that if this goes to the ground, that’s likely to be the end of his night. It seems to me as though that’s a pretty risky bet. I just can’t pick someone based on power or athleticism alone. Look for Overeem to use his technical prowess, footwork, and experience to outsmart, out strike, wear down, and eventually stop the younger and less experienced Ngannou.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem defeats Francis Ngannou via 2nd round TKO(body kick and punches)