On Saturday, at UFC Saint Petersburg, Alistair Overeem’s march on Russia and back into title contention is in full swing. Meeting Overeem (44-17) on the frontlines is Aleksei Oleinik (57-11-1), Russia’s favorite son after headlining UFC Moscow months ago.
Stylistically, this bout appears to represent the classic striker versus grappler match-up at first glance, but both men have a wealth of experience and have rounded out their games over the years.
Starting out with Overeem, the Dutchman has been around the sport for years now, having won titles in both DREAM and Strikeforce. His UFC career, however, has been a bit up-and-down at times, as he’s compiled a 9-6 record since entering the promotion in 2011.
Most recently, Overeem scored a TKO victory over Sergey Pavlovich last November in China, proving that he still has a bit of fight left in the tank despite currently sitting at 38 years of age.
In terms of his skill set, “The Reem” is known primarily as a striker and for good reason. A former K1 champion, Overeem has always relied on his kickboxing acumen, which includes a useful mix of devastating kicks and knees. He’s also extremely dangerous in the clinch where he can attack with both knees and elbows.
Overall, Overeem has used his skills on the feet to his advantage, scoring 23 of his 45 victories by way of T/KO, but it’s also important to note that he certainly isn’t a one trick pony.
In regards to his ground game, Overeem is also seen as quite a threat in this area, supported by the fact that he owns 17 submission victories and has only been submitted once.
In addition, he’s worked endlessly over the last few years to improve both his offensive and defensive wrestling, while slowly but surely becoming a more calm and composed fighter that uses well thought out game plans to break down opponents.
Moving onto Oleinik, the Ukrainian-born Russian has made quite a name for himself in recent memory, winning four of his last five bouts and most recently submitting the legendary Mark Hunt last September in Moscow.
Like Overeem, the 41-year-old Oleinik is incredibly experienced, having competed in a staggering 69 professional fights and winning 57 of them. Unlike The Reem, however, Oleinik is known primarily as a grappler and he’s finished a whopping 45 fights via submission.
Coming from a background in both sambo and submission grappling, Oleinik has drawn attention not only for submitting many of his opponents but for the way in which he’s submitted them, as he’s used a variety of unique chokes, with the most famous being the Ezekiel Choke.
On the feet, Oleinik isn’t necessarily known for his striking fluidity, but he does pack some power, as he’s scored eight victories by way of T/KO. Essentially, however, his game plan revolves around closing the distance and grabbing a hold of his opponent where he can then work from the clinch and eventually take the fight to the ground.
In my opinion, this is a pretty cut and dry fight to analyze, as Overeem will be looking to keep the action standing while Oleinik will be looking to take the fight to the ground.
If the Russian does indeed get the fight to the canvas, Overeem could find himself in a whirlwind of trouble. I’m just not sure that he’ll be able to. The Reem will have a massive advantage in the striking department and even if Oleinik is able to close the distance, Overeem is capable of doing serious damage in the clinch.
Simply put, the former K1 champion may be a bit too well-rounded for Oleinik and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Overeem land some big shots and find a finish in the early to middle rounds.