Alistair Overeem got past Fabricio Werdum tonight to book his place in the Strikeforce heavyweight GP semi-finals, but it was far from a vintage display from either fighter.
The strategies of these two men became very apparent in the first round of this fight, with Werdum desparate to get the fight to the floor at any cost, while Overeem was determined to keep it standing.
It was Overeem who managed to implement his gameplan better in the opening five minutes, easily stuffing Werdum’s takedowns, quickly backing out when the Brazilian attempted to pull guard and even just effortlessly tossing him to the mat at times and then getting him to stand back up again.
On to round two and Werdum looks gassed from all the failed takedowns. It only gets worse for him though as the pattern of the first round continues and he continues to fail to get Overeem down for any length of time, and on each occassion he rises back to his feet slower.
The thing is that Overeem isn’t looking to capitalize by turning up the heat in the striking, perhaps being too focused on defending the takedowns. He did manage to connect with a few big shots, including a powerful knee, and on each occasion Werdum slumps to the mat. It’s hard to tell just how much he’s being hurt by these, or how much it’s just another ploy to get the fight to the mat.
It’s a bizarre fight in many respects, and not particularly entertaining for the fans who are starting to get restless as the round comes to an end.
On to round three and Werdum seems to have a brief second wind early, charging forward with a flurry of strikes, and some of it is landing. Then the fight head backs into the same old routine of the previous 10 minutes, though Overeem is clearly getting tired himself now, and that means when he lands in Werdum’s guard he’s no longer in such a hurry to leave, but instead is happy to lie in top control and take in some deep breaths while the crowd chants for them to stand up.
Towards the end of the fight they are back on the feet and Werdum again comes charging forward and backs Overeem up against the cage. Then it’s back to the floor again and Werdum finally looks to have the room he needs to apply a submission hold, looking to lock up a leg, but the bell sounds before he can really crank it properly.
And so it’s all over and it’s not the fight anybody would have been hoping for with neither man looking impressive. Despite not being at his offensive best it’s Overeem who’s done enough in the eyes of the judges though, taking a unanimous decision victory (29-28, 30-27 x2), which grants him passage to the semi-finals and a fight with Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva.
It’s not a fight that anyone, including the two fighters, is going to look back fondly at. There’s no doubt that the image of Werdum failing over and over again to execute a takedown and also struggling simply to get to his feet by the second round will have eroded much of the momentum he gained with his historic win over Fedor Emelianenko last year.
Overeem also didn’t look like a world-beater out there though, and appeared to run out of steam in the latter stage after having made it out of the first round for the first time in three years.