UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem – Analysis. Predictions. Betting Tip

UFC 203

It’s always a huge occasion when the heavyweight championship of the world is on the line and that’s very much the case this Saturday night as Stipe Miocic defends his belt for the first time on a stacked card in his hometown of Cleveland against Dutch powerhouse Alistair Overeem.

On paper, this event looks very interesting with prospects, legends and top ranked fighters throughout but it’s the inclusion of an 0-0 fighter who will be making his fighting debut which has gotten everyone talking. And we’ll get to that shortly.

But first, the main event.

Like seemingly all heavyweight title fights these days, this one sees a new champion taking on a dangerous, hungry contender.

Alistair Overeem though, isn’t your normal challenger. “The Reem” is a grizzled veteran of the sport who has basically done and seen it all apart from fighting for UFC gold.

Having debuted almost 17 years ago, Overeem has taken his talents to places like Japan, Russia and Germany whilst fighting for promotions like PRIDE, Dream and Strikeforce against people like Shogun Rua, Mark Hunt and Fabricio Werdum.

In 2011, with 47 fights under his belt, Overeem finally signed for the UFC. Since then he has had a mixed bag really. A win over Brock Lesnar was followed by a drug test failure before 3 losses in 4 fights had Overeem on the brink of leaving the heavyweight elite. But four wins on the spin since then have seen him reascend the ranks and earn his shot on Saturday.

In his way will be Stipe Miocic, a man fighting in front of a what is sure to be a properly partizan home arena.

Like Overeem, Miocic has been in the UFC since 2011 but unlike Overeem he was still completely raw with just six fights and one year of experience behind him at the time.

Since then he has grown not only in experience, but hugely in ability as well. Wins against people like the late Shane Del Rosario, Mark Hunt and Roy Nelson sculpted Miocic into what he is today. While his two career losses, to Stefan Struve and Junior Dos Santos, have seen him bounce back strongly on both occasions.

In 2016, Miocic has already knocked out Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum in the first round, the latter of which saw him pick up the title at his first time of asking. The question now is, can Overeem do the same?

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As the betting suggests (Miocic -135, Overeem +115) that is a very hard question to answer. As fighters, both of these men are very well rounded and in arguably the form of their career.

Miocic is a phenomenal athlete who uses all of his natural abilities extremely well inside of the Octagon. He has unbelievable quickness for a heavyweight, hits with real power and has found a higher level of wellroundedness in 6 years of professional fighting than most people attain in a whole lifetime.

As a striker he is nimble around the cage and throws with power and technique while being defensively very good too. Wrestling is another huge plus point of his too although he uses that more of a decoy of late while his jiu-jitsu isn’t something we get to see an awful lot because of his ability to stay in advantageous positions where he usually prefers ground and pound.

And although Overeem has a lot of similar abilities, his game is very different. After plenty of wars and much damage throughout the years, the 2016 version of Alistair Overeem is basically a refined version of the old one.

He still defends the takedown well, throws with pitch perfect technique and tries to knock his opponent out, but in a more cultured and safe fashion. These days Overeem throws with a very low output but is very precise and hard hitting. That is mainly due to his chin issues but should also help his cardio which has been questionable before. His jab, straight shot and kicks are all really great while his knees to the body can end a fight at any second.

overeem

Like always, Overeem is still a great defensive wrestler and will attack with his guillotine if needs be but offensive wrestling is something which has also been brought back into his game steadily over the past few fights.

As a match-up that makes for a fascinating one which will likely be fought out primarily on the feet due to that aforementioned high quality takedown defence possessed by both men.

That leaves some clinching and plenty of striking.

If the last few Overeem fights are anything to go by he will give absolutely nothing away early. He’ll be on his toes and backing away from any attacks which Stipe throws. And there should be plenty.

Miocic knows that he is the faster man with the better chin and will be looking to get to Overeem early. If he does, expect Overeem to go into even more of a defensive shell or to engage the clinch. There, Overeem’s knees will be something Stipe will need to avoid by getting the Dutchman out of dominant positions as soon as he can and back to the striking.

As with most heavyweight fights, and especially with two striking monsters like this, one shot can, and likely will, finish it all. For me, I think playing a defence countering game like Overeem can only get you so far. Initially, there was somewhat of a new shine to his game but Miocic will know all about it now and will be extremely well prepared.

Expect him to not commit with too much power early but instead prolonged precise combination striking which will have him moving away from Overeem’s counters and not getting caught up in a jabbing game which “The Reem” badly wants. If that jabbing happens, Overeem could very well land his big shot, but if it doesn’t I think the speed and headwork of Miocic will see him bamboozle his way to a stoppage in the opening half of the fight.

Outside of that you have Urijah Faber taking on Jimmie Rivera in a fight he should win but maybe not with ease, Joanne Calderwood against Jessica Andrade in a match-up which could have title implications and former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum up against Travis Browne in a must win bout for both men. But all anyone seems to care about is CM Punk.

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If you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years CM Punk (born Phil Brooks) is a former WWE professional wrestler who was given a pathway into MMA competition through the UFC by current President Dana White and then owner Lorenzo Fertitta.

Initially, it was thought that Punk would fight in 2015 but injuries and rumours of a slow progression under renowned MMA coach Duke Roufus saw that date pushed back on a couple of occasions. But now we are here and CM Punk will debut on Saturday night.

And that’s where this one kind of comes to a standstill. Apart from a few clips online and in TV shows, we’ve never even seen Punk truly spar, not to mind fight. We know he had on-and-off jiu-jitsu training before his stint with Roufusport but his progression in that time with his ground game, as well as his striking and general wrestling is just a complete mystery.

The one thing we do know is his opponent, Mickey Gall. At 24 years of age the New Jersey native has drawn the golden ticket that every young fighter in the world seemingly wanted. Currently 2-0 with less than four minutes of professional MMA experience, Gall was found through Dana White’s online show “Lookin for a fight” after he called out Punk. That wish was eventually granted and Gall debuted in the UFC with a 45 second demolition of Mike Jackson which set up this fight against Punk.

From that miniscule piece of footage, and his years of training with the Miller brothers, we know that Gall is a legitimate fighter at least. We can see he hits fast and accurately while his ground game looks as strong as it can in such a short time. That alone means Gall is the obvious pick here but really, nobody knows.

CM Punk Mickey Gall

There is no doubt that CM Punk has trained extremely hard and put everything into it but this fight, without overstating it, is basically a money making endeavour for the UFC and a notch off the bucket list for CM Punk. To expect anything more would be in hope rather than expectation. But you know we’ll all be watching regardless.

FULL FIGHT PICKS

Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem – Miocic’s speed and output wins out
Fabrício Werdum vs. Travis Browne – Werdum gets on top and chokes Browne out
CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall – Anything other than Gall in round 1 would be a shock
Urijah Faber vs. Jimmie Rivera – Faber via decision
Jéssica Andrade vs. Joanne Calderwood – Fun fight where Andrade gets the win

Jessica Eye vs. Bethe Correia – Correia
Nik Lentz vs. Michael McBride – Lentz
Caio Magalhães vs. Brad Tavares – Tavares

Yancy Medeiros vs. Sean Spencer – Medeiros
CB Dollaway vs. Francimar Barroso – Dolloway
Drew Dober vs. Jason Gonzalez – Dober

BETTING TIP

Mickey Gall in round one at evens

START TIMES

Early Prelims – Fight Pass at 12am

Prelims – Fight Pass & BT Sport 2 at 1am

Main Card – BT Sport 2 at 3am

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma