Few weapons in the Ultimate Fighting Championship are as lethal as a close-range knee strike from Alistair Overeem.
The former Dream, Strikeforce and K-1 World Grand Prix champion put away Alexey Oleynik with a volley of knees and follow-up punches in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 149 headliner on Saturday at the Yubileyny Sports Complex in St. Petersburg, Russia. Oleynik bowed out 4:45 into Round 1, becoming the 23rd knockout victim of the Dutchman’s career.
Even at this advanced stage of his career, Overeem remains a factor in the heavyweight division. The 38-year-old has posted back-to-back first-round finishes since being obliterated by Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes in consecutive appearances. Overeem now owns an 10-6 record in the UFC, and while he likely does not figure into the current title picture, he could make life miserable for a number of would-be contenders.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Overeem vs. Oleynik,” here are five matches that ought to be made:
Alistair Overeem vs. Alexander Volkov: Overeem made the best of a difficult situation, as he survived some tense moments against Oleynik -- a short-notice substitution for Volkov -- before chopping down the Russian submission savant with knees and punches. One of the most devastating finishers to ever compete in MMA, “The Demolition Man” has now delivered 40 of his 45 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Moreover, Overeem was the first man in nearly eight years to stop Oleynik inside one round. A former M-1 Global and Bellator MMA champion, Volkov was pulled from the event over a reported United States Anti-Doping Agency violation. He remains an intriguing opponent for Overeem.
Islam Makhachev vs. Paul Felder: Makhachev extended his current winning streak to five fights and improved to 17-1 with a unanimous decision over promotional newcomer Arman Tsarukyan in the lightweight co-main event. Scores were 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, all for the surging Dagestani contender. The 22-year-old Tsarukyan put up considerable resistance across the 15-minute encounter but fell short against a more experienced and polished opponent. Makhachev’s four takedowns provided the difference, afforded him extended periods of dominance and wiped away the possibility of an upset. A former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder, Felder has not fought since he outpaced James Vick to a unanimous decision at UFC on ESPN 1 in February.
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Andrei Arlovski-Augusto Sakai winner: The hulking Pavlovich rebounded from his first professional defeat -- a technical knockout loss to the aforementioned Overeem -- and did so in overwhelming fashion, as he needed a little more than a minute to dispatch Marcelo Golm with punches in their heavyweight feature. Golm succumbed to blows 66 seconds into Round 1. Pavlovich pinned the Brazilian to the fence with power punches, had him ducking for cover and unleashed a hellacious right uppercut that brought it to a close. Arlovski has been booked opposite Sakai as part of the UFC Fight Night 150 undercard on April 27.
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Jennifer Maia: Modafferi stood at the gate to the flyweight elite and denied Antonina Shevchenko entry, as she was awarded as split verdict in their featured confrontation at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges struck 29-28 scorecards, two of them siding with Modafferi. “The Happy Warrior” stymied the previously unbeaten Shevchenko with takedowns, guard passes and positional control, offsetting a sizeable deficit in the standup department. Maia pocketed a unanimous decision at the expense of Alexis Davis at UFC Fight Night 148 on March 23 and outpointed Modafferi in a five-round battle under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner in 2016.
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Kevin Holland: Jotko righted his ship and threw the brakes on a three-fight losing streak, as he cruised to a lopsided unanimous decision over Alen Amedovski in a three-round middleweight showcase. Scores were 30-25, 30-26 and 30-26. Jotko, 29, delivered takedowns in all three rounds -- he executed four in total -- and consolidated them with guard passes and ground-and-pound. By the time it was over, he had outstruck Amedovski by a staggering 111-6 margin and put consecutive losses to David Branch, Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares in his rearview mirror. Holland last competed at UFC on ESPN 2 in March, when he eked out a split decision against Gerald Meerschaert.