The Film Room: Alistair Overeem vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

By Kevin Wilson Dec 6, 2019
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The timeless Alistair Overeem on Saturday will step inside the Octagon for his 65th fight as a professional mixed martial artist when he takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the UFC on ESPN 7 main event at the Capitol One Arena in Washington, D.C. The undefeated Rozenstruik steps up on short notice for just his 10th MMA appearance, but he does have 85 kickboxing bouts under his belt. From what “Bigi Boy” has shown, he could become a real threat in the heavyweight division, while a third consecutive victory might net Overeem his second crack at Ultimate Fighting Championship gold.

The Overeem-Rozenstruik showdown supplies the material for this installment of The Film Room.

Overeem has been fighting for so long that he now finds himself in the third phase of his career. Early on, he relied on athleticism and speed at 205 pounds and made a name for himself during the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships middleweight grand prix. Then the legend of “Ubereem” was born, as he made his full-time heavyweight debut in 2007 and went 12-1-1 over the next four years, with all but one of his wins coming by knockout or submission. Overeem later started to age and the UFC linked arms with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which forced him to completely overhaul his style and become the patient and tactical fighter we see today. When he was younger, Overeem would stand and trade in the pocket with anybody and was rarely concerned with defense. These days, he puts a major focus on his defensive footwork and ability to outsmart opponents from the outside with his length and two decades of fighting knowledge. The newfound patient and tactical approach allowed him to have a career resurgence, as he has gone 9-4 with six knockouts since adopting this style in 2014.

Overeem was once known for bursting forward with combos and pressing a relentless pace. Now, his leading attacks are much more measured and never account for more than three to four strikes before he resets at a safe distance. Something to notice about the new Overeem: the number of feints he uses. Instead of rushing forward, he now patiently waits for openings and sets traps with his feints and movement.

Along with this new patient style comes a newfound countering game for Overeem. He switches stances a lot during a fight, but most of his counters come from an orthodox stance, with the straight right as his go-to punch. This constant feinting and his willingness to remain patient allows him to sit back and read his opponents and wait for openings. Elite countering usually comes with time. Anybody can throw a right hook, but few will know how opponents will react to it and how to force them to throw something that will set up the right hook. That is what elite counterstrikers like Anderson Silva and Valentina Shevchenko do. Everything is done with more meaning than what is seen on the surface level, and it takes years of experience to perfect. Nobody in the sport has more experience than Overeem. He has seen every type of fighter, technique and game plan in the book, and his ability to see strikes coming and fire off an appropriate counter is getting better as he ages. Overeem is better when working on the lead, but it is nice to see that he can stay patient and work on the counter when needed and use his two decades of experience to read his opponents.

Overeem has always wielded great kicks, but now he mainly uses them to keep distance between himself and the opponent. He switched his camp to Jackson-Wink MMA in 2014 and immediately started using the same kicks and tactics Jon Jones uses to keep opponents at bay. He favors front kicks to the body since he can use them to achieve many different outcomes. They work wonders at stopping aggressive opponents while slowly draining their cardio. Overeem also uses them to switch stances and set up strikes from the opposite stance.

Something that has never left Overeem is his elite clinch game. Early in his career, he would rush forward with combos, grab the clinch and fire off some knees to the body of his opponents until they separated. Then, he did it all over again. These days, his clinch entries are craftier but the focus on it is the same. Notice how he fakes a takedown to get the opponents’ hands low and then comes back up to grab underhooks and drive them to the cage. Once in the clinch, he will hammer knees to the body but is smart enough to not get too aggressive and lose the position. Since Rozenstruik is a dangerous power puncher who relies on being the leading man, expect Overeem to clinch more than ever in this fight. Rozenstruik also struggles on the ground, so the clinch is the perfect tactic to take away his best weapons while capitalizing on his own.

The biggest problem Overeem has faced as he ages: his ability to take a punch. With two decades of fighting on the odometer, the chin was bound to deteriorate -- especially with 13 knockout losses on his resume. Only time will tell if Overeem’s chin can hold up, but if it does, we could conceivably see him fighting for a title again in the near future.

There is not a lot of footage on Rozenstruik, but what we have seen has looked promising. His first UFC fight against Junior Albini was the second-longest of his career, and we saw some things with which he struggles and some things at which he excels. As a kickboxer, his grappling is obviously lacking and Albini managed to hold him down for long stretches in the first round. However, late in the round, we saw Rozenstruik start working in longer combos, which is where he shines. Early in Round 2, he opened up with a couple of right hands and a head kick that dropped Albini and set up the finish. This fight mostly confirmed what we knew about Rozenstruik coming into the UFC. He struggles on the ground and will be hesitant if the threat of a takedown is there, but once he opens up, few can deal with his varied and speedy combos.

Rozenstruik’s other two fights in the UFC lasted less than 30 seconds and did not really prove much other than he has above-average power in his lead hand. His kickboxing fights show mostly the same things we have seen. He is comfortable in a firefight and at his best when leading with long combos and kicks. It is rare that someone headlining a UFC card only has a few examples of how they fight, but it makes this bout all the more compelling. Advertisement


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