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UFC 203 – Why Overeem beats Miocic

The scene is set for a UFC heavyweight showdown at UFC 203 in Cleveland with Alistair Overeem invading the Quicken Loans Arena to try to dethrone Cleveland native and current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. At the age of 36, Overeem has finally reached his potential in the UFC after aligning himself with Team Jackson-Winkeljohn and I believe his combination of skill and experience will lead the way to a win on Saturday night.

Here’s why:

Patience Pays Off

Overeem entered the UFC with extremely high expectations that he originally met after kicking the crap out of Brock Lesnar. He followed that up with a failed drug test which kept him inactive for over a year. Upon his return, he lost three of four fights, all by KO or TKO. The awful stretch would have swayed most fighters in their mid-30s toward retirement, but instead Overeem adjusted his style and now uses a more patient, opportunistic approach that’s led to four straight wins with three finishes.

Overeem’s best attribute has always been his striking but early on in his UFC run he was overconfident in his standup abilities which led to being on the wrong end of a few highlight-reel knockouts. After jumping around from different training camps, he’s finally found a home with Team Jackson-Winkeljohn, who have molded him into a very intelligent fighter. Having the patience to resurrect his career paved the way to the new approach that he’s combined with the skills that were always there, making him more dangerous than he’s ever been.

He’s a better striker

Miocic won the title when a clumsy-looking Fabricio Werdum sloppily rushed into him with an approach you typically don’t see at the highest level of the sport. Miocic easily KO’d him, but he won’t find that type of opening with Overeem. There’s no doubt that Miocic is a devastating striker, but he’s not as skilled in the standup game as Overeem.

Miocic’s approach to striking is a bit different from Overeem’s. As we saw in the Miocic-Junior dos Santos fight, he often takes a shot in exchange for landing one or two of his own. This is a luxury he won’t have against the pinpoint striking of Overeem whose game plan won’t allow him to fall into the ‘stand and bang’ trap that gets so many fighters in trouble. Watch for Overeem to avoid Miocic’s flurries and throw calculated well-timed strikes.

MMA Trends are a thing, right?

I typically run off a list of relevant trends when giving predictions for team sports, and although traditional betting trends don’t exactly carry over to MMA, there’s a big one I can’t ignore because it’s equaled big money for bettors. The challenger has now won five of the last seven title fights in the UFC. This has included some sizable underdogs like Michael Bisping (+425), Eddie Alvarez (+265) and Amanda Nunes (+205). Combining this with the fact that no one can hang on to the heavyweight title for a serious stretch of time makes Overeem well worth the gamble at +115.

Justin Hartling of our writing team disagrees with my pick and likes the champ to retain. He explains why here.

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