By: Jesse Donathan
“If he dies, he dies.” These are the haunting words of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV and the classic image of how Russian fighters are still portrayed in the United States today. Ruthless, formidable opponents who represent a direct threat to the western way of life. And just like on the big screen, Russian fighters are on the cusp of making big waves in the arena of combat sports in real life. Enter UFC Fight Night 149 which goes down Saturday night, April 20, 2019 at the Yubileyny Sports Complex in St. Petersburg, Russia on ESPN +. The headlining event will feature two longtime mixed martial arts veterans pitted against one another in 41-year old Moscow native Alexey Oleynik (57-11-1) versus the 38-year old Dutchmen Alistair Overeem (44-17).
Alexey “The Boa Constrictor” Oleynik is a very dangerous man. A heavyweight with an impressive arsenal of submission hold victories, Oleynik has the skillset to submit opponents from a variety of different positions including his back where fighters are often considered to be at their most vulnerable. Oleynik is a seasoned, crafty veteran who has been in the cage with some of the worlds best stand up fighters, feared strikers who are respected the world over for their particular brand of violence and Oleynik has come out on top against virtually all of them including former K-1 kickboxing and mixed martial arts legends Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
And with a submission victory over the likes of the great Jeff Monson, a two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion, Alexey Oleynik is a fighter who has been there and done that. Having defeated some of the worlds best grappling and striking experts in the field of mixed martial arts sporting competition. Oleynik is a true mixed martial artist with a wealth of experience against the very best the sport has to offer across a variety of disciplines.
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem is a fighter who possesses the ability to defeat virtually anyone on the planet on any given night. Not someone you want to tangle with, Overeem is a dynamic striker who at various points in his career has looked virtually unstoppable against a deaths row of striking experts. A popular and controversial fighter, Overeem once failed a performance enhancing drug test with an eye popping 14:1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.
To put that into perspective, in an April 5, 2012 mmafighting.com article titled “Alistair Overeem’s T/E Ratio was 14:1 in Failed PED Test” author Mike Chiapetta writes, “The average male produces a T/E ratio around 1:1. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) uses a 4:1 standard for positive tests, and the NSAC uses a 6:1 as its cutoff.”
Overeem is a former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, an elite mixed martial artist who is also the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and interim DREAM Heavyweight Champion who has went on to smash some of the biggest names in the sport today including Mark Hunt, Junior Dos Santos and even WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. If you’re a fan of strikers who look for the finish, Alistair Overeem is a fighter whose record is littered with a trail of unconscious bodies in its wake. On any given night, against any fighter on the planet Alistair Overeem possesses the ability to defeat him in convincing, devastating fashion.
While enjoying a reputation as a feared striker, Overeem is also a crafty submission artist in his own right with a legendary guillotine choke that can easily introduce his opponents to the sandman if they are not prepared to deal with the tricks the seasoned veteran has up his sleeve. Unfortunately for Overeem, in what comes with the territory when you live and die by the sword, “The Demolition Man” is susceptible to being stopped by strikes to those crafty enough to exploit the holes in the veteran mixed martial artists game.
On paper, this is a classic striker versus grappler matchup. Though this is mixed martial arts and anything can happen, the keys to victory for each fighter are relatively clear cut and dry. By looking at their respective records alone it is clear that Oleynik is going to want to take this fight to the mat where he can utilize his submission grappling ability to put Overeem in a compromising position. Unfortunately for Oleynik, he is going to have to close the distance with Overeem in order to drag the Dutchmen to the canvas. Which is going to put “The Boa Constrictor” in striking range with the former K-1 champion though it isn’t like Oleynik hasn’t been here before.
It will be essential for the Russian to keep his hands up, conscious of his own head position as he looks to bring Alistair to the mat for fear of being caught in the Dutchmen’s own web of sticky submission techniques. The good news is that it won’t be hard to find Overeem in the cage, but the bad news is Oleynik is going to have to weather the storm from a straight up killer in order to make it a grappling contest.
Conversely, “The Demolition Man” should avoid going to the ground with Oleynik at all costs, keeping the Russian at the end of his punches, kicks and knee’s. Overeem is going to need to conduct a symphony of destruction while conscious of closing the distance with the Russian submission ace. Overeem needs to be an athletic, dynamic and mobile striker who makes his opponent pay for coming into striking range while maintaining sufficient enough range to minimize Oleynik’s grappling based offensive attack.
There are no mysteries in this fight, the only unknowns are which fighter is going to be able to impose his will over the other first. This is a fight where fighter IQ and the better game plan will mean the difference between victory and defeat. “The Boa Constrictor” will either catch Overeem in an ambush like assault or “The Demolition Man” is going to blow Oleynik right out of the water in a classic grappler versus striker matchup that will only continue to fuel the debate on which style of fighting is best.