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UFC 203 Primer: Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem Head-to-Toe Breakdown

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2016

UFC 203 Primer: Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    UFC 203 will feature the king of Cleveland, Stipe Miocic, in his first UFC heavyweight championship title defense.

    Miocic (15-2) ended his city's long championship drought by knocking Fabricio Werdum out cold in front of Werdum's home crowd. He'll try to avoid the same fate when he takes on the No. 3 contender Alistair Overeem (41-14, 1 NC) in Cleveland.

    Overeem earned his title shot with a four-fight winning streak featuring two TKOs and a knockout. The most recent was a finish against Andrei Arlovski. It has taken him nearly five years, but Overeem finally has a shot at the ultimate glory.

    Miocic and Overeem both enjoy a slugfest. While neither man is scared of going to the mat, they prefer to do their work on their feet. Cleveland should prepare for stand-up attrition on Saturday.

    The hometown kid achieved his dream, but now he will try to make his mark by defending the crown. It is a championship that has never been defended successfully more than twice. It is one of the most volatile pieces of hardware in part because of the massive power the heavyweights wield.

    Miocic and Overeem are both seeking history on Saturday. How will it shake out?

    Read on to discover who the scales favor in UFC 203's heavyweight main event.

Striking

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    Both men love to stand and trade, but one does so at a different level. Overeem is clearly the better striker, but that doesn't mean he will dominate the exchanges.

    Miocic's power and technical boxing will definitely give him opportunities to win by knockout. Overeem has not proved to be a defensive mastermind. He leaves himself open for shots and has been knocked out by lesser strikers.

    Overeem's all-around MMA striking is top-notch. What has made him even better inside the cage is his more conservative approach in his past few fights. He is more measured. That may be the key element on Saturday.

    Miocic will have his chances, but Overeem obviously claims this category. The former K-1 world champion has more tools and more experience in this field.

    Edge: Overeem

Grappling

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    Overeem is known for his striking, but he is a competent grapplerso much so that this category is razor-thin.

    Conventional wisdom suggests Miocic, the former collegiate wrestler, has an edge here, but that overlooks one of the most grueling aspects of MMA grappling: clinch work.

    The battle in the clinch will play a pivotal role in the main event. It will determine who can claim dominant position and how will they utilize it if they obtain it. Overeem can work his knees well from the clinch, while Miocic may drop to go for a double-leg takedown.

    The FightMetric stats also show how close the grappling is between the two heavyweights. Overeem has a better percentage of completed takedowns, though Miocic has tried more throughout his career.

    The scales tip in favor of Miocic for two primary reasons: athleticism and experience. Much like Overeem's striking experience helped give him the nod earlier, Miocic has been grappling for a whole lot longer, which gives him advantages in timing and technique. And when either of those fails, he can rely on pure athleticism to help get the fight to the mat.

    Edge: Miocic

Submissions

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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Surprise! Overeem is taking this category.

    Yes, Miocic is the better grappler. But Overeem has some of the sneakiest chokes in the heavyweight division. And his grip is strong.

    Miocic cannot get complacent should he choose to work in a takedown—especially against the cage. Overeem can slip a guillotine on and become the new champion in the blink of an eye. Neither man attempts many submissions, but Overeem isn't shy when it comes to pulling the trigger.

    Don't sleep on the Dutch stirker's ability to make the champion tap. It's a distinct possibility.

    Edge: Overeem

X-Factors

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    Miocic's X-Factor: Tempo

    Miocic has a proven ability to go hard for five rounds. He has big power, but he is technically proficient and doesn't tire himself out winging punches. His knockouts are a product of technique and natural power. This allows him to fight at a higher pace than most other heavyweights.

    Overeem has a tendency to slow down in fights. Miocic dragging this into the championship rounds would be incredibly smart. But even if it doesn't go that long, how Miocic sets the pace will be key. He cannot push the fight by being reckless. He has to be intelligent in how he forces Overeem to fight.

    How he dictates the opening 10 minutes of this fight will be very telling of his game plan.

     

    Overeem's X-Factor: The Clinch

    It's already been noted how close the grappling between these two elite heavyweights is, and that's in part because of how Overeem fights in the clinch. It is important that he win those battles on Saturday.

    If Overeem can put Miocic's back against the fence and slowly work his knees and inside striking, then he will turn Miocic into a one-dimensional fighter. Overeem can also stall in that position to get a few extra breaths, should he need it.

    Winning the clinch battles will eliminate the inside takedowns from Miocic. It will also force Miocic to stand at a healthy distance from Overeem in the stand-up. Win the clinch, and Overeem may be wearing gold back across the pond.

Prediction

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    If this were the Alistair Overeem of three-plus years ago, I would pick Miocic without a doubt in my heart. It's not that Overeem was a bad fighter, but the matchup would just not benefit how he went about fights.

    The Overeem we have seen in recent showings is much more tactical and much smarter. His fight IQ has been on display, and it makes him incredibly dangerous.

    With that said, I am still going to pick the champion to retain. He has a proven chin that will allow him to weather an early storm and can give as well as receive. He will be difficult to put away cleanly. Miocic will fight with a high tempo early on that should slow Overeem down in the second round.

    In the second round, the quicker and more explosive athlete should finish his business with a flurry of strikes. Miocic ended the championship drought for The Land earlier this year, and now he'll celebrate his first title defense among family and friends.

    Prediction: Miocic defeats Overeem by TKO in the second round

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