The last time Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix participants Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem met, the defunct Japanese MMA organization Pride Fighting Championships was still in business. As a matter of fact, it was Pride that played the stage for where Werdum and Overeem last traded blows with four-ounce gloves. The outcome of the fight was a second-round submission with Werdum on the winning side of things.
Back then, Werdum was still about the same frame he is today — about six-foot-four and 240 pounds. Overeem, however, was used to fighting at middleweight (which was considered light heavyweight in Japan, at the time).
Oh, boy, the things that can change in five years.
Nowadays, Overeem is a horse-eating, fear-in-heart-striking, comic-book-character-bodied heavyweight with muscles bigger than most have seen in mixed martial arts. Seriously, the guy looks like he was drawn by Stan Lee for a Marvel Comics release.
In his last 12 fights, the Dutch fighter has amassed a 10-1-1 record with not one fight going to decision. Despite a bump in the road against fellow grand prix participant Sergei Kharitonov, it’s safe to say that Overeem, who once went by the name “Demolition Man,” has demolished nearly everyone in his path during his recent stretch.
Werdum has also been on a pretty impressive run since he met Overeem last.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has spent some time in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Then, after being cut by the Zuffa-owned brand, took his career to Strikeforce where he has yet to lose. And while in Strikeforce, Werdum, with the entire MMA world doubting him, did the unexpected and beat who many considered to be the best in the world, Fedor Emelianenko. For Werdum, the win was by far the biggest of his career and the beginning of a road to becoming one of the world’s best heavyweight mixed martial artists.
A second win over the powerhouse known as Overeem would undoubtedly cement Werdum in the upper echelon of fighters with little resistance from naysayers and critics. According to Werdum, things have changed from the last time he and Overeem met.
“It’s a different time, now,” Werdum said recently. “I have more experience.”
But both guys have more experience this time around. How valuable that experience is, however, is a different matter. Some rankings have Overeem listed below names like Velasquez and dos Santos and the reasoning for that is his track-record of fighting less than stellar talent since moving up to heavyweight.
Werdum, on the other hand, has fought some of the best and beaten some of the best. Despite his 6-3 record since last dancing with Overeem, Werdum took out both Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera when they were considered Top 10 caliber heavyweights. And the win over Fedor is the latest in a three-fight winning streak.
With Overeem splitting his time in K-1 and winning championships over there, it’s obvious that his stand-up is where he holds the advantage going into Saturday night’s bout with Werdum. The Brazilian fighter isn’t blind to that at all. He knows that Overeem’s punching power isn’t something that should be overlooked, but he also knows he holds his own advantage elsewhere.
“Overeem is very good standing,” Werdum said when talking about the match-up. “And I’m very good on the ground.”
Now, five years has come to this moment. Werdum will take on a familiar foe that is everything but familiar… if that makes sense. Essentially, Overeem is much bigger than he was the last time Werdum met him. If he can stop the freight train that is Alistair Overeem, he’ll put himself in a position for stardom without even winning the tournament yet. He’ll be in the semifinals with wins over two top-five fighters in a row and bragging rights that no one else can hold claim to.
On Saturday night in Dallas, Fabricio Werdum can, once again, send a shockwave through the MMA universe.