Sunday, May 16, 2010

Strikeforce Heavy Artillery: Overeem vs. Rogers Preview

Strikeforce returns to the Midwest Saturday night with a card that will feature some of the top heavyweight fighters in the world squaring off as well as two of the greatest BJJ players turned mixed martial artists in Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Roger Gracie.

Alistair Overeem will finally return to U.S. soil to defend a belt he earned against Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello approximately three and half years ago in November of 2007. At the time, Strikeforce was still a regional promotion and had not done a show outside the state of California. Since that TKO victory over Buentello and a permanent move to the heavyweight division, Overeem hasn’t lost an MMA fight but he hasn’t exactly been fighting a who’s who list of MMA opponents in Japan and the Netherlands.

While fighting for promotions such as Dream, Ultimate Glory, and K-1, Overeem has racked up MMA wins over fighters such as Kazuyuki Fujita, James Thompson, Gary Goodrich, and Mark Hunt and all of the wins have been first round finishes. The only blemish was a no contest with Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic that saw Overeem dominating the aged fighter with takedowns and ground and pound. Multiple groin shots rendered Filipovic unable to continue, and the bout was ruled a no contest.

Overeem has gained more attention for his non-MMA exploits such as racking up wins in K-1 over renown kickboxers such as Badr Hari and Peter Aerts in recent years as well as his noticeably larger physique which he attributes to high protein diet of horse meat and weight lifting.

Brett Rogers grew up in the mean streets of Chicago in the projects known as Caprini Green before relocating to St. Paul, Minnesota. He began his MMA training at Team Bison, now known as Team Ambition, under the tutelage of Mike Reilly and former Chute Boxe coach, Sergio Cunha.

Rogers started his MMA career on a (5-0) run before being signed to EliteXC. He made his debut with the organization in November of 2007 and continued his winning streak in the organization compiling another three victories over Ralph Kelly, James Thompson, and Jon Murphy. After the Murphy bout, which appeared on CBS, Rogers called out the biggest star of the promotion, Kimbo Slice at a post fight press conference. EliteXC wanting to protect it’s top star, opted to have Slice fight Ken Shamrock instead of creating a star in Rogers and the rest his history, for EliteXC at least.

Following the collapse of EliteXC, Strikeforce purchased select assets and contracts of the organization. Nearly eleven months after the 61 second knockout of Jon Murphy, Brett Rogers would make his Strikeforce debut against another undefeated fighter in Ron “Abongo” Humphrey. Rogers walked away with a second round TKO and kept his undefeated record intact at (9-0).

Rogers was called upon to take what was, by far, the biggest fight of his career to date against a top five heavyweight and former UFC champion in Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski. That fight allowed him to quit his full time job as a tire technician at Sam’s Club and focus on MMA full time. Arlovski vs. Rogers was a fight that many considered to be a tune up fight for Arlovski who was coming off a first round KO loss at the hands of the greatest fighter of our time, Fedor Emelianenko, and Rogers came in as a heavy underdog. Rogers defeated Arlovski with a 22 second KO that changed the careers of both fighters dramatically. Arlovski was labeled as washed up by many fans, and Rogers became an instant star and top 10 ranked heavyweight in MMA. He also earned a chance to test his skills against Fedor Emelianenko on CBS in front of a nationally televised audience of millions and a soldout crowd at the Sears Center just northwest of Chicago where he had originally grown up.

Rogers had a few glimmering moments in the Fedor fight including breaking Emelianenko’s nose early on. He scrambled well to survive multiple times and ended up once in top position raining down strikes. Rogers survived the round, a feat that no fighter had done in over three years since Mark Coleman at Pride 32. Early in the second round, Rogers again used his size to push Emelianenko against the cage, controlling him and landing knees while tied up. Rogers then gave up the underhooks and moved to the center of the cage to restart. It would prove to be his biggest mistake as with one punch, “The Emperor” would throw his patented overhand right and send Rogers crashing to the canvas for the KO win.

By the numbers, Overeem has four times the MMA experience of Rogers with an MMA record of (32-11) with 1 no contest. All of Rogers’ 10 wins in his (10-1) record have come by way of strikes. Overeem has a more diverse and mixed bag of victories and is well versed both on the ground as well as on the feet. Most of his wins (19) have come by way of submission with 8 of those being the guillotine choke. Overeem is currently ranked at #9 in the world at heavyweight by both USA Today and Sherdog while Rogers is ranked one spot higher at #8.

While this fight is being contended for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship it only serves as a precursor for a fight against the #1 ranked heavyweight fighter in the world, Fedor Emelianenko later this year should Emelianenko be able to defeat #10 ranked heavyweight, Fabricio Werdum in June.

Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery will appear on Showtime at 9pm on Saturday. The televised card is as follows:

Strikeforce St. Louis: Heavy Artillery
St. Louis, MO
Scottrade Center

Main Card

Strikeforce Heavyweight Championship
Alsitair “Demolition Man” Overeem vs. Brett “The Grim” Rogers
Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. “Smokin” Joey Villasenor
Roger Gracie vs. Kevin “The Monster” Randleman
Antwain “The Juggernaut” Britt vs. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante

This article originally appeared on Wisconsin Combat Sports on 05/14/2010.

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