Mir doesn’t like Overeem’s chances

LAS VEGAS – Alistair Overeem is one of the most powerful strikers in mixed martial arts. Getting hit on the chin by an Overeem right hand is essentially the equivalent of James Harrison taking a 30-yard running start and then delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit on an unsuspecting quarterback.

You go down and you usually don’t get up.

Brock Lesnar is a former UFC heavyweight champion whose one clear vulnerability has been against punchers.

Logic would then seem to dictate that Overeem should handle Lesnar with few problems when they meet in the five-round main event of UFC 141 on Dec. 30 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Frank Mir, another ex-UFC heavyweight champion, agrees it will be a one-sided fight.

The difference, though, is that Mir expects Lesnar to manhandle Overeem and defeat him with very few problems.

“Unless Brock decides for some unknown reason he wants to turn it into a kickboxing match, it should be a pretty simple fight for him,” Mir said.

Oddsmakers disagree. Overeem is about an 8-5 favorite, but Mir makes a solid case for Lesnar. He said that a fighter like ex-UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida would have a much better shot to defeat Lesnar than would Overeem, a powerful striker who is able to match the ex-WWE star muscle for massive muscle.

Mir thinks Lesnar has learned enough during his brief time in MMA to know that he doesn’t want to be trading blows with anyone. Randy Couture hurt Lesnar with a punch. Shane Carwin nearly finished him with strikes. And Cain Velasquez pummeled Lesnar with his hands in taking the title from him at UFC 121 last year at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Lesnar’s punches are like taking a mule kick, and early in his career he often was willing to try to test his power against his opponent’s. But Lesnar’s striking has plenty of holes that put him in situations he didn’t want to be in, so Mir believes he’s learned from it and won’t play that game anymore.

Lesnar defeated Mir in the second round at UFC 100, but probably should have stopped Mir in the first round given the way the fight was proceeding. Lesnar, though, chose to try to strike a bit and Mir stemmed the onslaught and survived the first round. The only problem Lesnar had against him, Mir said, was when he opted to try to strike.

“In the first round, on the ground, he was completely demolishing me,” Mir said of Lesnar. “All of a sudden, he lets me up for a second because he wants to play stand-up. And all of a sudden then, I come in with a combination and he starts wincing and running away. I hit him with a flying knee and, ‘Boom!’ we go right back down to the ground again.”

Mir said it’s an oversimplification to believe that just because Lesnar has struggled on his feet in some fights that he’d have no shot against Overeem. The style of striker he is facing is significant, too, and Mir said Overeem isn’t the kind of fighter who is going to incorporate speed and movement into his striking.

Overeem’s striking game, Mir said, is about brute force and power. He’s going to stand in front of his opponent and try to turn it into a brawl. If Lesnar stands and engages, he’ll be in trouble.

“If Brock decides to kickbox with him, they’ll be looking for his head in the second row,” Mir said.

A striker like Machida would cause Lesnar far more problems, insists Mir. Machida is light on his feet, very quick and elusive, and darts in and darts out.

He’d be able to get strikes off and land blows and then get out of danger before Lesnar could get his arms on him and take him down, Mir believes.

Overeem, though, figures to be an ideal target for a Lesnar takedown, Mir said. Fabricio Werdum is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt whom Overeem defeated earlier this year in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. Werdum wanted to get the fight to the ground so he could work on his submissions, but Overeem was able to fend him off and keep the fight standing.

Mir said it will be a different story against Lesnar.

“Werdum is not known as a world-class striker, but he hit [Overeem] a lot in that fight,” Mir said. “If you look at his defense, when Werdum shot in, he sprawled. But believe me, that sprawl is not stopping Brock. I hate to break this to everyone, but that sprawl will do nothing to Brock.

“Brock doesn’t shoot that low. He’ll put his forehead in your chest, and he’s going to run you through. If he’s not able to take you down with that initial blast, he’s going to run you against the cage. Then he’s going to rip your legs out from under you. Now, you should have gotten taken down in the middle of the area, but instead, you’ve been taken down against the cage [where it is more dangerous]. Speaking from experience, that sucks.”

At that point, Mir said, the fight would be nearly over.

“Now, you have a guy who is not a black belt in jiu-jitsu and who is not a wrestling All-American who is going to be able to get back to his feet, so what does he do?” Mir said. “And if the fight doesn’t get stopped in the first round, remember, this guy is a kick boxer. He’s a kick-boxing specialist. That’s his speciality. Are you going to try to tell me he’s going to wrestle with a national champion wrestler for five minutes? His cardio is going to suck [after wrestling with Lesnar for a while]. I’ve seen guys with muscles like that, and that’s why he slows down.

“Hey, if he hits you in the first two minutes, he could knock down a house. I’m not taking that away from him. Is he explosive? Absolutely. But the other guy [Lesnar] has the same thing. Brock is just as explosive, if not more. Brock is just as powerful, if not more. But when you’ve wrestled, are you telling me the striking is going to get easier as the fight goes on? No way. The only way Overeem wins that fight is if he can knock Brock out in the first minute, minute-and-a-half.”

The advantage a wrestler has in a fight is that he can generally dictate where the fight will take place. Mir said that even the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, couldn’t do much when he fought wrestler Antonio Inoki in an exhibition match in 1976. Inoki moved around the ring like a crab and kicked at Ali’s legs.

The result was that Ali did next-to-nothing. Much the same way, Mir doesn’t see Overeem, the striker, having much of a shot against Lesnar, the world-class wrestler.

“If Overeem has a shot, it’s not much of one, and he’s got a small window to get done what he wants to get done,” Mir said. “Otherwise, he’s going to be on his back eating a lot of stuff from a pretty mean guy from the top.”

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011