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Insight the Octagon: UFC From Russia

By Lou Finocchiaro  () 

Before addressing this week’s UFC on ESPN 7 card, I must comment on last week’s fights and the UFC in general.

The main events at UFC 236 allowed fans to witness the finest two fights I have experienced in over a decade and across every form of combat sports. Dustin Poirier, Max Holloway, Israel Adesanya and Kelvin Gastelum, the four participants in those two fights, displayed the intensity of focus, heart, dedication, grit and ultimate sportsmanship the UFC delivers to its fans on almost a weekly basis.

The organization provides fans with 40-plus fight cards per year and in the UFC there are no manicuring of records, no fighting three bums of the month before fighting an opponent of any threat and, most of all, no easy fights. In the UFC, steel sharpens steel, and I for one want everyone to understand how fortunate we are as fight fans to have cards laced with dynamic matchups and top quality fight talent so many times per year.

This week we go to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a fight card that kicks off at 7 a.m. PT. As is the case with most overseas slates, regional and hemispheric talent populates the card and this is a perfect example as half of the heavyweight main event features a specialized, experienced but obscure Russian mixed martial artist.

ALISTAIR OVEREEM -240 VS. ALEXEY OLEINIK 200

Oleinik is a 41-year-old Russian fighting machine. He is a master of sport in Sambo and a fourthdegree black belt in BJJ. Though undersized, this man is appropriately nicknamed “The Boa Constrictor’ as he has a vice-grip clasp and is extremely efficient in clinging to an opponent, dragging them to the canvas then applying any form of choke on them as he has submitted many competent fighters in this fashion (namely Mark Hunt in his last fight).

While a master on the mat, Oleinik is only competent striking on the feet and therein lies one dynamic for this main event. Second being the fact that Oleinik is a replacement in this spot and steps into the octagon Saturday on only three weeks of notice.

Overeem will be in unusual territory Saturday for he will be the younger man by three years. He’ll also be the heavier, larger, taller man equipped with a lethal striking arsenal. Overeem’s striking is as world class as Oleinik’s ground game, so Overeem will strive to use his athleticism and movement to keep the Russian at distance so he may pound him with kicks and strikes as he tries to enter the pocket to clinch. This will be especially critical early in the fight as the longer this fight goes the more Overeem’s chances of icing the incoming grappler.

Oleinik’s average fight time is 5:39 which makes sense as he’s used to being the physically smaller combatant and he needs to expend high amounts of energy early when his opponent is dry to effectively gain the grip which will allow him to execute any choke. If he is unable to execute early, his lack of size, cardio and striking ability often leave him exposed.

Overeem, once he can thwart the early takedown attempts from Oleinik, is insulated from potential striking damage to an extent here as he’ll have a couple inches of height on the Russian as well. Oleinik’s lack of precision striking may not enable him to challenge Overeem’s weakness.

Overeem’s 83 percent take-down defense as well as the fact that he’s faced world class fighting talent from every form of mixed martial arts specialist in his career are factors that strongly favor the Dutchman. Overeem is one poor matchup for Oleinik.

I’ll be looking to jump on plenty of local Russian fighters come Saturday but the main event goes strictly to the chalk here. I’ll pass for now as I see little value in Overeem at this price. Perhaps the totals will make more sense once they are released.

My releases went 2-1 with a 1.9 unit result last week. To date I am 6-6 ( .25). It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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