Alistair Overeem lands a knee in the clinch against Aleksei Oleinik

While the result of UFC Fight Night 149’s main event may not have satisfied Russian fans hoping for an Aleksei Oleinik victory, those who were impartial to the victor and more interested in watching a technical bout had their wish fulfilled. The bout between Alistair Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik didn’t make it out of the first round, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of fascinating martial arts technique for us to break down and enjoy.

While Overeem was the victor of the bout, it was Oleinik who initiated the majority of the action. Oleinik attempted to utilize a two-pronged approach that consisted of a classic high-low, low-high strategy: he would attack Overeem up high with overhand punches, then drop in low for a shot when he defended. Or, he would seek to work Overeem’s body with shots to the gut, then grab ahold of the neck for his trademark Eziekel choke when Overeem defended his body. Neither approach was successful as Alistair Overeem was able to exploit significant flaws in Oleinik strategy, weathering him down and eventually stopping him inside of the first.

The High-Low

First, let’s look at the high-low approach. Here we see Oleinik throw a naked (no set up) overhand right which is easily defended. This isn’t meant to damage Overeem, merely get him to think about defending attacks up high so that Oleinik can shoot in low for a takedown.

Here we see this strategy manifest. Having pushed his opponent against the fence, Oleinik attacks with a barrage of punches to the head to get Overeem to cover up. Once Overeem does cover up Olienik drops down for a shot.

Here we see Oleinik employ the same tactic, albeit with looser striking technique.

While sound in theory, Oleinik’s high-low attacks failed to be effective because of the inherent flaws in relying on overhand strikes. There is a reason that trained pugilists prefer combinations of hooks, crosses, jabs, and straights as opposed to winging overhands: overhands leave you susceptible to counter attacks. Coupled with how Oleinik kept his chin unnaturally low, Overeem had no problem blasting powerful knee strikes up the middle and into his opponent’s face as he meandered into range for an overhand. Here we see Overeem land an almost effortless knee as Oleinik attempts the overhand.

Here we see another counter knee from Overeem as Oleinik attempts to push him back to the fence, likely seeking to employ the high-low strategy we saw above.

Perhaps if Oleinik had used strikes (such as jabs and straights) that didn’t open him up to such a formidable counter the high-low attack would have been effective, but the inherent drawbacks of the overhand right and Oleinik’s stance allowed Overeem to negate the Russian’s offense, punishing him every time he tried.

The Low-High

Just as he used strikes to set up the takedown attempt on Overeem’s lower body, Oleinik implemented attacks to the body in an attempt to open up the neck for the trademark Eziekel choke. These body shots were used primarily when Oleinik had Overeem pressed against the cage, as it allowed “The Boa Constrictor” to pin Overeem for both the strikes and the choke attempt.

In this clip below (which occurs just moments after the one above) we see Overeem walking Oleinik off the fence, keeping his hands low to protect against another round of strikes to his midsection. Oleinik recognizes that Overeem’s hands are down and immediately attempts to latch around the neck for the choke.

Oleinik’s set up is formidable, but Overeem is privy to the attack and defends by pushing off of Oleinik’s hips instead of attempting to fight the hands, a tactic that some of Oleinik’s previous victims should have employed.

The reason this low-high strategy didn’t result in Oleinik’s favor is that it required him to position his head in the middle of Overeem’s chest, giving his opponent unrestricted access to the clinch.  As we can see from the first clip of Oleinik’s attack on Overeem’s body, Oleinik’s head positioning makes him incredibly susceptible to being clinched. Getting wrapped up in a Thai clinch and blasted with knees is always bad, but against a kickboxing legend like Alistair Overeem, it’s a death sentence. Here we see Oleinik attempting to pin Overeem against the cage with his head low. Overeem promptly turns him, grabs a hold of his head, and launches a switch knee right into his skull.

A few seconds later we see Oleinik still attempting to work the body, again with his head low. Overeem effortlessly grabs ahold of the clinch and launches a series of brutal knee strikes that send the Russian to the canvas. Overeem followed up with some brutal ground and pound, forcing the referee to step in to save Oleinik from further punishment.

In Mixed Martial Arts, what separates the good fighters from the great fighters is that good fighters may capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes; great fighters surely will. What we saw during this bout was the great fighter Alistair Overeem punishing Aleksei Oleinik every time he made a mistake, never failing to recognize when the Russian was out of position. Eventually, enough mistakes had been made by Oleinik and capitalized on by Overeem that “The Boa Constrictor had no chance of recovering, allowing Overeem to finish him inside of just one round.

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