Injuries have led to the shuffling of the main event of the UFC’s upcoming card in Russia, and my initial thoughts on the new headliner are below.
Alistair Overeem vs. Alexey Oleynik, UFC Fight Night 149
The main event of UFC Fight Night 149 will be a five-round heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Alexey Oleynik. Alexander Volkov pulled out of the fight due to injury, and the UFC opted to remove Oleynik from his scheduled UFC Fight Night 150 bout against Walt Harris to take on Overeem instead. This card takes place April 20 at Venue Yubileyny Sports Palace City in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was the first to break news of the main event swap.
Overeem (44-17, 1 NC) is 9-6 overall in the UFC and in his last fight knocked out Sergey Pavlovich as an underdog. Many fans and bettors wrote off Overeem after back-to-back brutal knockout losses to Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou, but he looked fantastic against Pavlovich and showed that he still has some gas left in the tank at age 38. Of course, while he showed off his vaunted finishing skills against Pavlovich, the threat of Overeem being knocked out himself is always there every time he steps into the Octagon as his chin is very questionable at this point of his career. Fortunately for Overeem, while Volkov would have had a good chance to knock him out, the odds are Oleynik is going to look to take this fight to the ground, making this a more favorable matchup for “The Reem.”
Oleynik (57-11-1) is 6-2 in the UFC and is coming off of back-to-back submission wins over Mark Hunt and Junior Albini. One of the most underrated heavyweights in MMA history, Oleynik has been deserving of a big fight for quite sometime, yet for whatever reason was booked to fight a mid-tier heavyweight in the form of Harris, which drew criticisms from those who pay close attention to matchmaking. Instead, an injury to Volkov helped him out as he’ll now get his chance to fight a top-10 ranked opponent in Overeem, and an impressive win here could push him closer to the title picture in the wide-open UFC heavyweight division.
Although Oleynik is a wizard on the mat, Overeem is no slouch there either, and on the feet you have to give the Dutchman a good-sized advantage. I’m curious to see what the line is for this bout after Overeem was a dog against Pavlovich, but in my eyes he should be the favorite to beat Oleynik.
Devin Clark vs. Ivan Shtyrkov, UFC Fight Night 149
As well, light heavyweights Devin Clark and Ivan Shtyrkov will meet at UFC Fight Night 149. Marcel Dorff broke the news. Shtyrkov is filling in on short notice for the injured Abdul-Kerim Edilov. Clark (9-3) is 3-3 in the UFC and is coming off of a TKO loss to Aleksandar Rakic. He has not looked very good in the UFC at either middleweight or light heavyweight, and with a loss here is likely to be released from his contract. Shtyrkov (15-0-1) is coming off of back-to-back finishes over UFC vets Fabio Maldonado and Thiago Silva on the Russian regional circuit, and he also holds notable wins over Antonio Silva, Jeff Monson and Ricco Rodriguez. Though Clark has more UFC experience, I’d favor Shtyrkov quite heavily in this bout due to the fact he’ll be fighting in Russia and also because I think Clark has to be faded.