UFC Fight Night 50 September 5, 2014 Heavyweight Matchup: Alistair Overeem vs Ben Rothwell By @fightnomics Big Picture: The co-main event at UFC Fight Night 50 promises the return of a new and improved heavyweight contender. When Alistair Overeem meets Ben Rothwell, “The Reem” will do so with Greg Jackson in his corner for the first time, which hopefully means there will be no funny business in the post-event drug test results. It also means the Overeem might not fall prey to lapses in conditioning and judgment later in the fight as he has done in the past. Currently, the #7 ranked Overeem is favored at -550, with the unranked Rothwell the underdog at +425. These odds are the steepest of any on the fight card, so first we’ll need to see if they are justified, and then we’ll want to look for value in the props. Summary Stats:
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Tale of Tape Matchup: The traditional metrics on the Tale of the Tape are a wash here. Both men are big for their division with long reach and an Orthodox stance. The average age at heavyweight is the highest, but neither man is beyond the danger threshold, and the 1.5 year differential is not significant. The combined age does slightly increase the chance of a TKO finish in general. All in all, not much to see here except for the fact that an early finish is likely. One hidden factor not on the Tape but fairly important here is testosterone. Both fighters have been penalized for elevated hormones in the past, although Rothwell’s stems from a seemingly legitimate treatment having suffered lingering effects from a car accident when he was 19. Perhaps the treatment was legitimate, but prior traumatic brain injury is not a good thing to have on your resume as a professional combat sports athlete. Either way, testosterone supplementation is now illegal across the board in the UFC, and that should include Rothwell regardless of his medical history. So take a good look at the two at weigh-ins to see how they compare to their former selves, and you might see Rothwell in worse shape than usual, while Overeem has already had one fight back since his suspension. Overall we should see Overeem carry more muscle mass into the cage on fight night. Striking Matchup: The stats reveal a tale of extremes between these two strikers, and the fans are surely hoping to see the action remain standing. Alistair Overeem’s distance head striking is phenomenal. Having competed professionally in kickboxing, it’s no surprise that he is a sniper with his hands from a distance. In fact, his power head striking accuracy of 46% isn’t just the highest on the card, it’s the highest among all active fighters in the entire UFC. And his jab lands with an even more ridiculous 59% success rate. These extreme metrics are noteworthy, because in this matchup specifically they are a recipe for destruction. It turns out that Ben Rothwell has the worst strike avoidance of any fighter on the card, and tends to come forward and absorb more strikes than he can deliver himself. That’s a bad recipe for success against an accurate counter-striker like Overeem. And it’s worth noting that Overeem likes to use more body kicks than is usual, so look for him to snap kicks at Rothwell while staying out of range and protecting his head. Overeem took this strategy against Travis Browne and hurt him early on. Unfortunately for Overeem, he appeared to tire and let up on his attack, eventually succumbing to a front head kick. But there is an underdog angle here, even in the striking matchup. Rothwell is widely regarded as one of the toughest in the division thanks to his ability to take punishment. He certainly absorbs a lot of strikes, but he doesn’t have any knockdowns in his recent UFC career, despite TKO loss to current champ Cain Velasquez. Conversely, Overeem doesn’t get hit often, but when he does it’s been a disaster, leaving him with a Knockdown Defense (“chin”) rating that is below average for the division. That means should Rothwell weather the early storm, he only needs one well-placed shot to put Overeem down for good. This exact scenario is what happened in his two UFC losses against Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne. Is Rothwell capable of a similar upset? Technically yes, but the real question for the gamblers out there concerns the probability of such an occurrence. Grappling Matchup: Rothwell may want to avoid trading leather and shins with Overeem altogether and take this fight to the mat. Rothwell attempts more takedowns than his opponent, but his success rate is below average, while Overeem’s takedown defense is very high. That doesn’t bode well for Rothwell landing the first takedown, especially while the Reem is still fresh. The net-net is that Overeem has spent the vast majority of his ground time in control, while Rothwell has split his time between top control, and being controlled by opponents. Prior to the UFC, both men have a long resume of fight experience around the world that actually includes a fair number of submission victories, with Overeem getting the edge at 19 wins by submission to Rothwell’s 11. It’s hard to expect either man tapping to anything other than a fatigued rear naked choke, but the submission angle is still present. It’s just more likely to be Overeem dominating on the ground than Rothwell and possibly exposing a choke under the threat of ground and pound. Yes, Overeem has gassed badly in prior recent fights, but Rothwell is no Energizer bunny either, and the two heavyweights are more likely to tire each other out than leave one fresh for a late finish. So it’s possible Overeem’s early onslaught could lead the fight to the mat, where he could go for a choke to seal the deal. Reed’s Pick: Overeem by TKO (click for latest MMA odds) Reed’s Recommended Play: The stats tell the tale of how Overeem will get his hands (and legs) on Rothwell early and often for an eventual finish. But the juice here is so extreme that the best play is to look for other (more specific) angles on this fight. I expect Overeem to be thrown into a lot of parlays, and possibly go even higher in the lines – but not too much, everyone knows these are heavyweights, and Overeem has burned bettors before as a big favorite getting KO’d. The Under of only 1.5 rounds is steep -190, the Over +150. Heavyweights usually finish their fights and this price would be easily justifiable at 2.5 rounds. However, although 1.5 rounds is a tighter limit, I believe it’s justified given the combination of ingredients at work here. The price is much more reasonable than Overeem straight up, protects you against a Rothwell haymaker, but leaves you biting your nails should Overeem take a conservative approach and work ground and pound. There’s a lot of striking power and prior KO’s paired together here, and that spells an early finish. That leaves the props to consider. Overeem is the more dangerous fighter all around, especially early. Playing him Inside the Distance is a more reasonable -260, or by TKO at -170. If you take these more specific angles, you might put a small hedge on Rothwell by TKO at +575. Overeem by submission at +600 is a sneaky play, but not big enough to be better value than the Inside the Distance prop. “Fightnomics” the book is now available on Amazon! Follow along on Twitter for the latest UFC stats and MMA analysis, or on Facebook, if you prefer.