Hello again fans and friends, I’m proud to announce that my special series “A Closer Look” has made its return, thanks to the much-hyped and heavily-anticipated Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” event, which takes place this Saturday. I’ll be giving a fight-by-fight breakdown of all five major fights scheduled to air on Showtime, since all of them have potential, a few of them have championship implications, and two of them are part of Strikeforce’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix. So let’s begin with Valentijn Overeem vs. Chad Griggs.
Valentijn Overeem may always be “the other Overeem”, but you cannot deny that the man has been fighting for a long time and deserves a lot of respect. This is a man that fought anywhere and everywhere, back when rules were optional and blood was better. He’s competed over fifty times, he’s finished almost thirty opponents. The only reason Overeem isn’t as big a star as his brother (Alistair Overeem) is simple: for all his experience, Valentijn’s MMA record is barely positive. Currently, he stands at 29-25.
Most young fighters don’t have twenty-five fights period, let alone twenty-five losses. So many fans did wonder “what’s left?” when Overeem debuted in Strikeforce. Thankfully, Valentijn proved that there’s still something left in that gas tank. Overeem defeated Ray Sefo via first-round neck crank and extended his current win-streak to three straight fights.
His opponent, Chad Griggs, made a name for himself when he was put into the role of a sacrificial lamb to former World Wrestling Entertainment “superstar” Bobby Lashley. In a way, Lashley was Strikeforce’s answer to Kimbo Slice: someone with a great look and a big pre-established fan-base but who was as green as a forest when it came to MMA. However, it should be noted that Strikeforce did try to build up Lashley slowly, allowing him to try and work out the kinks against several unheralded foes.
When he fought Chad Griggs, Lashley did what he always does: he took his opponent down and tried to force a stoppage. But Griggs displayed admirable toughness, and eventually Lashley gassed himself out. With one big salvo, Chad Griggs clinched a great comeback and Lashley hasn’t fought in Strikeforce since. Even better, Griggs proved that he wasn’t a one-trick pony in his next fight, when he engaged Gianpiero Villante in a great back-and-forth war before stopping and dropping him in under three minutes.
In trying to decide who’s going to win this match, you really only need to ask one question. It’s a simple question, it’s been asked many times to many fighters. It’s a question for Valentijn Overeem: which version of you is going to show up?
Valentijn Overeem has won almost thirty times, he’s lost almost thirty times. He has eleven (T)KO wins, he has nine (T)KO losses. He has seventeen submission wins, he has fifteen submission losses. Does it get more night-and-day? I honestly don’t think it does.
The reason this fight is so interesting is because both men have been counted out so much recently. Everyone assumed Valentijn debuted in Strikeforce simply because his brother Alistair Overeem is the current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion. But Valentijn proved that he can still be an entertaining fighter that can finish an opponent quickly and viciously. Likewise, Chad Griggs was thought of as a journeyman, a sacrificial lamb, and has repeatedly proven that he’s a good brawler with a big heart, a solid chin, and formidable punching power.
Right now, I think this fight is too close to call. Either one of these fighters could win by knockout. Overeem could win by submission, he’s got plenty of wins by submission and the only time Griggs ever lost was to a submission. But is that enough of an advantage? Maybe it will be, although maybe it won’t be. I’ll say this, though: this has the makings of a very wild brawl.