-- The UFC heavyweight title is on the line in the main event of the promotion's first trip to Cleveland, with hometown champion Stipe Miocic defending it for the first time against former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem. Both fighters are coming off of impressive knockout victories, and the key statistical comparisons listed below could be the difference this Saturday.
Each fighter has his strengths and weaknesses, but if the numbers are any indication, this could be a tight one to call.
Because Miocic comes from a wrestling background, including collegiately at Cleveland State, many expect him to try to take the fight to the ground and dominate. While he did take down Mark Hunt six times and landed a record number of strikes in their match, he has not attempted a takedown in his past two fights. Miocic attempts 2.09 takedowns per 15 minutes, but he lands only 34 percent of these attempts. On the other hand, Overeem attempts a similar number of takedowns per 15 minutes (1.65) and lands at a much higher percentage (65 percent). Both fighters have respectable takedown defense: Miocic stops 72 percent, and Overeem stops 77 percent, so there is a very good chance that this fight will remain a standing affair.
Overeem is the most accurate striker in UFC history. In the Octagon, he has landed 75 percent of his significant strikes, which is far and away the best. The second-most accurate fighter in UFC history, Trevor Smith, has landed 63 percent of his strikes. Miocic is an extremely accurate striker in his own right, landing 50 percent of his significant strikes, and he has been the more accurate fighter in nine of his 11 bouts under the UFC banner. This will be a big test for Miocic, because we'll see how he deals with someone who is even more accurate than himself.
Both fighters land an impressive number of significant strikes per minute. Miocic has the advantage, landing 4.93 per minute compared with Overeem's 3.81 per minute. In terms of striking differential, however, Overeem takes the edge; on a per-minute basis, "The Reem" lands 2.12 significant strikes more than his opponents,compared with a 1.62 differential for Miocic. Defensively, Miocic has allowed opponents to land 3.31 significant strikes per minute, which is fifth-worst among ranked heavyweights. Both fighters throw a lot of strikes, but Overeem has shown the better defense over the course of his career. If the bout turns into a firefight, Overeem could end up getting the better of these exchanges.
Average Fight Time
As a championship fight, this bout is scheduled for 25 minutes. A longer fight appears to favor Miocic, considering his average fight time of 10:26 is much longer than Overeem's 6:24. The champion has fought into the championship rounds only twice, however, and he has experienced mixed results in those extra two rounds. He lost via decision against Junior dos Santos in 2014, but defeated Hunt in the fifth round in 2015. Overeem has never fought past Round 3 in his career. His longest fight came in 2005, when he dropped a 20-minute decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Pride 29. Miocic is 3-1 in fights that go to decision, and Overeem is 4-3.