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The UFC will travel to the Netherlands for the first time ever this Sunday with home country favorite Alistair Overeem looking to take one more step towards a title shot as he faces former champion and current teammate Andrei Arlovski.
It’s an interesting scenario considering their affiliation with the Jackson-Wink MMA team in Albuquerque, but neither one had a problem setting that aside so they could do battle inside the Octagon.
With a win, Overeem could be looking at a title shot later this year, while Arlovski hopes to get back on track following a loss to Stipe Miocic in his last bout in January.
Also on the card, Stefan Struve will also return to his native land as he faces Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, while a very intriguing welterweight bout takes place between knockout artist Albert Tumenov and submission specialist Gunnar Nelson.
In today's fantasy preview we're going to examine some of the key fights taking place this weekend to see who has the advantage at UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski.
Fight Night Rotterdam prefight videos to watch: Overeem vs Arlovski Unstoppable preview | Must-see KO: Struve takes down Morecraft | Free fight: Arlovski vs Ian Freeman | Free fight: Overeem vs. Brock Lesnar | Great submission! Nelson chokes out Thatch
These are the fights that are just too close to call, but a few minor differences between favorite and underdog could lead one fighter to victory and the other to defeat.
Alistair Overeem (-225 favorite) vs. Andrei Arlovski (+185 underdog)
Following a rocky start to his UFC career, Alistair Overeem has found his footing lately with three consecutive wins, including a victory over former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in his last outing. When Overeem arrived in the UFC he was a punishing brute who tried to overwhelm his opponents with a barrage of strikes rather than set up his combinations and really try to outwork the fighters he faced in the Octagon. A few tough losses set him back, but now under coaches like Brandon Gibson and others in New Mexico, Overeem has become a much more versatile and dangerous striker with a long reach, deadly combinations and patience to wait for the perfect punch.
Arlovski has looked like a new man as well after reinventing himself once he returned to the UFC. While picking up key wins over opponents such as Antonio Silva, Frank Mir and Travis Browne, Arlovski showed that he still has the same kind of blistering power that he always had during his previous UFC stint. But, much like Overeem, he's found the patience to let the knockouts come to him rather than forcing them, which often leads to trouble.
Overeem and Arlovski are extremely evenly matched, with almost identical output on the feet and similar statistics defensively as well. Where Overeem has an advantage is with his pinpoint accuracy. He lands his shots with over 60 percent accuracy, which is a tremendous stat for a heavyweight because that means more than half of everything he's throwing, he's hitting and that does a lot of damage. Overeem will also enjoy a three-inch reach advantage over Arlovski, and if he can put together the same kind of combinations that got him three wins in a row, he could be looking at number four by the time this match is over.
Arlovski is going to be very dangerous, and the last thing Overeem can afford to do is get into a firefight with the former champion and just wait to see which one of them drops. Overeem just needs to stay on the outside, use his reach and wait for Arlovski to make one minor mistake so he can capitalize. Once that happens, Overeem can put together the winning combination to finish the fight.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem by KO, Round 2
Stefan Struve (-190 favorite) vs. Antonio Silva (+165 underdog)
This heavyweight matchup is really a must win for both men if either Stefan Struve or Antonio Silva want to stay relevant in the top 15 rankings in the future. Struve has gone through a painful time in his life, dealing with a heart condition that nearly ended his career and then a bad stretch in the Octagon where he's gone just 1-2 in his past three fights. Silva has experienced equally troubling times after challenging for the title in 2013, by amassing a paltry 1-3-1 record over his last five fights.
At just 28 years of age, Struve still has plenty of time left to go in this sport and he hopes his training camp with the Blackzilians in Florida will pay off this time around. Struve struggled in his last fight with Jared Rosholt due to the former All-American's wrestling ability, but chances are he won't have to deal with those same difficulties this time around. At his best, Struve is an incredibly long striker with knockout power in his hands and feet. At his worst, Struve fails to use that reach advantage and often fights down to size with his opponents, which puts him in dangerous situations with heavy-handed opponents.
Silva qualifies as a very dangerous opponent, but lately his chin has been his biggest enemy. In his last three losses, Silva has been knocked out inside three rounds. Now Struve probably doesn't pack as much power as some of the fighters who have beaten Silva recently, but after a string of knockout losses, it's easier to tag an opponent and hurt them and that's exactly what the nearly seven-foot tall Dutchman will look to do on Sunday.
If Struve can keep Silva at a distance and use his long range to set up combinations, he can win this fight by either knockout or decision. Struve just needs to avoid Silva bullying him around the Octagon and he should find a way to win this match. Silva is definitely capable of doing that, but he just hasn't shown that style of game plan in his recent fights without taking a mountain of punishment in the process.
Prediction: Stefan Struve by unanimous decision
Nikita Krylov (-155 favorite) vs. Francimar Barroso (+115 underdog)
Nikita Krylov and Francimar Barroso will look to keep recent winning streaks alive when they meet in a middleweight matchup in Rotterdam this weekend.
Krylov has become a fan favorite with his devastating style inside the Octagon, especially considering he's put away his last three opponents by knockout or submission in the first round. Krylov is capable of doing that to anyone, but he'll probably need a full gas tank to beat someone like Barroso, who is a grinding style of fighter with plenty of weapons to take this fight to a decision.
Barroso won't do anything that's ultra flashy or impressive, but he's good enough to drag all his opponents into deep waters by the second and third round. Barroso averages just under three significant strikes landed per minute, along with a couple of takedowns per fight. It's not the kind of material that will make a highlight reel, but it gets the job done.
The key for Krylov is staying patient in the face of frustration while taking on someone like Barroso. Krylov is a nasty finisher who lands nearly six significant strikes per minute with a whopping 65 percent accuracy. He can absolutely overwhelm Barroso on the feet or on the ground, but he can't gas out and he can't get frustrated if that doesn't happen in the opening five minutes of this fight. If Krylov has figured out a way to win past the first round, he's got plenty of potential to put Barroso away. He just can't get overextended and find himself looking for oxygen once the second round begins.
Prediction: Nikita Krylov by TKO, Round 2
These are the fights that appear to be a little more one-sided, but remember that this is MMA, where anything can - and usually does - happen.
Germaine De Randamie (-380 favorite) vs. Anna Elmose (+260 underdog)
Anna Elmose makes her UFC debut this weekend after putting together a 3-0 record on the international fight circuit while training out of her home gym in Denmark. Elmose is a striker who has finished all three of her fights by knockout, but at just 5'3" tall, she's going to be massively undersized against many of the bigger bantamweights in this division.
That includes her long, lanky opponent Germaine de Randamie.
De Randamie has been a solid prospect for quite some time, but still hasn't developed the kind of ground skills that will truly allow her to climb up the rankings at 135 pounds. She's struggled against wrestlers and grapplers who can put her on the mat and keep her there. That being said, de Randamie is a dynamic striker with a nasty array of weapons in her hands and feet, and this is a stylistic dream for her to face a shorter, less rangy kickboxer in Elmose.
Look for de Randamie to test Elmose on the feet early to see how the newcomer does with speed and distance, but once she finds her range, "The Iron Lady" will begin to unload with punches and kicks in volume. De Randamie has serious finishing power and she's more than capable of putting together combinations that will eventually put Elmose in trouble. Elmose could be a promising prospect for the future, but she's facing an impossibly tall order this weekend in only her fourth professional fight.
Prediction: Germaine de Randamie by TKO, Round 2
Karolina Kowalkiewicz (-280 favorite) vs. Heather Jo Clark (+200 underdog)
Karolina Kowalkiewicz made quite the impressive debut in the UFC this past December when she took out highly touted prospect Randa Markos by unanimous decision. Kowalkiewicz is an undefeated fighter out of Poland with a strong striking style on the feet and very good takedown defense as well. Kowalkiewicz lands with volume and solid accuracy while not taking much from her opponents in return.
Heather Jo Clark fights for the first time since beating Bec Rawlings at The Ultimate Fighter season 20 finale and then taking the last 16 months off due to an injured knee. Clark is a veteran with a lot of upside who trains with bantamweight champion Miesha Tate on a daily basis. Clark is the ultimate underdog, who often surprises her opponents with brute strength and underrated skill while employing a smart strategy to get the victory.
Unfortunately for Clark, coming back off major knee surgery while traveling to Europe to face Kowalkiewicz close to home is probably going to be bad news. Kowalkiewicz is a very good striker with fast footwork and head movement and she won't allow Clark to dictate the pace in this fight. Look for Kowalkiewicz to start fast to find out how Clark has prepared for this fight after more than a year away, and once she settles into a rhythm, the Polish strawweight should hit and move over three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory.
Prediction: Karolina Kowalkiewicz by unanimous decision
Kyoji Horoguchi (-475 favorite) vs. Neil Seery (+325 underdog)
Former flyweight title contender Kyoji Horiguchi enjoys the largest odds of any fighter on the card, and while Neil Seery is certainly a grizzled veteran with a lot of toughness, he's fighting an uphill battle this weekend.
Horiguchi is an extremely well rounded fighter with solid striking and better than average wrestling. He's not great in any one area, but he's good everywhere. Horiguchi has also started training full-time at American Top Team in Florida, where he's sure to pick up some new tips working at one of the best gyms in the world.
Make no mistake, Seery is an extremely tough fighter to put away, so chances are he'll hang around for all 15 minutes, but he'll probably be playing defense most of the time. Seery has good punching power and an overall boxing game that could give Horiguchi problems, but the Japanese flyweight is more than capable of making this a dogfight on the ground or in the clinch, and in both places he has an obvious advantage. Seery won't go away easy, but he'll be fighting off takedowns and fast blitzing combinations for three consecutive rounds and that should add up to a win for Horiguchi.
Prediction: Kyoji Horiguchi by unanimous decision
Albert Tumenov (-170 favorite) vs. Gunnar Nelson (+150 underdog)
Albert Tumenov has established himself as one of the most brutal strikers on the UFC roster, so if he wins this fight by knockout, no one should be surprised. That being said, Nelson is no slouch on the feet and his ground game is unmatched outside of a couple key welterweights who currently occupy spots in the top 10.
Nelson can't play around with Tumenov on the outside or he'll eat a ton of strikes and eventually wither and fade from the pressure. Tumenov is best when he can control the pace of the fight and bully his opponents around the Octagon. He loves to move forward and trap his opponents against the cage, where he unloads a barrage of strikes in succession. The key for Nelson is countering that pressure with a takedown and putting Tumenov in unfamiliar territory on the ground.
Nelson has to make this a grind and never allow Tumenov the space to work his prolific striking game. Frustration is Nelson's best friend in this fight because once Tumenov realizes he can't push the Icelandic fighter around the cage, he might get desperate and make some bad decisions that will leave him open for the takedown.
On the ground, Nelson is a masterful grappler, and while he may not submit Tumenov, he'll add up enough control time to eke out a victory after three rounds.
Prediction: Gunnar Nelson by unanimous decision