Fighter Profile: Alistair Overeem
By Ross Markey
Long regarded as the consensus most devastating all-round striker in heavyweight combat sports history, UFC title chaser Alistair Overeem once more displayed his striking prowess on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night St. Petersburg. Stopping grappling ace Aleksei Oleinik in the dying embers of the opening round with vicious ground-and-pound after some trademark Thai clinch knees, the veteran Dutchman firmly staked his claim as the next in line for division champion Daniel Cormier. With an always adapting and evolving movement base, ‘The Demolition Man’ has now mustered up two consecutive victories via knockout as he chases that ever elusive UFC crown.
In possession of an arguably unmatched trophy cabinet, Elevation Fight Team trainee Overeem is certainly one of the most successful mixed martial artists on the globe. Championship triumphs have come in promotions such as DREAM, Strikeforce and K-1, with Overeem remaining the only fighter to hold three world titles simultaneously. Delving into his time with the previously mentioned organizations is a must if we want to lay the real foundations which support the belief that Alistair Overeem is arguably the most prolific striker the sport has witnessed.
The PRIDE Days
In an incredible career spanning twenty years, the Hounslow native has picked up a jaw-dropping forty-five victories, finishing all but five wins in the process. Now defunct Japanese promotion PRIDE Fighting Championships were the original stomping grounds for Overeem, remaining hugely popular in the Asian market to this day, somewhere where he found his early career highlights. His tendency to finish with strikes often leads fans to forget about his grappling proficiency, with his taut guillotine first displayed against former UFC heavyweight tournament winner Vitor Belfort, and the ever imposing Igor Vovchanchyn during his early run with the promotion. Another premier display of Alistair’s talents came against Sergei Kharitonov, stopping the heavy hitting Russian with knees inside the opening round of their 2005 clash, something the now 38-year-old is renowned for among MMA elitists. Shockingly, Overeem was competing at middleweight during that year, eventually crashing out of the Grand Prix to Brazilian pioneer Maurício ‘Shogun’ Rua at the semi-final stage, an incredible thought considering his stature at heavyweight today.
After his initial uprise in Japan, Overeem steadily made his impact on the North American scene. Debuting on the other side of the globe against former foe Vitor Belfort in Scott Coker’s Strikeforce, ‘The Reem’ once more defeated the similarly devastating Belfort, this time via unanimous decision. His commitment to various promotions such as K-1, DREAM, and Hero’s halted his transatlantic rise, as he traveled to and from Asia and his Holland home in between fights in the United States, looking to balance a topsy turvy career. A second spell in PRIDE proved catastrophic for Overeem, dropping three consecutive knockout defeats to the legendary Antonio Rogério Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, and previous rival Rua. Alistair was far from the complete package. Bouncing back at K-1 against Michael Knaap, another worrying loss then came for Overeem, this time at the hands of another former opponent, Sergei Kharitonov.
The Octagon Beckons
Still severely unpolished and relatively new to the North American audience, the subsequent ‘run’ in which Alistair Overeem gained a calling from the Ultimate Fighting Championship is to this day, one of the most impressive in recent memory. Amassing ten straight victories with a single ‘no contest’ blotch against Mirko Cro Cop on his copybook, Overeem was in touching distance of his ultimate test. UFC alumni Paul Buentello was the welcoming party for Alistair’s second spell in Strikeforce and the promotion’s inaugural heavyweight title clash, tapping to brutal knee strikes in their winter 2007 clash. Both the terrifyingly imposing Mark Hunt and Gary Goodridge where next for Overeem, submitting both via americana. England’s James Thompson was the next victim to find himself enclosed in Overeem’s guillotine, before three consecutive knockout wins followed. Kazuyuki Fajita was finished with a chilling knee strike before powerhouses Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee were taken out. Duffee was unconscious inside the opening twenty seconds as Overeem claimed the DREAM heavyweight crown. A rematch with Fabricío Werdum was scheduled next in the quarterfinal bracket of the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix, Overeem emerged victorious and was later pinched by Dana White and the UFC.
In 2012, Alistair Overeem was maybe the only man in professional mixed martial arts to match former heavyweight kingpin Brock Lesnar in terms of stature. Controversially, the iconic nickname ‘Ubereem’ or ‘Horse Meat’ was also coined during the lead up to that monstrous clash. Overeem issued two sample screen out-of-competition drug tests, both which were deemed unacceptable by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, but eventually, the Dutch striker was issued a conditional license to compete on December, 30th. An aggressive, pace-pushing Overeem opened the exchanges, targetting the diverticulitis riddled mid-section of Lesnar who was returning from a one-year layoff. Absolutely brutal knee strikes to the body eventually piled up before a switch kick to the liver spelled an end to ‘The Beast(s)’ night. Overeem was immediately within title contention.
Loss After Loss
A much heated back and forth with Brazilian brawler Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva culminated in somewhat of a shocking finish. Overeem, who had promised to knock the experienced Silva out was himself finished with strikes as his quest for Octagon gold faltered. The now faltering Travis Browne again caused a speed wobble for Alistair, who ate a front kick to the face as he recklessly plodded forward, sending him to the canvas for the second time in as many fights. The losing streak was snapped with a decision win over grappling phenom Frank Mir, before Ben Rothwell stopped Overeem with strikes in the premier round of their match
An impressive resurgence followed for ‘The Reem’ in the lead up to his premier title tilt with Stipe Miocic, demonstrating incredibly improved movement, risk management and composure to score four straight wins. An all Dutch affair was next up for Overeem, stopping compatriot and the gigantic Stefan Struve in the very first round, before taking a unanimous decision win over the heavy hitting and always dangerous TUF winner Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson.
After a failed meeting at UFC 160, Overeem eventually clashed with former heavyweight frontrunner Junior dos Santos in late 2015, in what remains his most impressive Octagon finish. Showing some clever lateral movement and angle cutting, Overeem sprang in the second round and clipped JDS with almost a left shovel hook, before finishing with ground-and-pound.
Plying his trade at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, ‘The Demolition Man’ was surprisingly paired with then-teammate and former division champion Andrei Arlovski, in what proved to be an eventual title eliminator. Overeem displayed his evolving striking early in the Rotterdam meeting, landing a crane kick on ‘The Pitbull’ to score a knockout and first Octagon title challenge.
Heading into hostile territory against reigning champion Miocic in Ohio, Overeem almost put a dampener on the electric crowd early in the first. Separating quite well from an exchange, ‘The Reem’ blasted a straight right down the barrel, sending Stipe to the mat.
Looking to utilize his superior grappling, Overeem immediately jumped for a guillotine from the bottom, but Miocic fought out and survived. The conclusion spelled when Overeem attempted a bizarre front leg side kick to the left leg of Stipe who scored a trip before finishing with strikes from a stacked guard. A clearly bewildered Overeem spoke with all-round personality Joe Rogan after the culmination of the clash, in which he insisted Miocic had tapped during his guillotine attempt, something a replay proved otherwise.
One More Chance?
A re-run and rubber match was next on the cards for Alistair Overeem, as he faced former PRIDE FC foes Mark Hunt and Fabrício Werdum. Hunt was brutally stopped with those devastating knees in the clinch, before a rather dubious decision went Overeem’s way as he took the trilogy win over another former heavyweight champion, ‘Vai Cavalo’. Two brutal losses, maybe the most damaging of his career followed for ‘The Reem’, as he looked to finally take the UFC throne. Rising star and now perennial contender Francis Ngannou stopped Overeem with a left hook in the opening three minutes, before now teammate Curtis Blaydes rallied from some adversity against Alistair to land a takedown and finish with bludgeoning elbows.
The win over Oleinik moves Overeem to 2-0 in his last two outings, and a victory over originally scheduled Alexander Volkov could guarantee a title opportunity for one of the best strikers in mixed martial arts.