When Alistair Overeem was signed by the UFC, the hype and anticipation from fans and media alike would have made even Connor McGregor blush. Few felt that the hulking Dutchman was unworthy of the veneration after demolishing all-comers during an eleven fight win streak which saw ‘The Reem’ collect multiple world titles in the dual disciplines of kickboxing (K1 World Grand Prix Champion) and MMA (Strikeforce and Dream Heavyweight Champion).
Those accolades were supported if not surpassed by the sheer ferocity of his victories, a hulking behemoth of a man who had annihilated all who stood in his way and captured the imagination of fight fans. Much like Mike Tyson did all those years ago when he tore through the boxing world and transcended the sporting arena, Overeem was now poised to make a comparable impact, with MMA as the chosen canvas on which to spread his opponents.
The stage was set for him to fulfill what many thought inevitable; claiming the UFC heavyweight title and it could not have begun any better as he destroyed the sports most recognizable star of the time Brock Lesnar, immediately becoming the premium heavyweight contender and exploding instantly into the consciousness of the casual UFC fan.
Who would have predicted that this might be the peak of Overeem’s UFC exploits? Controversial is a word that is often over-used yet best describes the astonishing rise and fall of the Pride veteran and that fire would rear its flames of suspicion once more after testing positive for unusually high levels of testosterone-to-epitestosterone that would make a prime King Kong look guilty. The naysayers had a field day with the news and his career along with his shot at UFC gold was put on hold.
Overeem would return to the UFC after a nine month suspension with his dream to be champion stuttering yet apparently only delayed and faced former training partner Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva, in what many viewed as a simple tune-up fight before his inevitable championship tilt. Unfortunately for Overeem, Bigfoot had other plans, the Brazilian’s motivation only enhanced by his opponents apparent lack of respect.
Overeem had been knocked out before, but after being seemingly invincible for so long, his defeat to ‘Bigfoot’ became all the more shocking not only for its brutality but also for the glaring weaknesses it would expose within the Dutchman’s considerable frame. Overeem relies on overwhelming his opponents in the opening stanza with a freakish power and incapacitating pressure that almost every human being on the planet would succumb to, yet as James ‘Buster’ Douglas showed all those moons ago against Tyson, if you can weather that early storm there will be next to nothing left in the aftermath and scant resistance thereafter.
Overeem would make a low-key entrance this past weekend against Travis Browne, with little fanfare and furore preceding him, overshadowed by emerging stars and the UFC’s expansion into pastures new. After beginning strongly he would once again fall prey to stamina issues and a questionable chin, his twelfth defeat by knockout.
After a dream start, his ambition to become UFC heavyweight champion, once within touching distance, lies in tatters and his future within the organization now looks extremely tenuous. No matter when and where Overeem fights next he will continue to draw attention as Tyson once did. They share that heady mix of raw power and unnerving machismo that has fascinated since the days of the Gladiator, irrespective of faded powers and blurred visions of what might have been, they remain icons of combat.