Fighting at home can be a scary prospect. Even especially when you are a star such as Alistair Overeem. Nerves can set in, the pressure can be unbearable. To do so in your own home country can likely add to the monument of the moment.
Alistair faced such a challenge in facing former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski in his home country of the Netherlands, and came away with one of the most spectacular victories in his 17-year career. At the start of the bell, Arlovski attacked Overeem early with a flurry of punches that forced Overeem against the cage, though Arlovski could not capitalize to get the finish. A mistake that Arlovski would find to be most costly. Overeem began to utilize a new methodical, patient and technically proficient style that we saw pay in dividends in his last victory against Junior dos Santos last December. Slowly catching on to Arlovski’s tendencies, Alistair capitalized where he could in the bouts closing minutes of round one. Going into round two, you could see the focus intensify as Overeem grew ever more confident that he would be able to find Arlovski’s chin when he least expected it.
To say the least, that’s exactly what he did.
After landing a crane kick-left hook combination that would make Mr. Miyagi proud, Overeem toppled “The Pitbull” en route to a devastating (T)knockout that follows up one of the best in Overeem’s career in the aforementioned dos Santos fight. It would seem Overeem has established that this patient and more intelligent Overeem is here to stay. Evolving into the heavily improved “Reem” that emerged Sunday in Rotterdam.
Along with being one of the most dangerous Heavyweight’s on the planet, he has also always been one of the most gifted. Also noted that he certainly was profiled by most before entering into the UFC as one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division. A man that could kick better than most anyone at Heavyweight, can utilize knees in the clinch like no other man his size, and has a very underrated ground game to boot. Even now, as Alistair currently rides a hefty four-fight winning streak, has even shown improvements in all the facets that made him great before. Against Stefan Struve, he showed intelligence and craftiness in taking Struve down to the ground and utilizing his thunderous ground and pound to get the first round victory. Against Roy Nelson we saw the first glimpse of his patience and technical adaptability along with the use of his legendary knees from the clinch. When facing Junior dos Santos, he took the time to settle on his feet while concurrently reading into dos Santos’ tendencies and footwork that eventually lead to a devastating finish. And it all came together here against Arlovski. While not being able to show off his ground skills too much, Overeem used the clinch well in order to create space in close quarters and avoid damage that would otherwise have left him vulnerable.
Along with all this, Overeem has still managed to keep his cocky charm about him. Declaring that he would not only fight for the Heavyweight title next, but that he would defend it for the first time back in Holland in a stadium. Bold plans for the Dutch legend, but seemingly not all that impossible now.
This helps bring us to our point. Is Alistair Overeem next in line for a UFC Heavyweight title shot? Well lets look at the landscape. He’s currently ranked third in the division behind Stipe Miocic and Cain Velasquez. Stipe fights next for the gold this Saturday at UFC 198 against the reigning champion Fabricio Werdum, and Cain Velasquez is fighting Travis Browne at UFC 200. Another possible contender that could have been argued was Rothwell who just got upset by Dos Santos last month. Fans of Velasquez have been pushing for him to be the next contender should he come away with a win at UFC 200 in July. But Cain has only fought once in nearly three years and across the last five has suffered a leg injury, a shoulder injury, and is just now coming off a back injury. Any one of those injuries could possibly have dire repercussions on Cain’s career in the probable short term and the likely long term. Even if he comes away with a victory against “Hapa” Browne this summer, it might be high tide for Cain to prove he can compete on a consistent basis without injury before securing another shot at the Heavyweight crown.
This truly leaves only Overeem near the top of the mountain. A man who has secured two top ten victories straight in a four fight winning streak that amasses three knockout finishes. Overeem is back, and it’s time to finally see if the former Strikeforce, Dream, and K-1 champion is finally capable of reaching to the titanic mountain that is his potential and securing an even bigger victory than all that have come before the last 71 fights in his combat sports career.