Is Alistair Overeem Still Good Enough to Be a Contender in the UFC’s Heavyweight Division?

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For years, “The Demolition Man” was one of the most intimidating heavyweights in mixed martial arts.

Alistair Overeem enjoyed a lengthy streak that started late 2007, winning 10 of his next 11 fights, with one no-contest ruling for using illegal knees against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. Only two of his victims — Fabricio Werdum and Paul Buentello — during that span made it out of the first round, while others like Mark Hunt found themselves overwhelmed during the opening minutes.

Alistair also secured the Strikeforce, Dream, and K-1 heavyweight titles during his golden era.

Thus, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the UFC’s brass announced Overeem (36-13-0, 19 submissions) would be one of the select heavyweights imported from the now defunct Strikeforce as that promotion’s days slowly winded down to an end.

Overeem was matched up against former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar for his debut, and he lived up to the hype at UFC 141, barely taking any damage during the fight, putting the WWE superstar away with a vicious liver kick at 2:26 of round one.

The stage was set for a champion vs. champion bout — sort of — when Overeem was matched up against then heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 146, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first event to feature only heavyweights on the main card.

Unfortunately for Alistair, the results of a surprise drug test administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) ended up costing him the opportunity of a lifetime. His samples indicated elevated testosterone levels, earning The Demolition Man a nine-month denial of his license application and a bunch of “horse meat” jokes, since Overeem attributed his impressive transformation from a lanky 205er to one of the bulkiest heavyweights in MMA to the delicacy enjoyed in some parts of the world.

Overeem hasn’t won a fight since then, getting knocked out by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Travis Browne. However, it’s a bit too early to classify Overeem as another small-show import who couldn’t cut it in the big leagues.

Alistair dominated a majority of his bout against Silva, and he likely would have emerged victorious if his cardio didn’t fail him, prompting him to repeatedly drop his hands. He was even more dominant during his bout against Travis Browne, coming close to forcing a stoppage early in the fight before getting caught with a front kick.

“Dealing with losses is never cool — it’s always hard,” Overeem said during a conversation with MMAjunkie. “You should always reinvent yourself, but when you lose you just do it a little bit more.”

Overeem is now set to face former champion Frank Mir next on Feb. 1 at UFC 169, and he’s made some changes in preparation for the fight that might very well be his last in the Ultimate Fighting Championship if he ends up losing. He’s parted ways with the Blackzilians, moving his training camp to Thailand, and he also claims he’s shed some muscle in hopes of improving his cardio.

“I actually dropped some weight,” Overeem explained. “I wanted improved cardio, so obviously you want to lose some weight. That actually goes automatic. A lot more cardio and you automatically lose a lot of weight. We just wanted [my cardio] to be better.”

Technically speaking, Overeem is still one of the best heavyweights in the UFC, so it’s not surprising that the oddsmakers have him as a 3:1 favorite heading into his showdown against Mir — who has lost three consecutive bouts. However, it’s worth nothing that Overeem went down the first time he got hit hard during his fights against Silva and Browne.

Only time will tell if Overeem is now at a point that his body simply can’t take the trauma of being hit hard in the head due to all the punishment he’s taken over the 17 years he’s been fighting, or if Browne and Silva simply found a soft spot in his armor.

One thing’s for sure, Overeem isn’t taking his fight against Mir lightly.

David is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing practitioner who has watched and studied MMA for the past 9 years. Send him your questions @davidkingwriter and check out his blog.

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MMAMartial

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MMAMartial

BJJ head who passionately follows mixed martial arts and boxing. Former Yahoo Sports MMA contributor.

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