Opinion: Can Alistair Overeem finally reach the UFC summit?

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports

For countless years at this stage, Dutch veteran, Alistair ‘The Reem’, and lately, ‘The Demolition Man’ Overeem has been revered as arguably the best natural striker in the heavyweight history of mixed martial arts. He’s been counted out, time and time again, but one thing is for sure – it’s usually to the detriment on his opponents.

Overeem turned 40-years-old this weekend, marking the occasion, with a bittersweet stoppage of the returning Walt Harris in their headlining bout in Jacksonville. The victory marked Overeem’s third win in four outings, but upon inspection, it continued a comeback trend.

The veteran has dropped four defeats since 2016. He’s lost to Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik – all via worrying knockouts. A consistency we find is his tendency to bounce back and embark on a two-fight rise of his own. His victory over Harris didn’t come without its adversity, however. The kickboxer was dropped in the opening round with a blitz, although surviving to wind up in a dominant position at the frame’s buzzer.

The sequence set-up before the eventual finish of Harris was fantastic. A right high kick was textbook, before a rip to the body with a left hook and uppercut. Overeem consoled Harris after referee Dan Miragliotta called a halt to the action, in a hugely emotional meeting.

Overeem sat at #8 in the official heavyweight rankings ahead of the pairing, but expect him to climb a space higher following the victory. All things considered, Overeem could have extended a winning streak to four fights, had the aforementioned Rozenstruik failed to land a lip-splitting shot with just four seconds remaining – in a bout he was comfortably losing on all three judge’s scorecards.

We’re now faced with this question; Can Alistair Overeem earn a second championship tilt, and more importantly, claim a crown which has alluded him throughout his gold-laden career? I touched on Overeem’s striking prowess in the opening section, but let’s divulge into it some more. The Elevation Fight Team mover has been crowned with a K-1 World Grand Prix, a Strikeforce heavyweight title, and a DREAM heavyweight championship – quite the trophy cabinet.

Overeem has evolved his striking game, set-ups, entries, and movement massively since his first run to the UFC heavyweight championship. A cautious approach has seen him finish the likes of Stefan Struve, Junior dos Santos, Andrei Arlovski, Mark Hunt, Sergey Pavlovich, Aleksei Oleinik, and now Walt Harris – all via knockout. Overeem even managed to drop current division pacesetter, Stipe Miocic in his one and only title opportunity to date, before a late knockout loss in the opening frame.

Claiming championship status this deep, not just into his career, but his Octagon stint – would be a huge achievement. It’s certainly something ‘The Demolition Man’ has his sights set upon. In his post-fight interview with lightweight striker, Paul Felder, on Saturday, Overeem teased another Octagon walk this year and earmarked a title quest to boot. His options in terms of next opponents are severely limited, however.

He was set to meet with Alexander Volkov in April of last year, instead, he faced the previously noted Oleinik after the former Bellator heavyweight champion withdrew due to injury. Volkov has been paired with the aforementioned, Blaydes for his next matchup – a former-foe, but now a training partner of Overeem. Junior dos Santos sits at #4 despite a two-fight skid, Overeem has already bested the former champion. Francis Ngannou and Daniel Cormier, who sit at #2 and #1, respectively, have championship opportunities to occupy them.

That leaves only former title challenger, Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis – if Overeem’s to look up the rankings for his next opponent. The always entertaining Lewis managed to lodge two wins in his most recent outings – close decisions against Blagoy Ivanov, and Ilir Latifi. A pairing of Lewis and Overeem could possibly be billed as a title-eliminator, depending of course of the outcome of the fiasco which is the heavyweight title scenario involving Miocic, Cormier, and now, Ngannou.

Finally, can Alistair Overeem finally reach the UFC summit? A lot of possibilities are out of ‘The Reem{‘s}’ hands at the time of writing. We’ve got to see if the promotion pushes ahead with a rubber match between Miocic and Cormier, however, if Ngannou is drafted into championship challenger status or even becomes gold holder, if or when Overeem challenges for spoils again – I personally won’t hang my hat on a championship reign of ‘The Demolition Man’.

 

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