Over the past months, much has been written on Alistair Overeem. Sadly, while there's no shortage of Overeem articles out there, there's something about the Demolition Man that makes normally sound people become irrational. As a result, almost every Overeem story comes down to one of two things: he's ducking people, or he's on steroids. Sometimes both. The problem with this approach is that it focuses on the sensational and fails to address Overeem as, you know, an actual FIGHTER. Which is a shame, because there is much worthwhile to discuss about Overeem the fighter. So, in the hopes of setting aside any more steroid talk, let's take a look at exactly what you can expect from Overeem's return to America soil on May 15. And we'll start with this:
Alistair Overeem is now one of the best, if not THE best, Heavyweight strikers currently in MMA.
Before getting out the torches, let's look rationally at Overeem's recent career. Most MMA fans like to harp on his less than stellar opposition in recent MMA fights, and understandably so - after all, this is the sport he is more known for, this is the sport he is returning to, and this is the sport more fans follow. And it's true that his 2009 MMA challenges have been less than inspired. But to focus solely on his recent MMA history is to ignore what makes Overeem so dangerous - his K-1 record.
After a pair of random, smaller K-1 fights in 2001 and 2004, Overeem made his K-1 return at Dynamite 2008. Brought in as a Dream representative in the MMA v. K-1 themed show, Overeem had the unenviable task of taking on K-1's #2 fighter and KO expert Badr Hari. In 2 minutes, Overeem managed to shock the kickboxing world and knock Hari out. Beginner's luck, right - maybe Hari underestimated him?
From there, Overeem moved up to a main event fight with then champion Remy Bonjasky. Overeem stayed close to Bonjasky the entire fight until being dropped in the 3rd and losing a close decision that a lot of people felt he should have won. Still, there were excuses - Remy wasn't himself, was injured, etc. It was the next fight that seemed to really silence critics, as Overeem easily defeated the legendary Peter Aerts (ranked #3 at the time), ending Aerts's epic 16 year run as a Grand Prix participant. He followed that up with a brutal KO of Ewerton Teixeira (#7 at the time), a loss to Hari (#2) and a win over Dzevad Poturak (#25). This is a huge run of wins, but they mean little to the MMA fan as these are just names with no real significance. So, to put it into perspective, let's look at the equivalent MMA HW fighters using the SBN Consensus rankings.
According to the current rankings, this would be like a fighter coming into the UFC and, in essentially his debut, knocking out Brock Lesnar in one round, following that up with a close, controversial decision loss to Fedor, then defeating Carwin and Big Nog before losing to Brock, and finally beating Stefan Struve to rebound from that loss. I think we can all agree that such a resume would be pretty impressive.
The obvious counter-point to this argument is that Overeem's big wins have come in K-1, and kickboxing and MMA are two different sports because of the ground game. This is true, and yet, if your opponent does not do the ground game, are they really that different? And Brett Rogers does not do the ground game. On May 15 Overeem will face a man who is, essentially, a pure stand-up fighter. The exact skills Overeem used to rise to the top of K-1 will be in use here. When he faces a fighter like Werdum or Fedor, the difference between MMA and kickboxing will become more clear, but against Rogers (or Arlovski down the road) it remains, in many ways, a kickboxing fight.
So what makes Overeem such a feared kickboxer? Three things:
1. Power. This can not be stressed enough. Overeem has developed brutal knock-out power, which he has displayed in defeating Teixeira, Fujita, and Poturak, all from nasty knees. And this power is not limited to his strikes - Overeem can throw his opponents around with little trouble. Rogers's size will make him tough to ragdoll, but once Overeem grabs him, it may be hard for Rogers to get away.
2. Accuracy. This is an oft-overlooked part of striking in the MMA game, but one of Overeem's strong points is his ability to connect perfectly with that KO shot. He doesn't throw tons of strikes, hoping one connects - instead he grabs his opponent, lines up, and hits the one strike that takes them out. This is a hugely important skill, and is very reminiscent of, dare I say, Fedor.
3. Tough chin. In all his recent K-1 fights, Overeem has only been stopped by Hari and knocked down once by Bonjasky, and in neither of those fights was he truly out of it (the Hari stoppage was due to being knocked down twice in a round, not being unable to answer the 10 count). He's been in with tough strikers, taken their best, and has not been KO'd. If Rogers connects with his heavy hands, he'll definitely test that chin, but don't expect Overeem to go down easily.
Some MMA fans eagerly look forward to Overeem losing, or failing a drug test and proving them right. But what they should be looking forward to is one of the best HW strikers on the planet making his return to the US and to top 10 MMA competition. Anyone who looks at the Overeem who fought at LHW, or his recent MMA opponents, and decides that he is all hype with no backing is sorely overlooking what makes this man so dangerous - and such a welcome part of the Strikeforce roster.
by Fraser Coffeen