It wasn’t long ago the man many once considered the world’s most dangerous MMA heavyweight, Alistair Overeem, suffered a tremendous fall from grace and looked to be on the verge of disappearing into irrelevancy. But, four solid wins later, ‘The Reem’ is almost back on top.
Overeem stopped former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski this past weekend with a spectacular jumping front kick-left hook combination – a win which has almost guaranteed the Dutchman the next shot at the heavyweight title. Potentially in New York City.
But does The Reem’s current streak mean he has what it takes to add UFC gold to his Strikeforce, K-1 and Dream championships honors list?
Resurgence certainly isn’t anything new in MMA. Robbie Lawler and Fabricio Werdum are just two examples of veteran fighters who have climbed back to the top of the pile to capture UFC championships on the back of lengthy periods of relative obscurity. But there is always at least one major change that a fighter’s resurgence can be attributed to – Lawler’s career trajectory going skywards after he dropped to welterweight, and Werdum’s improved striking under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro taking him to the title – so the big question is whether or not Overeem’s move to Jackson-Wink MMA has improved his skill set enough to take him to the title.
There’s certainly no arguing with the results. Overeem has finished three of his last four opponents, and all four have been legitimate tests. Sure, the Dutchman hasn’t been blowing his opponents out of the water int he fashion he did on his UFC debut against Brock Lesnar. But with greater emphasis on defensive fighting, he’s also avoiding the types of knockout losses he’s fallen victim to during his UFC tenure. This much-improved strategic approach to his game must be attributed to his new coaching set-up in New Mexico.
The Albuquerque-based Jackson-Wink team, headed up by Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, certainly has a strong track record when it comes to maximizing a fighter’s potential. Jon Jones, Carlos Condit and Holly Holm are among a catalogue of their most successful alumni, and in Overeem they have another incredible talent just waiting to be polished into a prize gem.
Beating the best
Even assuming the Overeem that challenges for the heavyweight title will be the best Reem we’ve ever seen, we still can’t be sure if that will be good enough to beat current champion Fabricio Werdum or leading contenders Stipe Miocic, who are set to challenge for the belt at UFC 198 this coming weekend in Brazil.
Granted, Overeem does hold a victory over Werdum when they met for the second time back in 2011 (Werdum submitted Overeem in their first meeting in 2006). But both are a world away form the fighter’s they were back then. Werdum has come on so much that he’d likely welcome a stand-up battle with The Reem in 2016. While Alistair too has finally settled into a winning rhythm in the Octagon.
As for the stylistic matchup between elite striker Overeem and wrestle-boxer Miocic, it also makes for a closely-contested and highly debatable bout – at least on paper. Overeem may have the experience and kicking game, but Miocic has gone from strength to strength with consistent finishes.
What is for sure is, Overeem certainly has the skills to pose a legitimate threat to both Werdum and Miocic.