Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and long-time top contender Alistair Overeem’s fighting futures will not be with the UFC after being released by the promotion.
Overeem’s departure was first reported by MMA Junkie, before dos Santos confirmed his news on social media. ESPN later confirmed the news, adding that Overeem had two fights remaining on his UFC contract while dos Santos had five.
The UFC heavyweight division is arguably at its most interesting since Brock Lesnar burst onto the scene in the late noughties with plenty of up-and-comers ascending up the rankings and nearing the chance to vie for Stipe Miocic’s title.
Perhaps due to this influx of new talent, the UFC have seen it right to cut these two veterans in dos Santos and Overeem from its roster.
Former Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 Grand Prix champion Overeem spent 10 years signed with UFC and competed for heavyweight gold in the promotion once in a losing effort to present-day titleholder Stipe Miocic.
“The final run has come to an end, but what a run it has been,” Overeem wrote on Instagram. “Looking back at my 10 years in the UFC, this has been the experience of a lifetime.
“Huge thank you to the entire UFC staff, the fans and all the fighters I came across. Couldn’t have wished for any other better career path. A special thank you to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta for making everything possible. Fighting for all of you has been such an honor.”
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We last saw Overeem compete in the Octagon this past February against Alexander Volkov, a contest that ended in a second round TKO defeat. During his UFC run, “The Demolition Man” defeated former champions in Brock Lesnar, Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski and dos Santos.
Dos Santos beats Overeem with his 12-year UFC run and after getting that gold wrapped around his waist.
The Brazilian started his UFC tenure with a stunning upset victory over eventual champion Fabricio Werdum with a first-round knockout. That led him to go on an unbeaten run of eight fights with the promotion, beating the likes of Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir – the latter two fights being when he won the UFC heavyweight championship and then successfully defending it.
After losing his belt to Velasquez, dos Santos went on a run of trading wins with losses. He posted wins against Mark Hunt, Ben Rothwell and today’s champion Stipe Miocic, but tasted defeat to Velasquez for a second time, Overeem and Miocic in a rematch.
In 2018, it looked like dos Santos had turned his fighting form around and put together three big wins over Blagoy Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis. However, “Cigano” has lost his last four fights by knockout, suffering those against top competition in Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Ciryl Gane.
Like Overeem, dos Santos looks back on his UFC career with fond memories.
“Thanks UFC for a great 12 years! I fought through MMA’s Murderer’s Row to get my shot at the belt,” Dos Santos posted on Instagram. “Holding and defending it was one of the great honors of my life.
“Thanks to every opponent, thanks to every fan and every critic. I’m going to spend some time back at the drawing board, but I’m excited to move on.”
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At present, it’s unclear what the future holds for both dos Santos and Overeem. The pair have only ever lost to top-tier talent and could easily be competitive in the heavyweight divisions of a variety of international promotions.