Flashback Friday: Enter the Ubereem

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Alistair Overeem ( 43-15 MMA, 14-4 kickboxing) has had one hell of a career. At the age of 15, he began training in MMA due to his brother Valentijn dragging him to the gym so he could learn to defend himself. He made his pro debut in 1999 at the age of 19. After competing in various organizations, and amassing a 13-3 record in MMA, Overeem would make his debut on one of the two biggest stages possible, PRIDE FC, in 2003.

 

 

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“The Demolition Man”, as he was labeled at the time, would win his PRIDE debut in 0:44 seconds and go on to have mixed results in the organization. He came up short in two middleweight grand-prixs, but would only fall to top-tier competition such as Chuck Liddell, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Fabricio Werdum, to name a few. Overeem would make his heavyweight debut in 2006 and was rather undersized compared to rest of the crop in PRIDE. After a few fights in the new division, he’d drop back down to light- heavyweight and lose three in a row, prompting him to try out the heavyweight division again.

 

 

Rise of The Reem

It was looking as though the obviously skilled Overeem was destined to be a journeyman before his second jump to heavyweight. He began to fill out his long, tall frame with muscle in 2006. In 2007, we’d see the beginning of one of the most impressive runs in combat sports history.

First, Overeem easily smashed former UFC title challenger Paul Buentello for the inaugural Strikeforce heavyweight belt. He returned to kickboxing after a 3-year hiatus in 2008 and took out the top-ranked Armenian, Badr Hari, with a face-melting K.O in the first round. He’d go on to beat the likes of Mark Hunt, Gary Goodridge and in a quick turnaround, Tony Sylvester and Thompson within 8 days of each other. He’d finish out 2009 by landing a devastating knee to the head of Japanese legend, Kazuyuki Fujita, sending him out on a stretcher in a scary scene.

 

K-1 Grand-Prix

During this impressive stint “The Reem” (as he had rebranded himself) was still finding time to beat some of the top kickboxers in the world. He’d decision the legendary Peter Aerts and crush Ewerton Teixeira, before falling to an old foe in Hari. In 2010, he’d rebound against Dzevad Puljak to earn himself a place in the K-1 Grand-Prix.

A month after earning his spot, Overeem would stay busy by dismantling the tough Brett Rogers, outlanding him 44-1 in strikes, in the MMA to defend his Strikeforce heavyweight belt.

The most heralded kickboxing tournament in the world would kick off in October with “The Reem” wrecking Ben Edwards with a right hook in the opening round. Two months later, Overeem would fight three times in the same night. He beat the proficient Tyrone Spong and the “Turkish Tyson” Gokhan Saki on his way to the finals and a rematch against Peter Aerts.

Though Overeem would win again, this fight would go wildly different from the first meeting. Aerts had taken a lot of damage in his two fights leading up to the final. Overeem had been generally unscathed and immediately went for the kill when the bell sounded. He’d finish Aerts in the first round to be crowned the 2010 K-1 Grand-Prix champion.

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Less than 3 weeks after his impressive grand-prix run, he returned to MMA and starched UFC veteran Todd Duffee in :19 seconds and won the DREAM heavyweight title in the process.

 

A few months later, Overeem was announced as a participant in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand-Prix. In the opening round he’d decision Fabricio Werdum in a lackluster fight that saw the Brazilian avoid engaging with the kickboxer as much as possible. An issue with his management company, Golden Glory, would lead to Overeem being pulled from the tournament, leaving the Dutchman’s future in question.

It wouldn’t be long before it was announced that he had signed to the UFC to take on fellow musclebound behemoth, Brock Lesnar.

 

 

Overeem is currently 9-4 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship . He is set to take on the studly Francis N’gannou at UFC 218 tomorrow night.

Regardless of the outcome of that fight, or any of his fights going on, from 2007-2011 Overeem had a truly historic run. I can’t argue that he always faced the best guys in MMA but he definitely had some impressive wins and his kickboxing competition was overall top notch. Winning titles in two major MMA promotions and a K-1 kickboxing world title is no easy feat. Between the two sports, he had a combined 22 fights in this brief period and only lost two of them.

Of course, there are many questions about his ‘supplements’ and his affinity for “horse meat”. For good reason,too. To see him grow from a skinny kid to a hulking monster should raise some eyebrows. Yet, Overeem only failed one drug test, so without facts, I won’t go too deeply into that. I will say I don’t think that he was doing anything anyone else wasn’t doing in those organizations at the time.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding him, his four-year world tour of destruction is still unrivaled. I feel we should appreciate it for what it was because ita very likely we’ll never see anything like it again.

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