(Michael Roberts' opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.)
Alistair Overeem entered the UFC in 2011 having accomplished just about everything you can ask from a top fighter. "The Demolition Man" held and defended the Strikeforce heavyweight title, won the K-1 2010 World Grand Prix, won the DREAM interim heavyweight title, and soundly defeated top 10 heavyweight Fabricio Werdum in his final Strikeforce fight. After a successful Octagon debut against Brock Lesnar, he was set to fight Junior Dos Santos for the heavyweight title in May until a failed pre-fight drug test yanked Overeem out.
Overeem has been on the sidelines since, serving a nine-month suspension
issued by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to his elevated testosterone levels. With his suspension halfway finished, Overeem stops by the MMA Uncensored Live
studio on Thursday to discuss his future. It's a safe bet the UFC heavyweight title is on his radar and that he wants reigning champion Dos Santos is in first bout back. Here are three reasons why Dos Santos vs. Overeem should be the next title fight. Don't miss Alistair Overeem on MMA Uncensored Live
, Thursday at 11/10c.
1. It's Too Soon for a Rematch
Following Cain Velasquez's battering of Antonio Silva and Dos Santos' destruction of Frank Mir at UFC 146
, a rematch was penciled in
for September at UFC 152. It was just as quickly erased and the two are currently without a date. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it's far too quick to book the Velasquez/Dos Santos rematch.
Sure that's an almost ironic point heading into a weekend featuring what will be Frankie Edgar's third consecutive rematch, but that's an entirely different situation. Edgar's rematches were put together following a draw and two close judges' decisions, standard criteria that warrant a rematch. Dos Santos, meanwhile, needed all of 64 seconds to stop Velasquez and claim heavyweight gold in their first meeting last November.
Even with the reported injuries heading into that fight – something that affected both fighters
– and Velasquez painting the Octagon crimson with "Bigfoot"'s blood in May, it does little to garner interest in a second meeting between Velasquez and Dos Santos. Velasquez certainly made a statement against Silva, but he needs to further divert attention away from the shellacking he received courtesy of Dos Santos less than a year ago by picking up another dominant win against a top ranked fighter. A showdown with top five heavyweight Werdum would certainly provide him that opportunity.
2. Overeem Just Knocked Out a Former Champ
There was plenty of buzz surrounding Overeem as he entered the UFC last December. It became deafening after he demolished former heavyweight champion Lesnar just one fight after the powerhouse wrestler lost his belt. Overeem's performance was as advertised, as he battered Lesnar with knees and kicks to the body before swarming the downed giant with punches.
The stoppage came at just 2:26 in round one and Lesnar retired from MMA soon after, and has since dusted off his wrestling boots and returned to the WWE.
Overeem, at the time an unproven draw, not only took out the biggest draw in UFC history in less than a round, he sent him packing from the sport. Casual fans, meet Alistair Overeem. Streaks built outside the UFC don't always translate to success inside the Octagon. When they do, they must be capitalized on.
Vitor Belfort found himself in a similar situation upon his return to the UFC in 2009. "The Phenom" took out former champ Rich Franklin with a first round KO and was immediately booked for a title shot against Anderson Silva. Though injuries delayed that fight several times, it was still a PPV success. Even with Overeem's ongoing suspension darn near guaranteeing he'll be out of action until 2013, he's still one-half of the easiest fight to sell. That brings us to the all important final point.
3. Dos Santos vs. Overeem is the Money Fight
A heavyweight title fight between two of MMA's best strikers with impressive highlight reels basically sells itself. When you toss in the controversy and curiosity surrounding Overeem's return from suspension and mix in the fact that he and Dos Santos have developed a rivalry, it becomes a bona fide goldmine.
Dos Santos specifically called out Overeem, saying he wants to fight that "punk" next
and knock him out. For most fighters this isn't a big deal; for Dos Santos it's a severe shift. Here's a guy who, despite Zuffa's effort to bill it as a grudge match, consistently crushed the notion that there was any bitterness heading into his bout against Mir. Heck, he's even sung Adele on camera
. Dos Santos is simply a jolly juggernaut who puts on a mean game face and destroys people come fight night. "Cigano" is terrifying enough as is. Imagining the pre-fight talk between Dos Santos and Overeem further ignites an already present spark.
There are obviously concerns about putting the heavyweight title on hold until early 2013, but a matchup of this magnitude is certainly worth the wait. Don't fret that it won't be on the traditional New Year's Eve(ish) card – Lorenzo Fertitta stated
he won't book Overeem until he's granted a license and the earliest he could reapply is Dec. 27 - let Overeem straighten things out with the commission and book the fight Super Bowl weekend.
One takeaway from Overeem's hearing with the NSAC – aside from the commission's sheer incompetence – was that the members would be more than willing to have him fight in Las Vegas once his suspension is up. No kidding, I'd want a piece of that live gate too. In the interim, announce that the fight is targeted for Super Saturday and let the anticipation develop.
When aged properly, hype is like a fine wine. Belfort/Silva and Silva/Sonnen II turned into even bigger fights following numerous delays, and there's no reason to think Dos Santos/Overeem would be an exception. If the UFC holds an event on FOX the week before the Super Bowl, like it did last year, this allows for primetime NFL playoff plugs for live fights on FOX. With the casual, football-deprived fans tuning in for the FOX card, it's a perfect platform to get the Dos Santos/Overeem matchup mainstream exposure, as the behemoth's highlight reels certainly appeal to the masses.
The Bottom Line
The current value in a Dos Santos/Overeem fight compared with a Dos Santos/Velasquez rematch is night and day. For Velasquez, taking a fight before the year's end will further elevate his stock and give him a much clearer stake at No. 1 contendership. For now, there's just too much value in an Overeem/Dos Santos fight to not cash in.
Don't miss Alistair Overeem on MMA Uncensored Live
in studio Thursday at 11/10c.
Image: Josh Hedges /Zuffa LLC /Getty Images