The UFC heavyweight division is historically the most unpredictable weight class in existence.
Built around hulking power, dynamic strikers and a relentless atmosphere of hurt and punishment, the roster has been subject to monumental changes in the past. From Ricco Rodriguez to Brock Lesnar, from Tim Sylvia to Fabricio Werdum, the divisional strap has been handed over a grand total of 15 times and has never been defended more than twice.
That’s quite astonishing, especially considering guys like Randy Couture, Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir and Junior dos Santos once occupied the throne.
In some cases, the unpredictability of the heavyweight division is a sought-after commodity. In other instances, it’s a curse that continues to snatch up the very best fighters in the world, strip them of their worth and recycle the title to the next contender stepping through the revolving door. That’s why new faces with fresh promises are welcomed in like millionaires stuck in the rain.
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) December 20, 2015
When you step back and consider the accolades and historic accomplishments that these past additions bring to the division, Alistair Overeem may be the most important asset yet.
Coming into his fight at UFC on FOX 17 opposite the aforementioned dos Santos, the kickboxing Dutchman was riding out the last fight on his UFC contract. Many people believed Overeem was making an egregious mistake in not resigning with the promotion before touching gloves with one of the most vicious knockout artists the division has ever employed. They thought his fire juggling would backfire like a Chris Weidman spinning heel kick.
Yet, despite a mere 4-3 promotional record, Overeem jumped into the Octagon Saturday night and went toe-to-toe with a hungry ex-champion. After a first round of gauging distance and timing the Brazilian’s movements, “The Reem” began to open up in Round 2. A few nasty body kicks and one crushing left hook later, and “Cigano” was planted on the canvas with a new TKO loss to call his own.
The gamble on Overeem’s part paid off in full, to say the least. A loss to JDS would have left the 35-year-old with little to no ammunition in negotiating a new deal with UFC brass. Without a signature stoppage over a former champion in search of another title shot, Overeem would have had to fall back on a decision victories over Mir and Roy Nelson, a finish over a recovering Stefan Struve and his near-effortless hosting to Lesnar’s inevitable retirement party.
Last fight on Overeem's contract. I reckon it paid off, we shall see. JDS forced to regroup again. Hope he can, great guy. #UFCOrlando
— Kenny Florian (@kennyflorian) December 20, 2015
Needless to say, Overeem’s scintillating performance at UFC on FOX 17, in front of millions of American viewers to boot, was his best performance to date under the bright lights of the Octagon. He once again showcased an evolved sense of patience, calculation and belief in his training, which is something directly associated to his coaches at Team Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque.
Having extended his divisional win streak to three, which is above average for the heavyweight heap, the former K-1 Kickboxing, Strikeforce and DREAM champion is on the cusp of his first UFC title shot. Overeem has been here once before, earning a No. 1 contender’s bout opposite Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva back at UFC 156, only to see his championship aspirations implode after underestimating the Brazilian’s power and getting knocked out in the third round of a fight he was winning.
All eyes will be on Stipe Miocic vs. Andrei Arlovski at UFC 195. If Miocic wins, Overeem could very well be in the driver’s seat to fight the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez II at UFC 196. If Arlovski wins, the UFC could easily pit him against Overeem for one of the biggest title elimination bouts in heavyweight history.