Not many heavyweights possess the career accolades that Alistair Overeem does. In fact, he’s one of the most decorated strikers in mixed martial arts history.
As a hulking Octagon entity who has grown accustomed to streamlining effortless kickboxing and powerful knockout blows, the 35-year-old is certainly capable of beating anyone on any given night. His chin has failed him in recent memory, having lost three of his last six via vicious TKO, but he still remains relevant in a changing heavyweight division.
What makes his weight class promise entering 2016 even more interesting is the fact that he’s looked like a more complete fighter since moving his talents from Florida’s Blackzilians to Team Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alongside the likes of Jon Jones, Carlos Condit, Holly Holm, Donald Cerrone and fellow heavyweight contender Andrei Arlovski, Overeem has developed all facets of his game.
None more important than his new found willingness to patiently pick his shots on offense, which has led to a favorably 99-to-42 strike advantage over his past three appearances (2-1 record).
With all of these positive careers developments reshaping the veteran’s capabilities on fight night, it’s unfathomable to think that people are actually underestimating the same guy who retired Brock Lesnar with one kick. Some people have come around to respect his elite striking, but doubt remains present in light of Overeem’s recent quarrels with his opponent’s power.
Considering he is finally scheduled to meet former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC on FOX 17 on Dec. 19, this notion of him being unable to eat a shot will never be tested further. As arguably the best boxer in division history, JDS incorporates knockout power that only a few big men can attest to.
After all, there’s a reason why the Brazilian holds UFC heavyweight records of significant strikes landed (708) and knockdowns landed (12).
However, and this goes hand-in-hand with the maturation of the Dutch kickboxer as a more calculated striker, Overeem also holds a UFC record with the best significant strike accuracy in division history (74.5 percent). That is over 12 percent more than second place inhabitant Josh Barnett (62 percent), and a feat that was accomplished in just seven UFC appearances (while losing two fights via first-round TKO).
On paper, it looks as if dos Santos has the edge strictly based on his punching power. But when you step back and see first hand the evolutionary strides that Overeem has made over the past few years, it’s a much closer fight than one would think.
But what could turn this even-keeled meeting of two sluggers into a one-sided affair is Overeem’s ability to control distances with kicks. Whether to the body, the head or the legs, the former K-1 Grand Prix World Champion has a unique set of skills that enable him to damage an opponent outside of connecting with his chin. While JDS has certainly taken his licks over the years, he’s never really faced a guy who attacks the body like “The Reem.”
Sure, the Brazilian sports some of the best conditioning and endurance in the division, but it’s a different story when a guy like Overeem connects to the abdomen (just ask Lesnar). When confronted with such prohibiting impairment, a free swinger like dos Santos may overextend himself as a means of retaliation. That leaves huge windows of opportunities for Overeem to maintain his range and land thunderous blows.
Of course, the bad blood entering this contest could very well land both fighters in a drag-em-out war of attrition. But outside of a blow-for-blow first-round encounter, Overeem’s versatility and range could spell disaster for a former heavyweight champion who has become a punching bag of sorts over the past few years.