OVEREEM'S IDENTITY CRISIS
It must be strange to be Alistair Overeem. The former Strikeforce kingpin has thus far flattered to deceive in the Octagon. Too often, his heavy hands have failed to live up to his heavy price tag. After dominating Frank Mir this weekend in a must-win fight for his UFC future, he impressed everyone with his new-found fight smarts. Everyone that is, except his employer.
Dana White gave a scathing account of the Dutchman’s performance describing it as “crappy” in an interview on FOX Sports 1. It was a harsh assessment, perhaps reflective of the UFC supremo’s frustration at a record-breaking night of decisions in Newark. Admittedly it was a safe, if unspectacular showing. Though when Daniel Cormier did the same against Mir in 2013, he received subdued praise for a promising performance.
Overeem has always been blessed with shotgun power in his hands. His problem has been emptying the clip too soon, unleashing a barrage of bullets and failing to land the killshot.
Against Mir he displayed more maturity, conserving his ammunition and peppering his veteran opponent with shots from both hands. It was a display of sniper-like accuracy; a tribute to the renewed focus on conditioning which saw him relocate to Thailand for his training camp.
It will be intriguing to see where Overeem goes next. The logical move would be to pair him with Junior dos Santos, though the Dutchman has his own preference: “I heard there’s word that Brock Lesnar is about to come back to the UFC. Well, I’ll be here waiting for him,” claimed the Dutchman in his post-fight interview. That Lesnar’s name still carries such credence - some three years after his retirement - is a sign of the paucity of talent in the heavyweight division.
Lesnar won’t be back. He earns a princely sum for precious few outings in the squared circle. Dana White, who has enjoyed teasing the WWE star’s name in recent weeks, admitted as much in the post-fight press conference. Despite the internet rumors, the fact is that Lesnar’s days in the UFC are over.
For Alistair Overeem, the best days could still be ahead. Shorn of the freakish physique that fell foul of the drug testers, he could be a contender in a division so short on talent that one big punch can land you in title contention.
To make that happen, he needs to confirm his identity: will he revert to the frenetic firefighter of old? Or will he put precision before popularity? It’s a decision that could shape his future.
Running the gauntlet of the heavyweight division is little more than a high-stakes game of Russian roulette. There are plenty of big men out there who will risk it all on the swing of a four-ounce glove. There are few, however, who can match Overeem’s striking when allied with a strategic fighting style.
Win the crowd or win ugly, Alistair: the decision is yours.
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