When people look at combative sport, most have been trained to look first at the heavyweight division, simply because it has always been the marquee division in boxing, save for about the last 10 years or so.
When looking at the heavyweight division of MMA, specifically the UFC, one notices one glaring fact: No matter how good the champion has been or how unbeatable they seemed, no one man has defended the title more than twice.
Not a single one.
So, now we have Junior dos Santos, the next in line for the “This guy is unbeatable!” treatment by fans and the press. And he certainly has looked unbeatable thus far.
But he’s only had one title defense—just one.
As the “reigning” champion, his next test is against Cain Velasquez, a great wrestler with underrated hands who won the title only to end up losing it to dos Santos via KO in the first round.
Afterwards, Velasquez rebounded by running all over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, and bingo—he’s the No. 1 contender again.
And all this time, Alistair Overeem has been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for his shot. Granted, he pretty much benched himself for reasons we all know, but that was then, and this is now. Soon he will be facing off against Bigfoot Silva, and should he win, he will get a shot at the title.
When Overeem squares off against Bigfoot, the fans should be rooting for “The Reem” to win, because the division badly needs some diversity and excitement.
Should Bigfoot win (implausible, but possible), he is basically fodder for dos Santos if he remains champ after UFC 155, and we know he doesn’t stand a chance against Velasquez, as we’ve seen that bloody, one-sided dance before.
The heavyweight division needs a viable threat to the crown, and Bigfoot isn’t it.
Granted, should Bigfoot defeat Overeem then it’s clear that “The Reem” isn’t the needed viable threat, either: the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
But when Overeem and Bigfoot square off in the cage, fans of the sport and the heavyweight division should be rooting for Overeem, because no matter what your opinions of him, he is still one of the very few men in the division who actually poses a legitimate threat to either dos Santos or Velasquez.
When thinking about Velasquez, if Overeem can stuff those takedown attempts, the fight is really his, because as good as the AKA stand out is on his feet, Overeem is better by far.
If he can’t stop those takedowns, then Velasquez wins, but at least we didn’t have to watch Velasquez fight dos Santos a third time just because there is a shortage of elite fighters in the division.
Against dos Santos, Overeem just needs to be all about the business of making sure his cardio is up to snuff. If it is, then he should honestly be able to out-strike dos Santos, no matter what most people think.
In a standing fight, Overeem has many more tools than dos Santos, much more experience against better stand-up fighters, and he’s got one-punch KO power, great enough to put dos Santos to sleep.
He’s just got to make sure he’s got enough in his gas tank to fight for all five rounds. If he does, odds are dos Santos is going to charge in, fists flying, chin exposed, and eventually get flattened.
Should Overeem beat Bigfoot, his next fight is for the title, and the sport desperately needs another viable contender. We can only watch Velasquez vs. dos Santos for so long before the facts become clear: The UFC heavyweight division has many fighters swimming in the shallow end, and only two in the deep end.
Should Overeem win—and he can, make no mistake about it—the division has a champion that has an impressive pedigree: K-1 2010 Grand Prix Champion, Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and UFC Heavyweight Champion.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Overeem has some serious submission skills, giving him perhaps the best chance of defending the title a record three times or more.
Of course, there are positives to both Velasquez and (or) dos Santos defeating Overeem, but the biggest would be that they gave fans of the sport an answer to the question Overeem poses and that they didn’t have to fight each other a third time in as many as five fights.
So, here’s to hoping that Overeem makes the most of his opportunity, defeats Bigfoot and gets the chance to make good on all his title talk. It would be good for the sport to see a big heavyweight fight between Overeem and either Velasquez or dos Santos.
And here’s to hoping that if he can pass the test that both of those great fighters would provide that he could pass the next and perhaps most important one—given by the commission doctors—without setting the room on fire.