If you were to imagine the ultimate laboratory specimen engineered for combat sports domination, you'd likely dream up a physically daunting, hyper-trained fighter intent on destruction. He'd need to have the kind of physique that can give opponents fits and the wealth of skills to maximize what that frame offers him.
He'd be the stuff of nightmares—he'd be Alistair Overeem.
Just look at the photo above. Before we begin to digress with rants over the effects of artificial enhancement, let's remind ourselves that his body—that surreal layer of muscle packed onto even more muscle—is routinely used to inflict harm to opponents.
He's a terror with the training to back up the appearance—a fact that makes it strange to question whether he can ever prove himself in the UFC.
Perhaps that's the consequence of his obliteration at the hands of Antonio Silva, a defeat so jaw dropping that the UFC deemed it as the biggest upset of the first half of 2013. Referee Herb Dean struggled to restrain an enraged Silva yelling atop the collapsed body of Overeem.
On its surface, it seemed so clear: Silva burst the "Ubereem" bubble by demonstrating that, after returning from a brief suspension for elevated testosterone, the Dutch superstar wasn't ever UFC caliber.
Yet as is often the case in MMA, there were more wrinkles to the story.
Overeem lost for a reason even more disappointing—he was outstruck by a fighter with nowhere near his striking pedigree or skill set. He was beaten at his own game because of pure arrogance.
Rather than initiating the clinch work and knees that had brought him a wealth of success, he instead chose to press toward Silva with his hands at his waist and his chin in the air.
His demise at UFC 156 was no fault other than his own—he had accomplished the unthinkable by buying into his own hype.
Nevertheless, make no mistake about it: Overeem is one of the most accomplished combat sports athletes in history, if not the most accomplished. The first and only fighter to hold titles in both MMA and the venerable K-1 kickboxing grand prix, he has crafted a lethal offense based on tactical punches, relentless knees and laser-guided kicks.
Why didn't he employ any of these assets against Silva?
Bleacher Report's Jack Slack delves into the psychological misfirings that have led Overeem to his current state of affairs:
Overeem could have brutalized Bigfoot in the clinch or bludgeoned him with kicks and heavy punches. Instead, he chose to dance around, slip punches with no guard up to protect himself and generally try to prove through unnecessary means the end which we all already knew—that he was a better fighter than Bigfoot. This brings me to the sad conclusion about Alistair Overeem. He should be able to beat just about everyone who is put in front of him, but he probably won't. If he did match up against Dos Santos—as we have all wanted for so long—I would put money on him being able to hang decently on the feet with Dos Santos. I would also expect Overeem to completely avoid moving to the clinch, working his trips or doing work in any of the areas in which he has an advantage.
When analyzing Overeem's chances at continued success, it's important to be mindful of his experience—and that applies in both the positive and negative sense. Casual fans may forget that he underwent a brutal year-and-a-half in his professional history—starting with a May 2006 submission loss to Fabricio Werdum and ending with a September 2007 KO loss to Sergei Kharitonov—that resulted in five brutal defeats in a short time frame.
That kind of mental baggage can stay with a fighter long after its expiration date.
Of course, he eventually added on the characteristic bulk that transformed him into the wrecking machine he is today. Better yet, striking coach Roberto Flamingo molded that raw clay into the nearly unstoppable juggernaut who went on to win the Dream, K-1 and Strikeforce championship belts.
But without a UFC belt to his name, many fans are unconcerned with his former accomplishments.
Regardless of the circumstances or justifications, the reality remains the same: Overeem was so brutally stopped by Silva that his next fight against Travis Browne at the launch of Fox Sports 1 on August 17 will be viewed as less of a comeback and more of a revival.
Over his storied 36-12-1 record, Overeem has battled opponents inside every known battleground of combat sports and endured a deluge of criticism the entire time.
Despite the recent setbacks, his head seems to be in the right place. In an interview with Bleacher Report's Damon Martin, Overeem revealed that his sights are locked on the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
"I believe that both Browne and myself are top ranked fighters and the winner of this fight will be one step closer in getting a title shot, so in that sense I know this fight can put me right on track as I still have one goal in life and that's becoming the UFC heavyweight champion."
Though it's positive to hear that he's still determined to sit atop the division, Overeem can't underestimate the challenge in his return fight. Browne's 14-1 record includes 10 knockouts.
Most recently, Gabriel Gonzaga felt the force of Browne's aggression.
To put himself back on the radar, Overeem will have to act as if the challenge was never even a concern. To get back into title contention, he'll need to plow through Browne like attentive fans expect him to.
Overeem is the consummate elite fighter. He has the physique, accolades and athleticism necessary to achieve absolute victory. But after a chaotic career punctuated by a widely publicized knockout loss in the world's most prominent fight promotion, he won't be able to ease his way into further success.
Sitting comfortably at No. 6 in the official UFC heavyweight rankings, he is in a prime position to make people forget about what happened between delivering a brutal liver kick against Brock Lesnar and the present. He can continue to enter the Octagon with the type of striking skills that no other man can hope to rival.
If he expects to challenge for the UFC heavyweight strap, he will need to remind the world why he earned the nickname "Demolition Man."
Artem Moshkovich is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for MMA news and more.
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