Alistair Overeem: Halting Negative Momentum

For the last decade, Alistair Overeem has been a fighter that thrives on momentum. That in itself is nothing rare of course, but Overeem has been a particularly fascinating case, going on incredible win streaks before hitting almost inexplicable rough runs of form. It’s that fact that makes Overeem’s fight this Saturday night at UFC 209 all the more interesting. Coming off of a disappointing stoppage defeat to Stipe Miocic in his title challenge, Overeem’s recent impressive winning streak has now come to an end. Whilst this would be a pivotal moment for any fighter, a quick look at history suggests that it’s absolutely imperative for ‘The Reem’ to get straight back in the win column now, rather than hitting a slump as he has on past occasions.

Over ten years ago, Overeem was trading wins and losses in Pride FC and had leveled out as a part of the Middleweight division. Though still young, Overeem didn’t quite have the same amount of shine and hype as he had once had. He’d displayed some genuine world class skill in beating men like Sergei Kharitonov and Vitor Belfort but his flaws had now been shown and many doubted his ceiling in the stacked weight-class. Nonetheless, he was still a feared talent capable of brilliance. In 2006 though, Overeem’s form would take a harsh turn. After entering the ring injured against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Overeem would make a bright start before fading, with his corner eventually throwing in the towel.

Overeem’s defeat would soon turn into a streak as the fighter then known as the ‘Demolition Man’ endured the worst run of form in his career to that point, being finished by both Ricardo Arona and Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua. Now riding a three fight losing streak, all of which were finishes, Overeem had to rebound and did so with a win at home over Michael Knaap before again losing, this time to Sergei Kharitonov, a man he had beaten before. When talking about the disappointing losses since, Overeem has pointed to some personal issues that he struggled with at that time. Nevertheless, Overeem headed back to Strikeforce and won the inaugural Heavyweight title.

That victory would kick off the greatest run of Overeem’s career as he went twelve fights unbeaten, scoring wins over Fabricio Werdum and his now upcoming opponent Mark Hunt. The final win of that streak would be a spectacular UFC debut destruction of Brock Lesnar, a moment that not only legitimized Overeem as a top Heavyweight but also perfectly captured his penchant for violence as a striker. During his MMA win streak, Overeem had also gone over to K-1 and had great success, only adding to the fear surrounding his aura. With the world seemingly at his feet, ‘The Reem’s momentum would come to a dramatic halt as he failed a drug test, preventing him from challenging Junior Dos Santos for his Heavyweight title.

With his reputation hurt, Overeem’s eventual return wouldn’t help matters either, as he was stunningly knocked out by Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. Just like had happened years prior, Overeem’s defeat wouldn’t be just a solitary setback but instead the beginning of another tough run of form. After a superb start against then rising contender Travis Browne, Overeem would fade before being knocked out by a front kick. After years of bruising and battering his foes inside MMA, Overeem had now been finished twice in a row and the concerns surrounding his punch resistance had returned, rightly or wrongly. Overeem would rebound to outpoint a struggling Frank Mir but his struggles weren’t yet complete and only heightened when he next was stopped early by underdog Ben Rothwell.

Coming off of just one win in his last four and with three more stoppage losses piled on to the now substantial list, Overeem’s time at the top level seemed to be coming to a close. However, to his absolute credit the veteran was undeterred and quickly returned to violently vanquish Stefan Struve. A matchup with popular puncher Roy Nelson still spelt the end for Overeem in the minds of many though, with doubters understandably pointing to the combination of Nelson’s power and Overeem’s known defensive frailties. On fight night, Overeem would fight with poise and maturity though, using variety to pepper Nelson on the way to a three round unanimous decision win. People’s doubts still remained regardless and Overeem’s next fight with Junior Dos Santos seemed sure to answer some questions.

A massive puncher with legendary toughness, Dos Santos clearly presented a lot of issues for Overeem and many expected another KO defeat for the Dutchman. Once again though, Overeem had enough patience to frustrate his opponent and eventually closed the show with a sublime left hook. To the surprise of many onlookers, Alistair Overeem had not only knocked out one of the world’s absolute best but also a man that many felt was made to defeat him. After four years of ups and downs inside the octagon, it seemed that ‘The Reem’ had finally found his best form at the top level. That theme continued in his win over Andrei Arlovski too, a victory that finally earned him a title shot.

Riding a four fight win streak that had revitalized and reinvigorated his reputation, Overeem now looked to secure the UFC Heavyweight crown and solidify his spot in history all at the same time. Fighting Stipe Miocic in his home-state of Ohio, the challenger would start brilliantly, dropping his foe badly early. However, unable to finish the champion, Overeem would quickly unravel and was knocked out in the final minute of the very first round. With his surging momentum now halted, Overeem returns this Saturday night to fight Mark Hunt, a man he submitted almost nine years ago.  Hunt is also looking for redemption but if history tell us anything, it’s that Overeem absolutely needs to get back in the win column now as frankly, his career may not have enough time left to recover from another bad streak of form. Quite simply, it’s now or never for Alistair Overeem.

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