"To win a fight is awesome on its own, but to finish a fight before the official time limit by way of KO is indescribable." - Alistair Overeem, 2003
Alistair Overeem was just 23 years old, a light heavyweight wielding a big wooden hammer before every fight as “The Demolition Man.” But even then, as a 16-3 prospect on the rise getting ready to face Chuck Liddell in PRIDE’s 2003 205-pound Grand Prix, his philosophy on fighting was one he carries with him to the present day.
“To win a fight is awesome on its own, but to finish a fight before the official time limit by way of KO is indescribable,” he said back then. “I’m a true believer that a fight can be decided by one punch, one kick or one knee. You just have to be patient, wait for that right moment and of course have the abilities to do so.”
Over eight years since that comment, Overeem has gone on to move to the heavyweight division, win the Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight titles in MMA and the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix in kickboxing, and on December 30th, he will make his UFC debut against Brock Lesnar in the main event of UFC 141.
Here are five of his greatest hits...
Vitor Belfort I – April 23, 2005 – PRIDE Total Elimination 2005
Result – Overeem Wsub1
Following a knockout loss to Liddell in 2003, Overeem won two fights outside of PRIDE before returning to the promotion in 2004 with a TKO of Hiromitsu Kanehara. Four months later, he would drop a decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, putting his PRIDE slate at 3-2 and making him the perfect foil for the return of Vitor Belfort, who was fresh off a five fight stint in the UFC in which he won and lost the light heavyweight title against Randy Couture. Overeem didn’t play along though, and he was far from rattled by the level of opposition or the magnitude of the fight. Instead, he showed off solid striking, good defense off his back, and after rocking “The Phenom” with a knee, he fired off a series of ground strikes before sinking in a guillotine choke and forcing a tap out.
Badr Hari I – December 31, 2008 – Dynamite 2008
Result – Overeem KO1
Having periodically dabbled in kickboxing since 1999, Overeem began to take it more seriously in the latter part of the last decade, and his first major bout in that realm of combat sports was against one of the most feared men in the game, Badr Hari. And if you want to talk about statement making wins, this was it. Confident from the start, Overeem sent Hari down for the first time with a lightning fast left knee followed by a short left hook that you will miss if you blink. Hari made it back to his feet, but a second left hook finished him off, and now Overeem wasn’t just dangerous in MMA, he was about to make some serious noise in kickboxing.
Brett Rogers – May 15, 2010 – Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery
Result – Overeem TKO1
Despite Overeem’s wins over top-notch talents like Belfort, after three consecutive PRIDE losses to Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, it was clear that for him to truly make a mark in MMA, he would have to do it as a heavyweight. In 2007, he made the full-time move to life among the big men, and celebrated in November of that year by defeating Paul Buentello for the first Strikeforce heavyweight title. That San Jose bout was the last Stateside fans saw him in for two and a half years, so when he came back to face Brett Rogers in St. Louis, expectations were high, especially since the raw but heavy handed Rogers gave Fedor Emelianenko a solid fight before getting finished in the second round. Rogers wouldn’t be so lucky against Overeem, who needed just 3:40 to send “The Grim” packing. Now the speculation would begin in earnest about how Overeem would fare in the UFC.
Peter Aerts II – December 11, 2010 – K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 Final
Result – Overeem KO1
A month before the Rogers bout, Overeem put all his cards on the table and began a journey not many believed he could complete – competing in and winning the prestigious K-1 World Grand Prix. Yet by December, wins over Dzevad Poturak and Ben Edwards landed him in the final leg of the tournament. To win, Overeem would have to win three times in one night, and amazingly he did just that, decisioning Tyron Spong, halting Gokhan Saki, and then capping off this unlikely run with a 67 second stoppage of kickboxing legend Peter Aerts.
Todd Duffee – December 31, 2010 – Dynamite 2010
Result – Overeem KO1
You figure three K-1 fights in one night would have earned Overeem a nice holiday break. Uh-uh. Instead, he accepted a New Year’s Eve bout against UFC vet Todd Duffee for the Dream heavyweight crown. He described his December to remember earlier this year before his Strikeforce win over Fabricio Werdum.
“We fought in the final 16 in October, came back home, took a week off to recover, then we went back to Japan in November to do a media tour, which was like 10 days,” said Overeem. “Then we went back home, before going to Thailand for a two week training camp, then from Thailand to Japan for the K-1 finals, won three fights, and then there was a lot of media stuff afterward, a lot of television shows. Then a new opportunity came to fight for the Dream heavyweight title and we grabbed it with both hands. That was December 31. I was gone for six weeks, I came home with two belts, four fights, and a lot of new experience.”
Yeah, he won that fight with Duffee, needing only 19 seconds to do so. Now Overeem will be bringing his punches, knees, and an underrated submission game (19 of 35 wins have come via tapout) to the UFC. It’s going to be quite an experience.