The world's heavyweight mixed martial arts elite have all been put on notice. Following Alistair Overeem's absolute destruction of Brett Rogers on Saturday night at Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery, the media is beginning to make the one hundred and eighty degree turn on their original stance that the bulkier Overeem would still suffer the same problems that marred his performances at light heavyweight. Unfortunately, most MMA media has sadly underestimated his recent performances in K-1 and in MMA, although it was a bit tough to gauge how he might fair against better competition like Rogers.
The main event title showdown gave us our answers. Despite being slightly lighter than Rogers in the weight department, Overeem proved his massive strength and powerful physique were not to be taken lightly. Alistair was able to throw Rogers effortlessly to the canvas and pummel him with blows on his way to a stoppage, further cementing the thoughts that this massive Dutchman needs to fight Fedor Emelianenko.
Many of us get ahead of ourselves when the next great fighter comes along, and I've fallen victim to that as well in the past. Lyoto Machida and B.J. Penn are probably our most recent examples of that, and Georges St. Pierre and Brock Lesnar will probably fall to a challenger in a lackluster performance at some point in their career. Interestingly enough, Overeem's performance has already caused the big questions to be asked. Will Fedor Emelianenko remain #1 in the worldwide heavyweight rankings if he doesn't fight Overeem? How does Overeem stack up against the UFC's elite? Zach Arnold asked these questions:
There are two separate questions here:
- If Fedor doesn’t fight Alistair, will he still be #1?
- How would Alistair (theoretically) fare against the Top 10 Heavyweights in the world?
Let’s start with the first question. Given that Overeem is a legitimate Top 10 fighter (and one who I’ve voted in the 6-8 range for a while now) right now in an MMA Heavyweight class that lacks a lot of depth, you have to say that if Fedor doesn’t fight him that he’s no longer the number one Heavyweight in the world. I don’t think there’s much argument about that. Outside of the UFC Heavyweights, Overeem is one of the few guys left for Fedor (Barnett’s the other) who pose mild-to-difficult challenges for the Russian.
Ah HA! Zach Arnold, shame on you for voting Overeem as a top ten heavyweight. Sure, now he's a legitimate top ten guy, but before... basing Overeem's top ten ranking purely on K-1 performances, his beefy physique... whatever crazy method you used to rank him in the 6-8 range... is why rankings are ignored for the most part.
No, Fedor should drop from the #1 spot if he avoids battling Overeem in the future. Rankers have kept him in the #1 spot despite the claims from fans that Fedor hasn't fought the absolute best competition, but he has fought the best competition outside of the UFC. Josh Barnett is the only perceived challenger to Fedor outside of the UFC, and personally -- I don't think he has a chance against "The Last Emperor". Overeem, on the other hand, has a shot, and he's proven he deserves that chance with his performance and status as champion.
Arnold gives Fedor Emelianenko, Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin, and Cain Velasquez the edge over Overeem in his list of fantasy match-ups against UFC competition with Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira and Frank Mir being battered by "The Reem". Maybe I'm buying into Alistair too high right now, but I actually think Lesnar would be the toughest test for Overeem, and I think Fedor might actually be in the #3 spot as I think Carwin claims the second spot as toughest fights for Overeem. As I've already stated, I'm picking Overeem over Fedor, but I'll still root for Fedor to continue his dominance. I'm sticking to it.
But enough with the blatant speculation. What's going to happen next? We'll more than likely see a solid performance from Fedor when he battles Fabricio Werdum. Werdum wasn't exactly spectacular against Antonio Silva, and the Antonio Silva from Saturday would have fared far better against Werdum than the Silva that showed up against Werdum when they originally fought. Fedor will be far more explosive and a better striker than Werdum, and he's good enough on the ground to actually put Werdum into some danger as well. I imagine Fedor will look to stand and win via TKO.
That would open the door for the Fedor vs. Overeem title fight to happen, and the buzz surrounding it following Overeem's impressive performance on Saturday night will be huge for both fighters. If Fedor's management, M-1 Global, avoids Overeem due to "more money in Japan" or "couldn't contractually come to an agreement with Strikeforce", we all know exactly what's going on. I originally thought Fedor would avoid this fight, but the more I think about it -- there is no way he can avoid this challenge. Sure, he might lose, but if he actually wins -- it's a huge win for him , his management, and his legacy.
Some fans will more than likely argue that Fedor isn't the #1 heavyweight right now, and I understand the evidence backing that claim. But from a standpoint of him being a consensus ranked #1 heavyweight, this fight has to happen for him to maintain that rank. Lesnar crushing Shane Carwin and another challenger will more than likely cement his place as the #1 heavyweight in the world unless Overeem is defeated by Fedor and heads to the UFC, upsetting a number of top flight heavyweights. That's really the only way Fedor maintains his status, and that scenario still involves Fedor vs. Overeem happening.
Finally, Arnold asks whether we'll see Overeem in the UFC and how Dana's unwillingness to allow his fighters to battle in other organizations (he mentions Overeem's involvement in K-1 as a potential deal-breaker). I actually take the opposite view. Overeem wants money, and White can provide a very lucrative deal if he happens to defeat Fedor. If not, I imagine he'll still garner a solid deal along with a steady stream of sponsors. K-1 won't be a deal breaker in my mind.