Heading into UFC 141 tonight, a lot of attention has been focused on Brock Lesnar, and for good reason. After all, Lesnar is the former UFC champion, the mega star, the highest drawing PPV star in UFC history. He's the one that was featured on the UFC on Fox 1 show, and the man UFC fans know.
In a few short hours, Alistair Overeem could change all that. The massive Overeem makes his UFC debut tonight, but he is one of the most well traveled and experienced foes Lesnar has faced. The former Strikeforce and Dream champion has accomplished all he can outside the UFC, and so it is only fitting he now makes the transition into the Octagon.
Here, I wanted to take a look at one of The Reem's big accomplishments, and one that I think will be a big factor against Lesnar - his kickboxing. Alistair Overeem joins Mark Hunt as the most decorated kickboxers to ever step foot inside the Octagon - and yes, that does mean he is more decorated than Mirko Cro Cop.
Overeem is the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix champion (and since there was no GP this year, that technically makes him the reigning champ). For those unfamiliar with K-1 and the Grand Prix, the event is a yearly tournament of Heavyweight kickboxers. Regional events throughout the year qualify fighters for the Final 16. A win in the Final 16 puts you in the one night, 8 man tournament held every December to crown that year's champion. Overeem won that tournament last year, becoming only the 8th man in the near 20 year history of K-1 to win the crown.
What was all the more impressive about the win is that Overeem was never primarily a K-1 fighter. He dabbled in the sport in his early MMA career, going 2-2 in sporadic fights from 1999-2007. But on December 31, 2008 he made a definitive name for himself in K-1. That night, Overeem was representing Dream as part of a MMA vs. K-1 series of fights. His opponent was the #2 ranked kickboxer in the world - the dangerous Badr Hari. Overeem seemed clearly out of his league, and fodder for Hari's impressive knockout reel. As it turned out, this was a highlight reel fight indeed, but not for Badr.
Video and more in the complete entry.
Alistair Overeem vs. Badr Hari
December 31, 2008 - Dynamite!! 2008
Overeem does a nice job here using heavy single shots to attack, while at the same time keeping his own defenses tight to avoid Badr's shots. Overeem keeps up the pressure, and mixes it up with kicks, knees, punches, and body work. He gets the notoriously hot-tempered Hari flustered, goading him into a brawl, then twice uses a tight hook when Badr's hands are down to drop the K-1 fighter. Great work from Overeem, who makes an imeediate and massive impact in K-1 here.
From there, Overeem would face reigning GP champ Remy Bonjasky. Reem would do quite well for himself before being dropped in the 3rd round to lose a decision. He followed that up with a huge win over the veteran Peter Aerts in the Final 16 of 2009, becoming the first (and, to date, only) man in the history of K-1 to keep Aerts out of the Grand Prix final 8. But the next fight I want to take a look at was his 2009 Grand Prix quarter final against Brazilian Ewerton Teixeira - a fight that would end in one of the most spectacular KO's in K-1's rich history.
Alistair Overeem vs. Ewerton Teixeira
December 5, 2009 - K-1 World Grand Prix 2009
That knee is the stuff of nightmares. Overeem just grabs a hold of Ewerton with a traditional Thai clinch, then drills the knee right up the middle, catching Teixeira flush and putting him out cold. I like how Overeem throws a knee to the body as he moves in for the clinch here - sometimes fighters who are determined to secure the clinch make the mistake of reaching for it too early and leaving themselves exposed, but by kneeing the body while reaching for the clinch, Overeem forces Ewerton to defend. Once Teixeira drops the hands just a bit to protect further shots to the ribs, it is all over.
Next up was a rematch with Badr Hari that Overeem would lose, evening his series with Hari at 1-1 (still waiting for that rubber match), and putting him out of Grand Prix contention in 2009. Overeem returned in 2010 with another big knee KO that is worth a look.
Alistair Overeem vs. Dzevad Poturak
April 3, 2010 - K-1 in Yokohama 2010
Here, you see real improvements to the overall kickboxing game of Overeem. He's no longer just using his power and individual huge shots - now he is using a nice array of kicks and punches to set up those power shots. Just the way he moves and handles himself shows you that this is no longer an MMA fighter trying to kickbox - this is a kickboxer. And one with scary power.
After this, Overeem defeated heavy-handed Ben Edwards in a 2010 Final 16 fight, then entered the K-1 2010 Grand Prix Final 8. He defeated Tyrone Spong in the quarter-finals (though Spong gave him a good run) and Gokhan Saki in the semi-finals, setting up a rematch for the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix crown.
Alistair Overeem vs. Peter Aerts
December 11, 2010 - K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 Finals
Here is Overeem putting it all together - the power, the technique - to become the Grand Prix champion, once again vanquishing K-1's greatest legend in the process. Let's take a look at the fight and Overeem's big win in all its glory.
And there you have it. Alistair Overeem makes his claim as the greatest Heavyweight kickboxer on the planet. And, given the UFC contract he is now under, leaves the sport of kickboxing behind for the foreseeable future.
How will this K-1 experience serve him against Brock Lesnar and in his campaign to add the UFC Heavyweight title to his already full trophy case? Join us here at Bloody Elbow tonight to find out.