UFC 155: Despite JDS vs. Velasquez 2, Is Alistair Overeem Still the Man to Beat?

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UFC 155: Despite JDS vs. Velasquez 2, Is Alistair Overeem Still the Man to Beat?
Alistair Overeem isn't a UFC champion, but he still carries himself like one. (Photo Credit: UFC/Zuffa)

Even though the UFC 155 title fight this weekend features Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, the winner still won't have escaped the shadow of Alistair Overeem.

Sure, tomorrow's winner gets a shiny championship belt.

And yes, the victor will rise to the top of several consensus heavyweight rankings in the eyes of many MMA publications across the globe.

But no matter who wins, Overeem can still continue to sell himself as "the man to beat" within the UFC's heavyweight division.

Despite suspensions, speculation over his cartoonish physique and his somewhat questionable strength of competition, "The Demolition Man" actually holds a claim as the uncrowned king of the giants. But with only one fight in the UFC so far, exactly how is that possible?

Although the issue's been briefly addressed before, let's break down a few things about the Dutchman that sets him apart from everyone else in the promotion's heaviest division.

 

Overeem is the MMA Heavyweight (Lineal) Champion

"To be 'The Man', you have to beat 'The Man'."

That's been the core rule behind the idea of lineal championships, a concept in combat sports that doesn't always follow a title belt or where it's defended.

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In the case of the heavyweight division, the original lineage is a bit difficult to pin down (Fight Matrix starts it with Ken Shamrock at Pancrase's second MMA event).

However the succession pans out, though, it generally comes down to Fedor Emelianenko, who had the lineal title ripped from his grasp by Fabricio Werdum. But ever since Werdum lost to Overeem in his very next bout, the MMA heavyweight lineal title has rested with the Dutch fighter.

But does it matter?

That might ultimately depend on how much we value intangible status symbols within the sport—do pound-for-pound MMA rankings matter?

 

Few Fighters Can Match Overeem's Record

Fact: No active heavyweight fighter in the UFC has as gaudy a career as Overeem does.

Although hardcore fans know better than to judge a fighter on numbers alone, his 36-11-0-1 MMA record alone is something that's relatively easy to sell to potential viewers.

Overeem hasn't faced the toughest competition since permanently moving to heavyweight five years ago, but it's all about how the UFC summarizes his history.

Heck, the broadcast highlights practically write themselves:

• 36 Wins, 11-Fight Undefeated Streak
• Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion
• Dream Heavyweight Champion
• K-1 2010 World Grand Prix Champion

Even if you can argue the relative worth (or worthlessness) of his various titles, Overeem fans can still boast that he has more career MMA wins and total fights than every other UFC heavyweight.

 

He's the Man Who Officially Retired Brock Lesnar

Shane Carwin exposed Lesnar's chin and Velasquez handed the WWE superstar his second humiliating defeat in MMA.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Either JDS or Velasquez could face the winner of Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva.

But Overeem will hold the notable distinction of being the one who sent the UFC's best pay-per-view draw back to professional wrestling.

Yes, Lesnar did say after the fact that he intended to retire from MMA no matter what. That still doesn't change the fact that "The Reem" left him little choice, as the mountainous kickboxer obliterated the still-larger former heavyweight champion in less than three minutes.

True, getting suspended for high testosterone levels right afterward didn't help Overeem's UFC debut, but he still seems to carry that enigmatic air that's surrounded him since his impressive 2010 run. Fans still want to see Overeem fight, and the UFC still seems to value him as a potential star in the making.

So, let's recap.

Alistair Overeem is an MMA legend with 48 professional fights, two major MMA world titles, a world kickboxing championship and a legitimate claim as history's "real" MMA heavyweight champion.

Maybe all of that comes with an asterisk or two, but handing "The Demolition Man" his first defeat in five years should be a major incentive for the JDS vs. Velasquez winner—provided that Overeem doesn't lose to Antonio Silva at UFC 156 this coming February.

 


McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and FightFans Radio writer. His work has appeared in GamePro, Macworld and PC World. Talk with him on Twitter.

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