As soon as Overeem hit the canvas in the early stages of the third round, it was clear the 32-year-old Dutchman has work to do before he can ever be crowned champion of the UFC.
Overeem, returning from a nine-month ban from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (h/t Fox Sports) after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone in April 2012, looked like the better fighter in the first and early part of the second round.
He showed power in his strikes, quickness that figured to give him the deciding advantage over Silva and a good sense of the octagon, but he just couldn't find a way to finish off Bigfoot before the second horn sounded.
That second horn must have been deafening to Bigfoot, because he came out guns blazing in the third round. He landed two hard shots with his right hand before fazing Overeem enough to disorient and force the UFC newcomer up against the cage in defense mode.
Bigfoot landed strike after strike as Overeem retreated to the fence, and within a few seconds, it was over. The KO was a far cry from Overeem's prediction of a UFC 156 demolition (h/t Toronto Sun) and shows he has tons of work to do before being seen as a legitimate contender to the Heavyweight belt currently worn by Cain Velasquez.
For starters, it seemed as if Overeem was just toying with Bigfoot for most of the match. Ask Middleweight champion and consensus pound-for-pound legend Anderson Silva—great fighters finish opponents off.
From his utter refusal to put his hands up in defense to his second-round inability to finish Bigfoot after getting him to the ground, Overeem really coasted in this fight. MMAJunkie.com's John Morgan noted much of the same:
Incredible moment for Bigfoot. No idea what Overeem was trying to do in there. Play with your food that long and bad sh*t happens.— John Morgan (@MMAjunkieJohn) February 3, 2013
Bigfoot really ruined the UFC's plans for an Overeem-Velasquez title fight. But that's Overeem's fault. #ufc156— Marc Raimondi (@NYPost_Raimondi) February 3, 2013
To be a champion in this sport—specifically the UFC—you must survive the gauntlet. Ask Urijah Faber, Chael Sonnen and Rashad Evans how it feels to get close to being considered elite and then lose it all with a tough loss. Those guys are all great fighters, but haven't been able to take the next step.
It's a step Overeem didn't take tonight.
There's plenty of reasons to give Overeem some excuses here. He was on a nine-month layoff, he was fighting an opponent he didn't feel would give him a good bout and he has been susceptible to the KO six other times in his career, as noted by B/R's own Nathan McCarter:
Picking Overeem in that fight had nothing to do with overvaluing him. Most of us remember his suspect chin.— Nathan (@ACCBiggz) February 3, 2013
Champions don't make excuses.
It will be interesting to see the post-fight and post-week reaction from Overeem on this stunning loss. If he were to hide behind the wall that he shouldn't have been in this fight in the first place, then questions about his ability to adjust to the league will be forthcoming.
What does Overeem need to work on the most before his next UFC fight?
If he mans up and admits a lack of focus and overly cocky attitude helped cost him a fight he should have won, then the first step towards the title will be complete. Overeem is a decorated fighter (now 36-12-1 career record) that can brawl with the best.
He didn't show it on Saturday night at UFC 156, and has some major work to do if he wants a shot at Velasquez and the Heavyweight title.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.