When Alistair Overeem came into the UFC, it looked like he was on the fast track to a title shot. As a notable heavyweight, it looked like he could bring new life to the division that was ruled by then-champion Junior dos Santos.
Overeem made a successful Octagon debut, crushing Brock Lesnar and sending him into retirement. While it was an impressive performance, everyone was really looking forward to a bout that would pit him against the other top striker in the division: dos Santos.
As with many things that wither on the vine during bad weather, the bout has never been realized. In some ways, it seems needless now; Overeem is 1-2 in his last three fights, and dos Santos had suffered two thorough beatings at the hands of reigning champion, Cain Velasquez.
Now that the proverbial dust has settled, both stand as fighters on the rebound. Overeem no longer looks like the wrecking machine of old, and dos Santos no longer looks unbeatable.
With Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne fighting to determine the next title contender, Daniel Cormier roaming the land of the light heavyweights and men such as Frank Mir and Roy Nelson waiting to prop up the next big wave of contenders, Overeem and dos Santos are looking at each other once again.
So, why should Overeem sign to fight dos Santos? There are three very basic reasons why.
It’s Long Overdue
With so much talk of fights that should have been in the combative sports, Overeem could show the world that he’s a man with the courage of his former convictions.
He talked a lot about fighting dos Santos in the past, going to far as to say the Brazilian was afraid of fighting him (around 8:35 in the video).
Much has changed since then; according to Dana White (h/t Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com), after Overeem defeated Frank Mir at UFC 169, he was offered two options to fight dos Santos and turned them both down.
Twitter going bananas! Not running for anyone, on holiday right now & also rehabbing injuries so not ready to discuss a fight at this time.— Alistair Overeem (@Alistairovereem) February 13, 2014
Overeem tweeted that he declined the fight due to injury. White responded to this in a negative way, saying: “I have a feeling this rib injury is going to last as long as it takes until dos Santos has another opponent. That’s what I’m willing to bet.”
Now matter if his reasons are legitimate or not, the appearance is that it is Overeem who is scared, not dos Santos.
A fight with the former heavyweight champion makes good on an early promise despite the risk, and that would do wonders for the cause of Overeem, win or lose.
It Puts Him Right Next Door to a Title Shot
Even though he has been run over twice by Velasquez, dos Santos is still very high up on the totem pole; he is arguably the No. 1 fighter in the division.
While talk of a fourth fight with Velasquez makes some people groan or wince, dos Santos is still just one or two wins away from making that a reality. If Overeem really wants to become the champion, a victory over dos Santos would put him within arm's reach of a title shot.
It’s More Than He Deserves
As it stands now, dos Santos is arguable the No. 2 or 3 heavyweight in the UFC, where as Overeem is barely in the top 10. The fact that dos Santos would even entertain the notion of fighting Overeem is a gift that should not be ignored.
This is a situation where the reward far outweighs the risk for Overeem; if he wins, then his career is revitalized. Should he lose, then at least he loses daring to be a great fighter, rather than a middling one.
The UFC has proven in the past that when dealing with big names, they are more forgiving of losses when such fighters deliver on the promise of big fights. If Overeem is not willing to take advantage of such a big opportunity, it might leave them wondering why they are spending money on him in the first place.
For as long as Overeem wants to be a true title contender, he cannot afford to turn down fights with big name opponents who are higher up the ladder than he is.