Alistair Overeem kicked off the main card of UFC 209 from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a third-round TKO victory over Mark Hunt in heavyweight action.
Fox Sports had the official result:
FOX Sports: UFC @UFCONFOX
#UFC209 Official Result: Alistair Overeem def. Mark Hunt by KO at 1:44 of R32017-3-5 03:35:03
Both fighters lived up to their reputations as K-1 kickboxers in the first round. Overeem opened up a nasty cut on Hunt's leg with an oblique kick, while Hunt peppered his opponent's body with some powerful leg kicks.
Overeem's ability to control the range of the fight was evident in the opening round, and it was the reason MMA Fighting scored the round for the Demolition Man:
Overeem 10-9 in the first. Fun round. Range is troubling Hunt. Overeem fighting very smartly. Patient. #UFC2092017-3-5 03:23:46
The second round was a much more aggressive stanza for The Reem. Rather than remain outside, he pushed Hunt to the fence and landed some vicious knees to the head and body.
However, closing the distance against Hunt is always a dangerous proposition. The Super Samoan landed a big elbow that stumbled Overeem, but he was able to survive. The UFC passed along the highlight of the elbow:
OHHHHH big elbow by @MarkHunt1974 ROCKS Overeem! #UFC209 https://t.co/PAdkG2ARjO2017-3-5 03:30:06
Overeem was able to ride out the storm and come back to regain control of the round. Josh Gross of Bleacher Report questioned Hunt's choice to slow play the damage from the elbow:
Josh Gross @yay_yee
Easy to say but it looked like Hunt was too patient after a perfect elbow stunned Overeem.2017-3-5 03:29:52
The damage that Overeem did in the clinch would prove to be a harbinger of hurt to come for Hunt. In the third, he once again pinned Hunt against the fence, where he nailed his opponent with a left elbow followed by a right knee to the head.
A badly hurt Hunt crumbled to the mat, and the fight was over. Brett Okamoto of ESPN summed up the night for Overeem:
Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN
Overeem finishes the fight with knees. Knocks Hunt out cold. Methodical, painful type of fight. Ugh.2017-3-5 03:33:20
UFC Canada provided the highlight of the knee that ended Hunt's night:
UFC Canada @UFC_CA
THAT KNEE!!!!! #UFC209 https://t.co/GDhL4FxGBo2017-3-5 03:36:39
After the fight, Hunt announced on Instagram that he suffered a broken tibia in the bout:
The win is key for The Reem in terms of keeping his status as a relevant contender in the heavyweight division. The last time the Dutchman was in the cage, he rocked heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic in the first round before Miocic came back to finish Overeem in the same round.
This fight was crucial for Overeem to maintain his top-five status in the division. He entered the bout at No. 3 in the UFC rankings. Defeating the No. 8 fighter in the division will ensure that spot stays the same.
But a rematch against the current champion isn't the one Overeem has his eye on.
Miocic will defend his belt against Junior dos Santos at UFC 211 in May, and the UFC 209 winner would love to see the Brazilian take the belt and set up a rematch with Overeem.
“May the best man win, but Junior’s fighting style is very compatible with Stipe, and then, of course, I’ve got to do my thing against Mark,” Overeem said, per Steven Marrocco of MMA Junkie. “But logically, that would be very good for my title attempts if Junior would win, because the rematch could be there. So I’m definitely rooting for Junior in this one, for a change.”
Overeem won the first bout with JDS back in December 2015, but it's obviously a rivalry that he's interested in revisiting.
Of course, that all depends on dos Santos taking care of business against the current champion, and that's far from a guarantee.
If dos Santos isn't able to come through, Overeem finds himself looking for a title shot against a guy who just beat him in the first round. However, the 265-pound class doesn't have much in the way of title contenders, and Overeem re-established his position with just one win after losing his last bid for the title.