The last hurdle has been cleared for Alistair Overeem’s return to the Octagon. The Nevada State Athletic Commission gave their go-ahead for “The Demolition Man” to take on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva on February 2nd. Now that his licensing issues are behind him, Overeem can go back to focusing on inflicting damage inside the cage.
While Silva is the man Overeem will meet at UFC 156, many in the MMA world are already looking further down the line to a potential UFC heavyweight title clash, pitting “The Reem” against Cain Velasquez.
A Velasquez-Overeem match-up would be a genuine PPV blockbuster and a fight that the UFC brass must be salivating to make. But outside of the obvious box-office appeal, from an athletic standpoint one has to wonder how the potential heavyweight dream fight might play out.
After Velasquez’s initial loss to Junior dos Santos, conventional wisdom stated that if Velasquez couldn’t handle the boxing attack of dos Santos, Overeem’s elite K1 championship level kickboxing would sent him to the canvas early. But after Velasquez’s complete domination of JDS in the rematch, the proud Mexican-American showed that an elite striker is not necessarily the antidote for the AKA product’s attack.
Velasquez was able to neutralize dos Santos’ boxing, thought to be the best in the UFC, and repeatedly use his wrestling to put JDS on his back and rain down blows. To that point, dos Santos hadn’t spent more than a few seconds on his back in his UFC career; instead using an ability reminiscent of Chuck Liddell to get the fight back to a vertical base as soon as he wanted to.
Where Overeem’s striking technique differs from that employed from JDS is his devastating knees and kicks. Overeem’s career has been littered with victories that came from knees and it was an Overeem body kick that sent Brock Lesnar out of the sport entirely. The only fighter Velasquez has faced who is in Overeem’s league when it comes to kickboxing is Cheick Kongo, and Velasquez was able to smother Kongo for three rounds en route to a decision victory.
Beyond Brock Lesnar, who inexplicably chose to Overeem in ther fight, the Dutchman’s resume is light on elite wrestlers. Indeed, one has to go back to his battle against Ricardo Arona at Pride Final Conflict Absolute all the way back in 2006 for reference. Overeem lost that fight to Arona, after being positionally dominated and punched into submission. Overeem is likely to have improved on his wrestling since then, but still wants none of an elite grappler on the mat, as evidenced by his lacklustre win over Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce.
If Velasquez can power through Overeem’s vertical base the way he was able to do with dos Santos in their rematch, he may very well be able to accomplish what Arona did. Until someone proves otherwise, Velasquez is the best heavyweight in the sport and it will take pinpoint accuracy in the striking game and complete avoidance of Velasquez’s takedown offence. Overeem has the former, but it remains to be seen if he can accomplish the latter.
Of course, all of this is predicated on Overeem defeating Antonio Silva. While Silva is a long-shot underdog, it’s dangerous to assume that he’ll just roll over to let a potential heavyweight dream match happen. Just ask Fedor Emelianenko.