This Saturday, Alistair Overeem will be involved in his 63rd professional MMA bout. He’ll take on submission wizard Alexey Oleynik in the main event of UFC St. Petersburg. The fight will be Oleynik’s 70th. Oleynik has been fighting professionally since 1996 but didn’t really make waves many waves until 2013 when he submitted Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic and punched his ticket to the UFC. Overeem, on the other hand, has been well known among MMA fans since the early 2000s when he was battling future legends in PRIDE FC.
For a period of time, “The Reem” was a crossover superstar competing in both MMA and K-1 Kickboxing simultaneously. He had built himself into an international brand by leaving people concussed across a myriad of promotions before ever joining the UFC. Now, he is an icon in the sport who still has enough in the tank to leave young prospects unconscious as he showed in his last outing to the cage.
Before his main event this weekend, let’s take a trip down memory lane as we look back some of the highlights of his storied career.
#5. Heavyweight Debut:
Long ago, the hulking Overeem we now know and love didn’t exist. He used to fight at light heavyweight and was tall and slender for the division. In 2006, he bulked up to try his hand at heavyweight. His first opponent in the new weight class was Russian boxer, Sergei Kharitonov. Kharitonov was 7-1 in PRIDE and outweighed Overeem by almost 20lbs.
One way to neutralize a size disadvantage is to put your opponent on their back. That’s exactly what Overeem did in the opening seconds. He stayed in side control and ruined Kharitonov with knees to the head (which was legal in PRIDE). Kharitonov blocked the initial blows but Overeem amped up the pace and landed over and over until the fight was called off.
#4. The Moroccan Bad Boy:
Badr Hari was always a hothead. While he’s mainly known for his run-ins with the law these days, at one point in time he was widely considered one of the best heavyweight kickboxers on the planet. In 2008, after Hari had been stripped of his K-1 title for hitting Remy Bojanksy on the ground and attempting to stomp on his head (both big no-nos in kickboxing), he was signed to take on Alistair Overeem under kickboxing rules at the Dynamite!! show in Japan.
The fight was announced less than a week before it would take place. Though Overeem trained regularly with some of the best strikers in the world, he was 2-2 as a professional kickboxer. Both of his losses came via knockout. Most didn’t give him much of against Hari in a straight K-1 style match.
Overeem was clearly the bigger man on fight night and came out aggressive. He didn’t want to let Hari find his rhythm. This pressure would prove to be too much as Overeem threw a knee followed by a left hook that dropped Hari in the first round. The Moroccan kickboxer got back up but was noticeably still wobbled. “The Reem” smelled blood and landed another left hook seconds later that left Hari staring at the lights and forced the referee to wave off the fight.
#3. Knockout Kings:
Heading into 2014, Cain Velasquez was the only man to have beaten Junior dos Santos in seven years. After his second loss to Velasquez, dos Santos had proven he still had it by winning a five-round war against future champ Stipe Miocic. The Brazilian boxer’s next bout would be against “The Reem”.
The heavy-handed pair would meet at UFC on FOX 17. Fans expected fireworks from the opening bell. Everyone waited with bated breath as the contest commenced. After a few minutes into the first round, the anticipation started to subside. Neither fighter was doing much of anything. In fact, both men landed less than 10 strikes a piece throughout the first five minutes.
In the second round, the action began to heat up a bit. The two were throwing more but it was Overeem who landed the one that mattered. A left hook dropped dos Santos and the follow-up strikes Overeem rained down on his fallen foe ended the contest. Overeem had defied the odds and beaten another former UFC champion.
#2. When Worlds Collide:
In 2011, between kickboxing and MMA, Overeem had won 15 fights and lost zero. He had beaten the likes of Brett Rogers, Fabricio Werdum, and Mark Hunt during the run and fans were anxious to see the Dutch destroyer in the Octagon.
Many believed we’d never see ‘Ubereem” sign with the promotion after ZUFFA (then the owners of the UFC) cut ties with his management company that same year. After some back and forth and much speculation it was finally announced that Overeem would face off against Brock Lesnar at UFC 141.
The fight was an interesting one. Lesnar was a former UFC heavyweight champion and a monstrous amateur wrestler. Overeem, though he had many wins by submission, was mainly known for his striking prowess. But what would he do with with a behemoth like Lesnar on top of him?
Well, we never found out. Lesnar only attempted one takedown in their bout and it was easily shrugged off by Overeem. From there, it was all the striker. Overeem repeatedly pushed Lesnar into the cage and landed vicious knees to his body until he lay crumpled in a heap. The whole affair took just over two minutes.
#1. The 2010 K-1 Grand-Prix
After losing the rematch to Badr Hari in the 2009 K-1 Grand Prix Semifinals, Overeem went back to MMA three weeks later and sent Japanese legend Kazuyuki Fujita out on a stretcher in a violent display.
He’d then join the 2010 K-1 Grad Prix. Overeem swarmed Ben Edwards and ruthlessly knocked him to the mat three times in the first round to earn his way into the quarterfinals of the tournament. While he was the biggest man to enter, he was definitely on the tougher side of the bracket.
Oh, and he’d have to win three fights in one night.
In his first fight of the night, Overeem won a decision over Spong after an exciting back and forth fight. Next up for “The Reem” was Gokhan Saki. Saki was landing his with his patented speed and combinations but Overeem walked through them and broke the Turkish combatant’s arm with a kick in the first round. In the finals, Overeem met Peter Aerts; a man he had beaten by decision in the past.
Overeem was still fresh and looking for the early victory. Aerts tried to cover up but was being smashed by the much larger and younger fighter. It took just over a minute for Overeem to leave Aerts against the ropes, battered, bloodied and unable to continue.
Alistair Overeem had won the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix.