Mr. Overeem on to the next gauge
January, 3, 2012
By Chuck Mindenhall
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comAlistair Overeem is in desperate need of image repair -- but just try telling him that.Alistair Overeem was a slight favorite heading into his fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. This made sense to him, as he has always been his own biggest booster (just check out any episode of “The Reem”). But plenty of people were scratching their heads at the perception of Overeem as a favorite, for no better reason than this: Lesnar had been fighting monsters for a short period of time in the UFC, while Overeem had been fighting imaginary monsters for a long period of time “elsewhere.”
In this case, it didn’t matter that Overeem’s unbeaten streak exceeded Lesnar’s tenure in the UFC by four months. Quality trumped quantity (and tawdry). Lesnar shopped on the boulevard, beating Frank Mir, Randy Couture and Shane Carwin. Overeem hit rummage sales, beating Fabricio Werdum, Todd Duffee and Tony Sylvester. Dana White himself discounted Overeem’s chances of keeping the fight standing, and, by extension, Overeem’s chances.
Well, we all saw what happened.
Overeem wasted no time in downing Lesnar with knees and kicks in the main event of UFC 141, the last of which crashed into his side and sent him squatting against the fence. The end followed, and it was anticlimactic -- it’s hard to feel satisfied when white flags appear so early in a fight of this magnitude. One way to look at it would be that it was an impressive victory for Overeem against a “real” opponent.
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comOne timely kick to the midsection proved Alistair Overeem isn't overrated.
Yet from listening to people talk afterwards, what stood out was the way Lesnar lost, not so much the way Overeem won. And now there’s this temptation to lump Lesnar in with the laundry list of common folk that Overeem has knocked off in his run toward Junior dos Santos and the UFC belt. After all, knowing what we know now -- that Lesnar’s diverticulitis had taken its toll and reduced his athleticism, and that he had one foot out the door of the UFC before he ever stepped in at UFC 141 -- it’s easy to do.
Even Junior dos Santos was pointing out that he thought Lesnar fought a dumb fight, only he used the word “surprised.”
But the thing is, Overeem, who was widely accused of being overrated before Lesnar, begins to appear as just the opposite. He beat the guy standing in front of him, no matter if his training camp was a fiasco or not -- or if the fight was held in Japan or Dallas or Amsterdam. He won, which looks like concrete next to how people rate him.
Lesnar was his 11th victim in 12 fights, nine of which he finished in the first round. Overeem is a K-1 champion, and he has the Strikeforce heavyweight belt somewhere in his basement. These aren’t just notions, they’re real. Carrying that kind of résumé it should be impossible to tiptoe through the heavyweight ranks -- yet the Dutchman proceeds with a fairly light step. Even as he retires pay-per-view behemoths with sworded thoraxes.
Yet it wasn’t what Overeem did, it’s what Lesnar didn’t. That's the story of Overeem’s life.
And it’s time to revise that thinking. Four years is an eternity to go undefeated in the heavyweight division, no matter your global whereabouts, even if some of the guys you’ve beaten are named Lee Tae-Hyun. Some of Velasquez’s foes were named Brad Morris. In reverse dogma, fighting can be about the destination, not the journey. And Junior dos Santos is the new destination.
Beat JDS and, like the promotion he’s running with, that’s about as real as it gets -- and there’s no way to go about such business quietly when smashing such gauges.