One Last Run: Alistair Overeem’s Final Era

“#OneLastRun” is a hashtag that has featured prominently across Alistair Overeem’s social media presence as of late. The Dutchman is 4-1 in his last five fights and currently sits at a respectable number five in the UFC rankings. One Last Run? Why is this significant? Why am I so moved by this?

There are very few OGs remaining in the upper rungs of MMA. Men like Andrei Arlovski, Vitor Belfort and Tito Ortiz are still floating around in some capacity, but really, there is only one man who is actually competing with today’s best, and he has been doing so for nearly twenty years.

The Reem first came to the larger MMA world’s attention in Pride FC in 2002, where he debuted his coat hanger like physique at light heavyweight. He would see moderate success but fell to more established names like Chuck Liddell and Shogun Rua. He moved up to heavyweight in 2006 and after a few hiccups, and approximately 4000kgs of horse meat, the Ubereem era began.

If you don’t know what an “Ubereem” is, imagine some kind of topical reference to King Kong and Godzilla from a lesser writer and you’ve about got it. 2007-2011 Overeem was, to put it hyperbolically but also somehow completely accurately, a terrifying force of nature. Bulking up to roughly “don’t tell him he’s past the heavyweight limit or he’ll level the entire city” lbs of solid Dutch concrete, the Reem realised his hulking physical potential during this period.

He would go on to capture the Strikeforce Heavyweight championship and Dream Heavyweight championships in MMA, beating the likes of Vitor Belfort, Gary Goodridge, Mark Hunt, Brett Rogers and Fabricio Werdum, mostly by finish. However, the insatiable appetite of the Ubereem would not allow him to confine his campaign to a mere cage, and he would take his marauding to the kickboxing ring.

Overeem arguably accomplished his most impressive feat under the K1 banner in this time. Despite minimal experience under a pure kickboxing ruleset, the Demolition Man (Overeem has a lot of nicknames), compiled a hell of a run here in a short space of time. Claiming names like Tyrone Spong, Ben Edwards, Gokhan Saki, Badr Hari and Peter Aerts twice, the Reem would get to the semi-finals of the 2009 K1 world grand prix, before claiming the crown for himself in the 2010 edition of the world’s most prestigious kickboxing tournament. Or, at least it was that at the time.

The fact that Overeem did this while also competing regularly in high level MMA is an accomplishment for the ages, and does not springboard him into enough all time great conversations in my opinion. Granted, Alistair was at least a Fiat Punto bigger than most of his K1 opponents at the time, but the likes of Saki, Aerts and Spong had a great deal of experience with larger heavyweights, and Overeem was devoting a healthy portion of his time to specific MMA training. He finished his kickboxing career with a deceptive 10-4 record.

In 2011 Overeem signed with the UFC, and was immediately thrust into the spotlight. His first opponent was, at the time, the biggest star the sport had, and the Reem made it look easy. If you Google “Ubereem” – which I do a lot – most of the images you’ll see come from Overeem’s weigh in before fighting Brock Lesnar in his first UFC outing. This was the ultimate edition of the Reem, looking like someone drew him from a vague memory of watching He-Man as a kid, and tearing through Brock like he was double parked outside the venue.

Unfortunately, at least in the short term, Overeem would stumble after this. Shockingly, Overeem would fail his next pre-fight drug test and sit on the shelf for over a year. He returned in 2013, taking back to back losses against Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne. Sporting a less muscle bound physique, Overeem would win the early exchanges then get tired, before being KO’d. In the wake of a failed drug test, you can make of this what you will.

So, a rebuild was in order. Overeem came back against Frank Mir in 2014, demonstrating a more reserved, measured and low volume approach. And thus began the “economical” Overeem run. On his way to a title shot, in 2016 Alistair bested Mir, Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson, JDS and Andrei Arlovski. It was time for the Reem to get the ultimate prize and make good on his reconstruction.

Stipe Miocic vs Alistair Overeem was what it was. Stipe won by KO, and it’s no use dwelling on what could have been. But… Well…. Alistair felt it, clearly. Who are we to argue? Anyway, Overeem left without the UFC title in Cleveland, but he would quickly rebound.

Overeem won two in a row before meeting Francis Ngannou at UFC 218. On that night in Detroit, Michigan, the World’s scariest anaesthetist made Overeem the most unconscious man ever who wasn’t legally dead. The uppercut from the Cameroonian ruined Overeem’s immediate chances at gaining another title shot.

Coming back six months later, Overeem looked to prove he wasn’t done after such a brutal loss. Unfortunately, at UFC 225 Curtis Blaydes opened Overeem’s face like me trying to get at the last quarter of the Pringles tube at 4am on fight night. Brutal GnP from the wrestler threw Overeem’s longevity further into question. Despite calls for retirement, the Dutchman decided that if you can’t beat them, join them.

The Reem took his talents to Team Elevation, the home gym for the aforementioned face opener Blaydes. Honing his skills to make one last run in his twilight years, Alistair seems to have focused his efforts on the “mixed” aspect of martial arts. Now at 40 years of age, the Reem stands on the cusp of his final drive to the mountain top.

He fights Alexander Volkov this Saturday, and a win here makes three in a row. If we’re honest, beating Volkov won’t put Overeem in position for a title shot. Miocic is rematching Ngannou in March, and the spectre of Jon Jones lingers over the division, despite the fact he’s never fought in it. Overeem’s teammate Blaydes is currently spinning his wheels as a contender as he has, in his own right, earned a crack at the belt. His two losses to Francis however make it difficult to insert him into that picture.

So the Reem’s title prospects are bleak, but, with this run, the “One Last Run”, maybe Alistair has found the perfect sales pitch. The man has cycled through eras and styles and had many different runs in his long and storied career. With Strikeforce, Dream and K1 world titles, he’s cemented himself as a heavyweight great, but the thing missing from his mantle is that UFC gold.

Scarcity is a hell of motivator for consumers, and if we are getting one true “last” run, then it’s very difficult not to want to see the perfect happy ending of a truly unique career. As a long time fan of the Reem, and a writer for his official unofficial stan website, I certainly hope the stars align and we somehow get him walking into the cage with a championship on the line. Overeem seems to understand this, and he’s making the right moves to bring it to reality. #OneLastRun.

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