Should Alistair Overeem get the next title fight at heavyweight after his stoppage of Andrei Arlovski? Why or why not?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Alistair Overeem absolutely should get the next title shot at the winner of Saturday’s Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic main event fight at UFC 198. Currently the #3 ranked heavyweight, The Reem is riding a four fight winning streak that has included knockouts of #5 ranked Andrei Arlovski and #4 ranked Junior dos Santos. There isn’t really another fight that makes sense for him, as two of the three ranked higher than him are fighting for the belt, and the other one – former champion Cain Velasquez – is scheduled to take on Travis Browne at UFC 200.
Even if you want to downplay Overeem’s obvious credentials, a look over the rest of the ranked fighters in the UFC’s largest division shows no logical challenger. As previously stated, the #4 and #5 fighters both recently lost to Overeem. Ben Rothwell, holding at #6, just lost to a guy Overeem beat in dos Santos. The #7 contender, Travis Browne, is on the card for UFC 200 and also recently lost to Andrei Arlovski, Overeem’s most recent victim. Mark Hunt, Josh Barnett, and Roy Nelson round out the Top 10, and if you can make a convincing argument on why any of those three should be ahead of Overeem then you can sell anything.
The only other fighter that deserves to be in the conversation is Velasquez. Of course to get there, he’d have to win his fight against Travis Browne (reasonably safe bet). He’d have to manage to stay healthy from now until UFC 200 (somewhat risky bet). He’d have to emerge from the victory without sustaining an injury (50/50 proposition here). He’d then have to stay healthy all the way until September or October, or whenever the next Heavyweight Title match is scheduled (highly unlikely, we’re talking Powerball odds here).
You also run the issue of Werdum holding onto the belt, and then having to promote Werdum vs. Velasquez again for what seems like the 20th time in the last three years. The amount of times this fight has been scheduled makes me swear these guys have fought five or six times by now, but for some crazy reason Wikipedia only shows it’s been once. Overeem also holds the distinction of being the last fighter to beat the current champ, adding even more to the argument he should be next.
If it’s Miocic, Overeem vs. The Best Thing to Come out of Cleveland (it’s sure as hell not the Browne’s #factoryofsadness) is a fresh and intriguing fight. The winner of Velaquez vs. Browne (it’s Velasquez) can then take on Werdum, Miocic, or Overeem in a fight that features two new matchups and one rematch that the UFC has tried to schedule numerous times. There’s way too many reasons to give Overeem his title shot, albeit about five years after most of us thought it was coming. Overeem is a high priced and decently big named asset for the UFC, might as well put him in the title picture before the chance is gone altogether, lest the equivalent of another Antionio Silva ham hock-fisted knockout derail that train permanently.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Absolutely. Overeem has done more than enough to get the title shot. Whether you think he’s a jerk or not, the results in the cage are what matter and he’s got the best case for the shot. He’s on a winning streak and he’s doing so in explosive fashion. He’s won four in a row, with three of them coming by finish. You could argue that he should have already gotten the next title shot, even without this win. Add this win on top of that and it becomes even easier to answer. There’s no question that Overeem should get the next title shot.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Abso-freaking-lutely he should. He’s rolling right now coming off of consecutive wins over former UFC champions both via TKO and both really being jumped off by one massive blow from Overeems uber-powered hands and feet. The man has fantastic technique, incredible power and lightning speed. His chin isn’t anything to write home about (see: Browne, Bigfoot, Liddell, Rothwell, Shogun twice etc) Given that he also has a 1-1 record against Werdum, losing via submission and then in Strikeforce winning the worst fight in the organization’s history. I don’t know if he can beat the Werdum we have right now, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Hell yeah Overeem should get the next title shot! I have nothing against Cain Velasquez (who is most often mentioned as the candidate most likely to receive a title shot if Overeem doesn’t get it), but he has completely exhausted me and the majority of the fanbase of our patience with him as he can’t stay healthy. The reaction of fans after they found out he was out of his rematch with Fabricio Werdum (excitement to hear Miocic was replacing him) confirmed that fans don’t want to see him in the title picture… for now. His injury issues aren’t the only thing working against him. He isn’t personable which makes it hard for fans to either like him or hate him… or find a reason to want to watch him. His PPV numbers haven’t exactly been selling points for him either. The best way to put it is that fans really just want a fresh face. If Velasquez beats Travis Browne in July I’m not going to say that he doesn’t deserve a title shot. The issue is that there are often multiple fighters deserving of a title shot within a division and it boils down to a popularity contest which he is unlikely to ever win.
One of the biggest reasons Overeem should be favored over Velasquez is the idea of keeping a belt that hasn’t been defended with regularity in the hands of someone who can stay healthy and keep the division moving. Overeem has been able to avoid major injuries, pulling out of only one fight due to injury since coming into the UFC almost five years ago. Since making his debut he has fought nine times with a suspension for elevated testosterone levels being thrown in there. Velasquez has fought five times in that span. Anyone else in favor of seeing more than one defense a year of the heavyweight title? I know I am. Perhaps the best way for me to put it is Velasquez has to prove that he can stay healthy enough to fight for the belt as opposed to proving he is worthy to fight for it.
There are plenty of other reasons as well. Overeem is riding a four-fight winning streak with wins over former UFC champions in Arlovski and Junior dos Santos in that streak. What more is to be expected of him? His polarizing personality should work in his favor as well. It doesn’t make him particularly likeable, but we all know people will throw down their money to see him lose. Why else do you think so many people would pay for Floyd Mayweather’s fights despite the reputation of him being a boring fighter? Whether you are likeable or not, people will watch you… so long as you have a personality.
[Alistair Overeem art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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