Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Overeem Identity

Alistair Overeem always had the potential. By beating K-1 kickboxing legend Peter Aerts at his own game this past Friday, he may finally be living up to that potential. As a light-heavyweight fighter main in the PRIDE organization, Overeem had strong wins over names such as Vitor Belfort and Igor Vovchanchyn. Though he did lose numerous times, they were only to the best of the best in the division at the time (Shogun, Liddel, Arona). People didn't want to give up on Overeem though. His muay thai was very good, and his ground game wasn't bad either. Overeem just couldn't seem to get his cardio right. Even in his toughest fights, he would put up a great fight until he ran out of gas. The man reason was because with his 6'5 frame it was hard for him to cut down to the 205 lb. limit for light-heavyweight. So, Overeem decided in 2007 to move up to heavyweight full time.

At that time, Overeem's physique changed drastically. He couldn't have been more than 230 lbs. when he was cutting down to light-heavyweight. When he was fighting at heavyweight, he was able to amass a large amount of muscle, and now fights at about 250 lbs. (there's even a "growth chart" online to illustrate). Never the less, Overeem went on a tear. He became Strikeforce Heavyweight champion by defeating Paul Buentello. He beat Badr Hari (arguably the best K-1 kickboxer at the moment) at his own game. And even though the fight ended in a no contest after an accidental illegal strike, Overeem was dominating the legendary Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. It seemed that Overeem had finally arrived.

But, with great success comes great responsibility. Overeem was scheduled to defend his Strikeforce title against top heavyweight Fabricio Werdum in August, but withdrew drew to a hand injury that had apparently not healed properly. Rumors of foul play began to surface, especially after Overeem booked himself in the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix, in which the 1st round started in September. The main reasons for people's suspicions were that drug testing in Japan is notoriously lackadaisical. After seeing the sheer amount of muscle mass that Overeem had put on in the past few years, people began to speculate that Overeem was scared he would come out dirty after a drug test in America. Most notably was his scheduled Strikeforce opponent Werdum saying "I cannot be 100-percent right about the reason he is taking so long to solve his issues and come to fight, but it seems either that the gummy berry juice he is taking to give him super powers is (causing) him to avoid fighting here in America or he is afraid of having no arms to fight after facing me one more time."

However, after his win over K-1 legend Aerts this past Friday, no one can deny Overeem has the skill. It can't be a coincidence he's beaten two K-1 superstars and numerous top level MMA heavyweights in the past few years. With Fedor Emelianenko recently signing to Strikeforce, many fans hope that a match between the two will be set up soon. Is Overeem a cheater? He very well could be, but the bottom line is this: he's innocent until proven guilty. At just 29 years old, if Overeem continues to grow, he may become an unstoppable force. If he's clean, that is.

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