Since joining coach Greg Jackson and his team in Albuquerque, New Mexico, UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem has started to put together the pieces of the puzzle he hopes will one day lead him to a championship fight in the Octagon.
When Overeem debuted in 2011, there were high hopes that he would one day become UFC heavyweight champion, but a failed drug test and two losses in a row after his first win over Brock Lesnar set the former K-1 Grand Prix champion back on his heels.
Now, Overeem says he has the right team around him to propel him back to championship contention, and the next step was beating Roy Nelson at UFC 185 in Dallas just over a week ago.
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Overeem dominated the fight from start to finish, and outside of a few flurries from the heavy-handed Nelson, the Dutch striker was completely satisfied with what he did in the Octagon that night.
"I’m very pleased with my performance obviously and the win, but also the way we won," Overeem told FOX Sports. "We stuck to the game plan, we landed massive shots and we did good. We did very good, and it showed. The training showed in the fight, and that’s something that’s particularly pleasing."
Alistair Overeem poses backstage for a post fight portrait during UFC 185.
Since returning home from Dallas, Overeem has watched the Nelson fight a few times while breaking down the performance with his coaches. Outside of failing to put Nelson away within the three rounds, Overeem can’t really find too much fault in what he did in the fight.
I would say 99 percent of the other heavyweights would have been finished. I broke his ribs, I destroyed his leg. I had six or seven solid shots to the head.
— Alistair Overeem
"I’ve rewatched it a couple of times. It was a very good performance. I broke Roy’s ribs, he broke his hands on my head, I destroyed his leg," Overeem said. "He took like six or seven solid shots to the head. I tried to finish that fight. I was in phenomenal shape. My hat goes off to Roy Nelson, who absorbed it all. He took everything."
Following the fight, UFC president Dana White praised Nelson for his toughness while the former Ultimate Fighter winner increased his lead as the heavyweight who has absorbed the most significant strikes in the history of the promotion.
Nelson has taken a ridiculous 617 significant strikes during his UFC career, with 413 of those strikes landed to his head.
Overeem joined White in complementing Nelson on his ability to eat a punch or take a kick, although he’s not sure it’s really in his last opponent’s best interest to keep taking that much punishment every time he steps into the Octagon.
"It’s not really healthy, but I have to say it was really good, although those kinds of fights aren’t good for your career because it literally takes a couple of years off, but he took it," Overeem said. "He didn’t go down, and he stayed dangerous until the end. I would say 99 percent of the other heavyweights would have been finished."
Regardless of the finish, Overeem still got the win, and that’s what mattered most as he looks to get back into the thick of the heavyweight title race in 2015. Immediately after dusting off Nelson, Overeem heard questions about what’s next and whom he might face later this year.
Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos came up as a popular choice, considering Overeem was supposed to fight him for the belt after he beat Lesnar in his debut. Despite a lot of buzz about the potential fight, Overeem isn’t ready to commit to anything right now other than some rest after a hard fight and fight camp.
"I’m still healing up, and I’m not ready to look forward at this point," Overeem said. "In the next several weeks when I’m healed up, I’ll start looking for the next challenge. For now, I’m just enjoying what I did and I’m not really thinking about where I am.
"The top 10 is really a media thing anyway unless you’re the champion, but otherwise it’s always speculation."
The biggest statement Overeem had for the heavyweight division after his win was a message delivered to current champion Cain Velasquez and interim champ Fabricio Werdum, who meet in the main event of UFC 188 in June.
Overeem isn’t calling either fighter out or trying to say he deserves a title shot right now. Overeem is just letting them both know that, with his new team and training regimen, he believes he’ll be knocking on their door before too long.
"I think we need to be cautiously optimistic because it was a great performance. I’m going to continue to train myself along the same lines and continue to develop myself and surround myself with great people and cut away the bulls–t and keep everything positive.
"I know great things will come, and that’s exactly what that statement meant — Cain and Werdum, I’m coming. I will see them in the future."