It took more than three years for the fight to finally come together, but Alistair Overeem finally cashed in with a second-round TKO of former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in the co-main event from Orlando on Saturday night.
Overeem originally was scheduled to headline UFC 146 against Dos Santos in 2012, but the fight never materialized. Time after time, Overeem and Dos Santos were scheduled to meet, but one injury or another came up and it stopped the heavyweights from meeting in the cage.
They finally went to battle on Saturday, and Overeem looked better than ever as he took out Dos Santos in a massive win for his career.
Article continues below ...
Dos Santos wasted no time taking the center of the Octagon, but the two heavyweights ended up circling each other for the a large part of the first few minutes of the fight with neither man willing to engage in an exchange.
Dos Santos continued to stalk Overeem across the cage, but it was the former K-1 kickboxing champion who finally uncorked a big left hand that tagged the Brazilian and busted open his nose.
A largely inactive first round left the fans in Orlando unhappy with the fighters, as neither Dos Santos nor Overeem was willing to throw many combinations out of fear of the counter from a powerful opponent.
Overeem did manage to find a home for his kick to the body that cracked Dos Santos repeatedly, and the Brazilian just couldn’t get his timing down to land much of anything. Overeem’s confidence continued to grow until he finally popped Dos Santos with a hard left hand that opened a cut on the former champion’s head.
Dos Santos tried to fire back after getting Overeem trapped against the cage momentarily, but he couldn’t do enough damage to keep his opponent in check.
On the break, Overeem wasted no time looking for another big left hand and this time he connected with a hard shot to Dos Santos’ chin that sent the former champ flailing to the mat. Overeem followed him to the ground with a couple of hammer fists while Dos Santos tried to recover, but the damage was done and the referee swooped in to stop the fight.
The strategy put together by Overeem and his coaches worked beautifully as he picked up a signature win over a former heavyweight champion in Dos Santos.
"Junior’s a very, very dangerous opponent," Overeem said. "You have to fight caution with him because he throws bombs. He’s very strong, he throws heavy leather and so we had to have this game plan to figure out his rhythm first and slowly pick him apart."
The win marks Overeem’s third in a row as he enters a crucial period in his career as a free agent for the first time in years. Overeem took a calculated gamble on himself to beat Dos Santos while raising his stock ahead of negotiations with the UFC.
The victory also puts Overeem on a short path to a title shot, which he could earn in 2016 if he re-signs with the UFC.
"I feel very confident with the team I have around me," Overeem stated. "I feel very confident for that next title run."