Physically imposing fighters don't usually live up to their billing. Bob Sapp had a good run at smashing Tokyo, but cardio and technique issues caught up with him. Mariusz Pudzianowski might actually explode in the ring one day, with bits of overheated cartilage and broken capillaries showering a lucky few in the front row. These are guys made for fight posters but not necessarily the fight itself.
[+] EnlargeDave Mandel for Sherdog.com
Alistair Overeem has a bodybuilder's physique and a special distinction in combat sports, but something is missing: the respect of an MMA heavyweight contender.
Alistair Overeem arrived at Saturday's K-1 Grand Prix event at a lean 265 pounds of body mass, and it's easy to imagine crumbs of clay or marble sloughing off of him as he walked through the tournament. In winning, he became the only man to hold two recognized world titles in two combat sports simultaneously.
Suddenly, the nickname "Ubereem" feels insufficient. When the Japanese have him hunt, kill, skin and eat a wild boar on some variety show, maybe they can make some suggestions. In the meantime, Overeem is being discussed as a top-shelf MMA fighter. It seems inconceivable that anyone can handle his size, athleticism and technique. Of course, we've said the same about others.
Is all of this praise warranted? Overeem's status in MMA seems based more on hypotheticals than anything else. He's probably a better striker than anyone in the heavyweight division and has a good ground game, and he's able to rag-doll opponents to set it all up. (Throwing Brett Rogers like a shot put was a clue.) It's exciting to consider what he could do in MMA, but that's all it amounts to -- speculation.
His recent wins in the mixed-fight column haven't been pretty. Kazuyuki Fujita, James Thompson and Tony Sylvester are not names you associate with the upper echelon. If a fighter's abilities are measured relative to the quality of his opposition, he's not going to get much from that lineup.
Overeem hasn't seen the second round of an MMA fight in years. That's a credit to his finishing ability, but it also clouds the issue of whether all that beach muscle will eventually drown him with demands for oxygen. He can fight for nine or 12 minutes in K-1, but MMA asks for different things from a fighter's lungs and lactic acid. His chin isn't untouchable: Badr Hari, who gave up 40 pounds to Overeem in a December 2009 K-1 bout, put him down for a TKO win. Chuck Liddell also knocked him out years ago.
The biggest benefit from Overeem's victory Saturday is that he might finally shelve K-1 and make a more dedicated commitment to MMA. Strikeforce's division is built for him to make an impact, and a win over Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko or Fabricio Werdum would immediately validate the idea that he belongs in the discussion of top-tier heavyweights. Hopefully he'll pursue that and not Mr. Olympia, even though he's got a decent shot at the latter.