“My time is running out,” were the words from Alistair Overeem himself in a recent interview, as he prepares to do battle with Alexander Volkov at UFC Vegas 18.
It almost certainly is too, as the 40-year-old prepares for his 67th professional MMA fight. A UFC veteran and a fan favourite, you’ll struggle to find someone who doesn’t want to see Overeem with gold around his waist before he lay the gloves down.
He already knows how it feels to be a champion though, having won heavyweight titles under two previous promotions, however it’s the UFC belt that he so badly craves.
Overeem has been doing this since he was 15 years of age and dedicated his life to the sport of MMA. Reaching the top of the UFC heavyweight division would be the most satisfying reward of his career.
Having lost his only title fight in his UFC career so far against Stipe Miocic in 2016, he is desperate to get one more crack at it. He doesn’t care that only one fighter has won a championship belt beyond 40 years of age in the UFC.
He has four wins in his last five fights, all coming via knockout against ranked heavyweights trying to break through into the high end of the rankings. This has kept Overeem in the top six and shown he won’t just be a gatekeeper for this division yet.
You could say Overeem can count himself unlucky that he’s not on a five fight win streak too. Overeem was up on the cards against Jairzinho Rozenstruik two fights ago, before being on the wrong end of a wicked right hand late in the fifth round and a controversial stoppage. He would have certainly survived the last four seconds of that fight if his lip hadn’t almost fallen from his face.
In his last outing though he defeated the young and tough Brazilian, Augusto Sakai who was on a six fight win streak before running into Overeem. ‘The Demolition Man’ wore down the number nine ranked heavyweight in the championship rounds and forced Herb Dean to stop the fight in the fifth after some brutal ground and pound.
Overeem is arguably in his best form since joining the UFC back in 2011. Talking to MMA Junkie, the Dutchman said; “I think I’m the most dangerous to fight right now. I’m in the most peak performance I’ve ever been.“
He’ll need that to be true at UFC Vegas 18 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.
Alexander Volkov is another very experienced fighter and will be a tougher opponent than his recent victims. The seventh ranked heavyweight also has championship ambitions in the UFC, having held the belt under former promotions Bellator and M1.
When he came into the UFC he charged up to number three in the rankings after just four fights, including a notable win over Fabrício Werdum.
So this will be yet another tough night in the octagon for Overeem and although he may be tempted to be smart, patient and use his elite clinch and ground game to wear down the durable Russian for a points victory, an emphatic finish would be some statement.
This is make or break for Overeem though in terms of ever being in potential title contention again. A loss will see him drop at least one ranking place immediately and possibly more if Ciryl Gane defeats Rozenstruik at the end of the month.
If that happens then it will be too difficult and long a road ahead from there for a fighter of his age to come back from. Dana White would also likely look to other fighters to push into his limelight.
A win however sets up a run of rematches on the last stretch to the top. Four of the five men above him in the rankings, including the champion, have beaten him before, so it would truly be something special should he do so.
Overeem has admitted that if he ever does lift the UFC belt he will retire there and then, despite saying he feels he can fight on on for another five years.
A perfect sign off to his career is one I’d love to see and I’ll certainly be rooting for him on Saturday, as I’m sure a lot of others will be.