Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir will vie for a UFC heavyweight title shot at UFC 191 this Saturday, but the marquee match-up in the heavyweight division won’t be featured until December. That’s because perhaps the most anticipated heavyweight clash in recent memory will finally happen when former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos faces off against former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. The two men have been on a collision course ever since Overeem joined the UFC’s ranks in 2011.
Originally scheduled to meet at UFC 146 for the JDS’s heavyweight strap, the fight fell apart after Overeem’s off-the-charts T/E ratio. Overeem was subsequently suspended and would return at UFC 156. His typical pre-fight swagger was on full display heading into UFC 156 against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Overeem claimed Silva would be “just another statistic.” Despite controlling most of the fight, Overeem ended up losing in surprising fashion after a third-round flurry from the Brazilian sent Overeem crashing to the mat.
Meanwhile, dos Santos had lost his heavyweight title to Cain Velasquez and was looking to get back into the win column. It seemed the time was ripe to pit Overeem and JDS against each other. The fight was booked as the co-main event at UFC 160 and it appeared either man could’ve earned a title shot with a victory. Yet, the fight fell apart once more when Overeem suffered an injury and had to pull out of the fight. After Overeem’s win over Frank Mir at UFC 169, UFC President Dana White would go on to claim Overeem was “ducking” dos Santos.
However, Overeem has since made it a point to call out dos Santos through the media, first indicating that he wanted to fight the division’s “gatekeeper” JDS and then tweeting White directly to ask for the fight. Now, fans will finally have the opportunity to see two of the division’s heaviest hitters compete in the Octagon.
Dos Santos, due to his well-mannered nature and exciting style, has become a fan-favorite during his tenure with the UFC. Although the Brazilian has taken far too much punishment during his career, fans know that excitement ensues when he steps into the cage. His highlight-reel knockouts of Mark Hunt, Velasquez and Gilbert Yvel will be replayed nearly every time the dos Santos fights. He and Velasquez have been widely considered the two best heavyweights for much of the past five years.
While dos Santos is liked by nearly all fans, the same cannot be said for Overeem. The hulking heavyweight has been the subject of steroid-usage accusations for years and his UFC 146 pre-fight test poured gasoline on the flames for his critics. His subsequent lackluster run under stricter drug testing in the UFC also became a focal point for those who aren’t fans of “The Reem.” Of course, there’s also the confidence and cockiness of Overeem — he keeps his hands low, looked like he was ready to rave on the way to the cage at UFC 156 and maintains a general aura of smugness when talking — that has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
The two fighters are polar opposites when it comes to fan appeal, but they are similar in their approach to fighting. Both men love to keep the fight standing and have displayed striking ability that is well above their peers. Considering both men have a knack for the knockout, fans are eagerly anticipating a devastating finish when the two square off. The popular opinion is that while Overeem will likely tag dos Santos during their encounter, JDS’s ability to take a punch is considered greater than Overeem’s chin.
Although a great amount of fans will likely be hoping for an Overeem loss, it would still be a special moment if he pulls out the victory. Just think of how low Overeem had fallen during the first few years of his UFC tenure. The failed test, the misdemeanor battery charge, the court issues with Golden Glory, the string of losses and all of the negative publicity that has followed him throughout his career. Overeem’s MMA career has been on the proverbial ropes for most of his time in the UFC, but it appears as though he’s finally turned a corner since joining Jackson-Winkeljohn in Albuquerque, N.M. A win — and likely a future title shot — would likely be viewed as a huge comeback story if it were happening to anyone but “The Reem.”
With so many angles to approach the upcoming fight, it is without a doubt the most anticipated heavyweight clash in the final months of 2015. It’s the classic “good guy vs. bad guy” for many fans. While those fans may differ on who they cheer for, all of them know a highlight-reel knockout is virtually guaranteed. The promise of a huge knockout, combined with the storylines weaved within the contest, make JDS vs. Overeem must-see television. And oh yeah, it’s on free TV.