Alistair Overeem Refocused and Recharged Heading into Fight Night 50

When Alistair Overeem moves, the eyes of the MMA community follow. 

The former Strikeforce heavyweight champion has become one of the most polarizing figures in the contemporary era of mixed martial arts, as his career has been a whirlwind of lofty accomplishments and drastic stumbles over the past five years. “The Reem’s” career has been a proverbial roller-coaster ride of chaos, yet through it all, the Dutch smashing machine is still standing tall.

In fact, he believes the best of what he has to offer is still on the road ahead, and the 34-year-old former K-1 champion has every intention of making good on his potential. Granted, it may seem strange to attach such a word to a fighter who has spent the past 15 years honing his craft and settling the opposition in brutal fashion under the bright lights, but Overeem is a complex study.

The heavyweight powerhouse is on a constant mission of progress, and that quest brought him to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to seek guidance at the world-renowned Jackson-Winkeljohn gym. Overeem’s arrival was a high-profile move that claimed headlines across the sport, but everything “The Demolition Man” does grabs attention.

That said, regardless of the attention his relocation brought, Overeem was eager to get to work with the team at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s. He went into his training camp with full focus and believes those dividends will show when he steps into the Octagon to face Ben Rothwell at Fight Night 50 on Sept. 5. 

Overeem isn’t keen on hyping up the moment but is confident his hard work will pay off when the UFC returns to Connecticut this weekend.

“I don’t like to talk and create too much expectation,” Overeem told Bleacher Report. “Let’s just keep it as I’m in a great place, and I’m sure it is going to show on Friday night.

“I’m very excited to be back in the UFC and back inside the Octagon. I was a bit of a loss for awhile, and I ended up having to get surgery. At first, I wasn’t even sure what it was, but it kept me from training. But now, I’m happy to report I am in great shape, and I have been busting my ass for the past few months.”

Adjusting to a new presence can prove difficult for any fight team, and there was speculation Overeem joining the collective at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s would be far from a smooth transition. The Albuquerque-based facility houses some of the top talent in the sport, and balancing egos—even the minimalist approach Greg Jackson requires in that department—could be tipped out of balance with a larger-than-life presence like Overeem in the mix.

Yet shortly after he arrived and began training, reports coming out of the world-renowned fight camp were nothing but smooth. Resident striking coach Brandon “Six Gun” Gibson began working with Overeem directly out of the gates and confirmed the revered knockout artist settled in quickly with his new teammate at Jackson-Winkeljohn’s.

“One thing I really respect about Alistair’s process is that before he jumped in and started training, he watched a lot of what was going on,” Gibson said. “He watched, I think, three of my mitt sessions before he approached me with some questions. He really analyzed his last few fights and looked at what he needed to improve on.

“He came to Albuquerque already having an idea of what he needed to improve on, then Greg, Coach Winkeljohn and I discussed those aspects in addition to working on things he was already very strong at and what we could put our touch or polish on to make him that much more dynamic and explosive.

“He’s absolutely a student of the game. He would sit and watch the little guys practice, and if he saw something interesting, he would ask for them to show it to him again. He would do the same thing with all of the coaches as well. He was able to pick up some very difficult moves incredibly fast. I know he’s a well-versed striker, but some of these techniques break the traditional paradigms of Dutch-style kickboxing.

“I really believe he was looking to make a fresh start here,” Gibson added. “He never said anything at all about any of his prior situations or prior gyms. He told me from day one the reason he came to Jackson’s is to be a champion. That is something you have to respect.

“He’s not looking to just skate through and get a few more big fights; he’s on a quest to become a UFC champion. His dedication and determination showed throughout his camp. He really embraced what I think makes our gym here in Albuquerque so special. This is a no-frills town, and he showed up here to work.” 

While the Dutchman put himself back into the win column by defeating Frank Mir at UFC 169 back in February, a potential victory over “Big Ben” would lock him into the competitive mix of fighters looking for a shot at the UFC heavyweight title. Overeem has been on the hunt for the heavyweight strap since signing with the organization back in 2011, and it remains one of the few accomplishments in combat sports which has eluded him despite the heavy expectation that surrounded his arrival to the UFC fold. 

Nevertheless, Overeem understands those projections and has returned to chasing the ultimate goal of the UFC heavyweight crown. 

“I was the Dream, Strikeforce and K-1 champion and, at the time, had gone six years on an undefeated streak,” Overeem said. “I don’t think me coming into the UFC and winning the title was an unfounded expectation. I think it was pretty founded. There were some lessons learned along the way, but we are back on the horse again.”

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. 

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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC

‘Rumble,’ Alistair Overeem Call Each Other ‘P—Y’ in Latest Verbal Spat

Looks like former Blackzilian team training partners Anthony Johnson and Alistair Overeem hate each other a lot more than fight fans initially thought. 

In an interview with MMA Junkie, “The Reem” showed his displeasure with Johnson’s recent remarks claiming that it’s standard procedure for the Dutch striker to injure training partners, per Fighters Only.

(He said that out of) jealousy. I can’t think of any other explanations. I have no relationship with the guy … All this talking to the media? I don’t get. Where I come from, if I have a problem, I’m coming directly to you and I’m asking you what’s up. For me, that’s like p**** behavior. 

Johnson, the No. 5 light heavyweight in the world, according to the UFC’s official rankings, wasted little time in responding and turned the heat up on “The Demolition Man.” 

“Rumble” sent out a very NSFW tweet this afternoon and here’s an edited version of the message:

How can Over—t call me a p—y when he ducked JDS? Biggest p—y in the heavyweight division. I know the truth kid lol a cpl of us do!”

Just days removed from a definitive decision victory over Frank Mir at UFC 169 in February, UFC President Dana White said Overeem was “literally hiding” from ex-UFC champ Junior dos Santos, per FOX Sports

White revealed that the former Strikeforce/K-1 titleholder was offered two different scenarios to square off with JDS: a five-round main event in Brazil or a three-round co-main event feature in Las Vegas. 

While the UFC’s head honcho was less than thrilled with the situation, Overeem told MMA Fighting that he was rehabbing a rib injury at the time and was therefore not in a position to take a fight. 

Overeem, who is 1-2 in his past three matchups, fights in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 50 this Friday when he takes on Ben Rothwell

Johnson, who currently boasts an eight-fight win streak, fought at heavyweight on one recent occasion: defeating former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski via decision last March under the World Series of Fighting banner.

In the event that Overeem pulls out another victory on Saturday, would a catchweight or heavyweight grudge match with Johnson make sense for his next fight? 

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

Read more UFC news on BleacherReport.com

Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC

B/R Women’s MMA Rankings, September 2014

Women’s MMA is growing, and we must keep up with the times. Women are getting more and more opportunities in mixed martial arts and are becoming more prevalent on the big stage.

The UFC, Invicta and World Series of Fighting are just three of the major organizations that host female fighters. When you consider Jewels, MMA Super Heroes and several other promotions that let the ladies compete, you have a bunch of proving grounds for these up-and-coming athletes.

Here is this month’s installment of Bleacher Report’s women’s MMA rankings.

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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC

In Praise of TJ Dillashaw, Whose Championship Mettle Elevated UFC 177

From inside the eye of the hurricane swirling around UFC 177, TJ Dillashaw put on a command performance.

Dillashaw had been UFC bantamweight champion for all of 98 days on Saturday, when he was forced into the no-win situation of defending his title against little-known replacement opponent Joe Soto. As anyone reading this story likely already knows, his scheduled rematch with former champ Renan Barao was scrapped a day earlier, when Barao failed to make weight.

In essence, what was already a bad situation for Dillashaw became much worse. Even before Barao’s ouster, UFC 177 was not considered a strong card—what with its relative lack of star power and the fact that the two main eventers had just fought at UFC 173.

Without the 27-year-old Brazilian, many wondered aloud how even diehard fans could be expected to buy it. Still, the fight company trudged forward, with no option but to doggedly insist the show must go on. Dana White railed against “disgusting, despicable” media coverage, even as the UFC itself trotted out Barao for an on-air interview that felt more like punishment than an honest quest for the truth.

Amid all the chaos and bad feelings, perhaps the biggest accomplishment of all was that Dillashaw made UFC 177 feel like it actually meant something.

Three months ago, he took Barao’s title.

This weekend, he took his rightful spot as the face of the bantamweight division.

We still didn’t know that much about Dillashaw heading into this fight. The only real interesting thing about watching him fight Barao again so soon would’ve been finding out if he could manage to look as dominating the second time around.

Instead, we learned a lot more than that.

Dillashaw took on what shaped up as a dangerous, thankless fight against Soto and turned it into a statement victory of sorts. We can’t chalk a whole lot up to the level of competition, but Soto turned out to be game and in shape, and Dillashaw largely walked circles around him.

Utilizing the same mobile and frustrating striking style he’d used to beat Barao, Dillashaw took every round from his overmatched foe. More important than that, he reintroduced himself to the UFC audience, or at least that percentage that found it in their hearts to tune in.

On a night when Barao was nowhere to be found, Dillashaw proved his UFC 173 win was no fluke. As he outmaneuvered and outfought Soto, we realized: This is Dillashaw. This is what he does. And you know what? It’s pretty fun to watch.

Then in the fifth round, he added an exclamation point with a highlight-reel TKO victory. Not too shabby, considering he’d already spent the entire weekend acting like a champion.

Of all the short straws handed out prior to UFC 177, Dillashaw arguably got the shortest of all. Due to the UFC’s ever-increasing live schedule, he’d already been forced into an immediate rematch with Barao during a time when most new champions would still be out buying jewelry and designer bed sheets.

For two straight training camps he’d focused solely on Barao, only to have the carpet pulled out from under him at the last possible moment. Kind of a tough assignment for a relatively unheralded product of The Ultimate Fighter, whose championship victory on May 23 was one of the most surprising upsets of the year so far.

Thrust in as Barao’s emergency understudy, Soto possessed the worst possible qualities for a late-notice challenger—being virtually anonymous and also a pretty good fighter.

Dillashaw would’ve been well within his rights to refuse a new opponent on such short notice. He could’ve insisted this fight be a non-title affair—after all, Soto was only meant to make his Octagon debut on this card and had done nothing to earn a shot at UFC gold.

But the champion did none of those things.

“I’m a company man,” he said instead, on stage at Friday’s weigh-in. “I’ve got to fight whoever they put in front of me. I’m the champion of the world.”

It was an admirable position from the man who had the most to lose. Advocates for fighters’ rights probably weren’t crazy about Dillashaw’s choice of words. We could go back and forth all day on the merits of proclaiming yourself a “company man” when you are, in fact, paid as an independent contractor—but that seems like another story for another day.

Part of his bluster was certainly motivated by dollars and cents. Stuck on the last fight of his Ultimate Fighter contract, Dillashaw reportedly made $36,000 to defeat Barao the first time ($18,000 to show, $18,000 to win). He was scheduled to make a reported $50,000/$50,000 on Saturday night, and that kind of pay hike would be tough to walk away from, regardless of all the outside noise.

I’d like to think, though, that part of Dillashaw’s composure was forged of sheer confidence. I’d like to think it was a sign he possesses the self-control and single-mindedness necessary to be a star in mixed martial arts’ unsteady and unforgiving landscape.

With Barao in limbo and Dominick Cruz still a few weeks away from his first fight since 2011, God knows the 135-pound division needs one right now.

Turns out, the future of bantamweight may not be the Brazilian with the 30-fight win streak the UFC spent months trying to prop up as a pound-for-pound great. It might just be this blond kid from California who lost out in the finals of TUF 14 but has been quietly doing pretty great things ever since.

Read more UFC news on BleacherReport.com

Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC

Souza vs. Mousasi: A Complete Guide to UFC Fight Night 50

Everything that UFC 177 was not, UFC Fight Night 50 is.

Not to excuse the septic tank fire that was last weekend’s pay-per-view offering, but we’ve all said and thought plenty about that event. Now it’s done and it’s time to move on, at least until the buy estimates come out.

In any case, Fight Night 50 more than stands on its own. Airing Friday night on Fox Sports 1, the free card features a string of enticing bouts. The main event between contenders Ronaldo Souza and Gegard Mousasi features two thoroughbreds of the sport. The winner of that one might get the next middleweight title shot.

Other fights are just plain fun. You like lumbering heavyweights? I like lumbering heavyweights. And the lumbering heavyweights will come out to play in two of the main card bouts.

Then, you’ve got Joe Lauzon. If he doesn’t get you amped, then I don’t know what will. I don’t have any backup ideas for you.

So let’s now join hands and hope together that no one passes out during weight cutting or slips on a banana peel backstage or anything like that. Let’s band together to collectively hope this card delivers on what it promises to be: a rewarding night of fights for a fanbase due some rewards. 

This is a complete guide to the full 10-fight slate, including information capsules, predictions and viewing coordinates (though that isn’t very helpful this time around, given that it’s all on FS1, but I’ll give them anyway).

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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC