Is Alistair Overeem Good Enough To Justify The Hype?

A Labor Day look at the incoming striker

I don’t understand the grandiose hype surrounding Alistair Overeem. I’m skeptical, and I intend to stay that way until I’m given a legitimate reason to think otherwise.

Following his release from Strikeforce and the subsequent negotiations to have him fighting in the Octagon, people have showered Overeem with praise and propped him up as the missing piece in the UFC heavyweight division. The way he’s described and adored, you’d think he’s left a well-known, highly skilled trail of dead in his wake over the last four years.

He hasn’t. That’s what has me wondering if the fervor to get him into the UFC isn’t overblown and whether Overeem is poised to be a big money mistake.

Don’t get me wrong: the guy is a talent. He’s big and clearly dangerous. He’s probably the best heavyweight competing outside the UFC today.

What I can’t comprehend is how Overeem’s dominance of second-rate competition and a tepid performance against Fabricio Werdum positions him as an instant contender in the UFC, despite the long history of fighters with similar backgrounds stalling once they face the best North American MMA has to offer?

How is Overeem any different from Shinya Aoki? He’s the top lightweight in Japan, argued by some to be the best lightweight in the world following BJ Penn’s initial loss to Frankie Edgar. He’d beaten just about everyone he could in Japan before making his Strikeforce debut, where Gilbert Melendez dominated him.

If wins over UFC cast-offs like Rich Clementi and Marcus Aurelio don’t carry much weight for Aoki in the rankings battle, why are people falling over themselves to crown Overeem the dominant force in the heavyweight division when his one fight against a truly viable contender in the last four years was a clunker?

The Overeem hype machine seems to be propelled by two things:

(1) His victory in the K-1 World Grand Prix in 2010
(2) His string of first round victories that started after winning the Strikeforce heavyweight title in November 2007

The only thing that winning the K-1 Grand Prix shows is that you’re an outstanding striker. It’s a great credential, but no different from a Division 1 national championship for a wrestler or a victory in Abu Dhabi or the Mundials for a submission grappler.

The one that really gets me is how Overeem’s streak of first round wins over less-than-mediocre competition somehow merits consideration as proof of his excellence. While there is a certain level of credit to be derived from the consecutive quick finishes, he’d been putting away sub-par competition prior to returning to Strikeforce and thrashing Brett Rogers.

Beating “The Grim” was a good win, but not something that holds up as proof of Overeem’s dominance to me. If he’s as great as some believe, it was the kind of performance that was to be expected.

The same goes for smashing Todd Duffee on two weeks notice, and finishing a collection of has-beens and never-weres like James Thompson, Tony Sylvester, and Gary Goodridge. The first true opportunity Overeem had to prove his dominance over the last four years came against Werdum, and while he came away with the win, it was less than impressive.

That makes Overeem a risky investment to me. He needs to prove himself in the Octagon. Until he does, I remain skeptical, even if that makes me wildly unpopular.