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Alistair Overeem, Stefan Struve and Germaine de Randamie on Sunday dazzled their countrymen in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s first-ever event in the Netherlands. All three favorites finished their fights in impressive fashion, following a main-card trend that saw the last five bouts end before the allotted time. It was a solid opening effort for the promotion in the nation famous for its kickboxers.
Overeem Still Behind Velasquez in Pecking Order
Overeem survived an early barrage from Jackson-Wink MMA teammate Andrei Arlovski before rallying to bank the first round on all three judges’ scorecards. While it may not have been the most awe-inspiring performance, Overeem overcame a shaky start and a noticeable cardio slowdown to pound a high kick to the face of his opponent before finishing him with strikes on the ground.
Overeem’s post-fight comments centered on his getting the next title shot against the winner of the UFC 198 main event between heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic. Maybe he has some inside information from UFC brass telling him he is next in line, but I would hazard a guess that Overeem is just posturing and trying to position himself ahead of likely challenger Cain Velasquez, who is slated to fight Travis Browne at UFC 200.
The UFC title is one of the few things missing from Overeem’s trophy case, so it would be a shame if he didn’t get a crack at it. However, I don’t see how a win over Arlovski suddenly vaults him to the front of the line. I get that his win over Junior dos Santos looks a whole lot better since the Brazilian waxed Ben Rothwell, but Velasquez’s resume is much stronger, in my opinion.
An upset win by Miocic could help Overeem’s cause, though. Werdum isn’t exactly known for wanting to fight every couple months. He seems to relish his time away from the cage. If Miocic could pull off the upset, perhaps a quick turnaround would allow Overeem to leapfrog Velasquez, who doesn’t fight until July.
Either way, Overeem is probably right behind the ex-champ in the pecking order, and another win would surely secure his chance to compete for UFC gold. The other scenario that could place him in his desired UFC 205 slot to fight for the title is an injury to Velasquez or an upset by Browne. Velasquez isn’t exactly the iron man of the heavyweight division, so it’s probably a little premature to rule out Overeem entirely.
If he does indeed get his crack at the belt, Overeem told the crowd at the Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands, that he intends to defend it in Amsterdam in 2017. I can’t imagine that would be a bad thing for the Dutch brawler or the UFC for that matter. Holland is a fight-mad nation that assuredly would get behind one of its own in even greater numbers should he secure a UFC championship.
Struve Finds, Annihilates ‘Bigfoot’
Struve made quick work of Antonio Silva, needing just 15 seconds to do the job. A giant knee collapsed “Bigfoot” to his knees in a dazed attempt for a takedown and a full magazine of elbows to the side of the head did the rest, forcing referee Leon Roberts to intervene on Silva’s behalf. The “Skyscraper” was clearly amped about his second win in nearly four years.
It was an inspired performance in front of his fellow Dutchmen. I really don’t want to be that guy, but it’s hard to get too excited about a win over “Bigfoot” at this point. He has won one fight in his last seven starts and has been finished in the first round in all five of his losses during that stretch. He hasn’t be competitive with any of the ranked heavyweights he has fought during this run, other than Mark Hunt; and he ended up testing positive for PEDs after that fight.
Struve also has a few more questions to answer before he gets back into the discussion as a heavyweight contender. He had dropped three of his last four coming into this bout, with his sole win coming over a clearly diminished Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August. Back-to-back wins would be a nice step back towards the top of the division. We’ll see who’s next on his plate and how he does before I can get behind his “I’m back” assessment.
De Randamie put on a display of striking ability in her overwhelming victory over Danish upstart Anna Elmose. The Dutch fighter controlled the early going with her jab and followed it with a number of solid crosses. She also had great success from the clinch, where she hammered Elmose to the midsection time and again.
Undeterred at first, Elmose tried to work her way past the jab but kept finding herself on the wrong end of the exchanges as de Randamie pelted her at will. She finally ended the brutal affair with a gut buster of a knee that folded up Elmose in pain along the cage and sent the crowd into a euphoric explosion at 3:46 of the opening frame.
De Randamie has been around the game for quite some time and has had her issues transitioning to MMA full-time. She has now won three out of four fights in the UFC and could be poised to make a run in a wide-open women’s bantamweight division. One interesting potential matchup that has been bandied about after this win is a fight with UFC newcomer Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, who is slated to destroy -- excuse me, fight -- Leslie Smith in a 140-pound catchweight pairing at UFC 198.
I think it would be an interesting fight, but I’m not sure how Justino’s inability to make the 135-pound bantamweight limit is going to affect her matchmaking. I’d definitely pay to see it, though.
Sherdog.com Executive Editor Greg Savage can be reached by email or via Twitter @TheSavageTruth.