Just over 5 years ago negotiations wrapped up on a big business deal between Zuffa and Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment.
The purchase of Strikeforce was tremendous for the UFC, adding a great deal of depth to both the upper and lower tiers of nearly every division (even helpingestablish a few). In fact, half of the current champions competed in Strikeforce, namely: Fabricio Werdum, Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold, Robbie Lawler and Miesha Tate.
Perhaps the most needed additions from the Strikeforce acquisition were to the perpetually-paper-thin Heavyweight division. Before the buyout, Strikeforce was in the midst of an intriguing Heavyweight Grand Prix, eventually won by current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier.
This weekend, Overeem will step into the cage as the number-3 ranked heavyweight, headlining the UFC’s debut in his home country of the Netherlands. Facing off against “The Reem” is former UFC Heavyweight Champion and current number-5 ranked Andrei Arlovski. This fight has been a dream match up of hardcore fans for years and was nearly booked in Japan way back in 2009. Overeem will be looking to use Arlovski as a stepping stone toward getting a title shot, much like Stipe Miocic did earlier this year at UFC 195.
The last time Overeem came so close to capturing UFC gold was back at UFC 156 in a heated contest against Bigfoot Silva, where things went a little off course for Overeem. To his credit, the big Dutchman has seemed to learn from his past errors, as he has adopted a much more patient, tactical approach to dishing out immense pain. It was first against Frank Mir where he displayed his new-found strategy, earning what amounted to a shutout against the former champion. Aside from the slip-up against Rothwell, Overeem has looked very impressive during his 3-fight win streak. The aforementioned victory over Struve combined with the careful out-maneuvering of Roy Nelson and surprising upset knockout of Junior Dos Santos are all good signs.
If “The Reem” can defeat Arlovski like we’re predicting here, and if Fabricio Werdum defends his title against Stipe Miocic at UFC 198 (dat card, bruh) then Overeem will not only be a worthy #1 contender, but he will also hold a clear-cut victory over the current champion. Both fighters have changed a lot since their second meeting in 2011 (and even more since their first all the way back in 2006). Perhaps 2016 will see the first Dutch UFC champion since 1999, when living legend Bas Rutten captured that same UFC heavyweight gold.