• UFC 169

Overeem's rocky road in the UFC

Andrew R. Davis
January 29, 2014
Alistair Overeem suffered a knockout loss to Travis Browne in August © Getty Images

As former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem gets ready for his UFC 169 match-up against former champion Frank Mir, many are wondering if the loser will receive their walking papers.

Mir is on three-fight losing streak while Overeem has lost his last two. Overeem has been in the UFC for just over two years and a loss could mean the end of a UFC career that never really got started.

Overeem's MMA career started in 1999 at middleweight - with moderate success - going 10-3. But his breakthrough came in 2002 when he joined Pride FC. Overeem won his first three fights in the Pride ring before entering the 2003 middleweight Grand Prix. The tournament was a who's who of fighters: Quinton Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, Murilo Bustamante and Overeem's first round opponent Chuck Liddell. In that bout, Liddell was the aggressor, outstriking Overeem 20-14 and eventually knocking him out 3:09 into the first round.

After a 2005 loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Overeem entered the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix and was paired with Vitor Belfort in the opening round. Overeem controlled the stand-up, landing 88 total strikes and forcing a tap out due to guillotine choke at 9:36 of the 10-minute first round. Overeem would advance to the semi-finals, where he would fall to Mauricio Rua.

Overeem's career would take a downturn starting in 2006 and continuing into September 2007. 'The Demolition Man' went 4-5, losing to Nogueira, Rua, Fabricio Werdum, Ricardo Arona and Sergei Kharitonov. Overeem was finished in all five fights (three by KO/TKO, and two submissions). But things would change when PRIDE folded, and Overeem went to Strikeforce.

In his first bout for Strikeforce, Overeem faced Paul Buentello for the vacant heavyweight title. Overeem took down Buentello three times and outstruck 'The Headhunter' 110-14 in overall strikes. The fight came to a close at 3:42 of the second round when Buentello submitted due to knees in the clinch position.

Alistair Overeem overcame Brock Lesnar on his UFC debut in December 2011 © Getty Images

Overeem would bounce between Japanese promotion Dream and Strikeforce over the next four years before the latter folded. He made the first defence of his Strikeforce heavyweight title in 2010 against Brett Rogers. Overeem outlanded Rogers 39-1 in significant strikes, eventually finishing the fight with punches from mount position at 3:40 of the first round.

Despite being the titleholder, Overeem was entered into the Strikeforce heavyweight GP in 2011. The tournament bracket revealed that if Overeem won, he could potentially face Fedor Emelianenko in the semi-finals. First, however, Overeem faced Fabricio Werdum in a rematch. Werdum held the striking advantage 43-32, but Overeem stopped 11 takedown attempts en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Emelianenko lost his first round match-up so the dream fight would not happen. Overeem claimed that he wouldn't be ready for the semi-final match against Antonio Silva, and he was removed from the tournament and replaced by Daniel Cormier.

The UFC ultimately signed Overeem and it was announced his first fight would be against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. The fight happened at UFC 141 in December 2011 and Overeem emerged victorious in his 11th fight in the last 12 (a no-contest versus Filipovic being the only glitch on his record). Lesnar's lone takedown was stopped and Overeem finished the fight with a kick to the liver at 2:26 of the opening round. With the victory, Overeem gained a title shot, but he failed the pre-fight drug test before his scheduled UFC 146 fight against champion Junior dos Santos. Overeem was subsequently suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for nine months.

Overeem returned to the UFC to face Antonio Silva, the man he was supposed to face in the semi-finals of the Strikeforce GP. 'The Reem' dominated the first two rounds, outstriking Silva 49-7 and looked to be on his way to an easy win. In Round 3, Overeem began to show overconfidence and it led to his downfall as Silva landed 14 significant strikes, with one last salvo putting Overeem down for a knockout loss. History repeated itself in Overeem's next fight against Travis Browne, the first two-fight losing streak for Overeem since 2006.

Now Overeem is matched up with Mir in a classic bout between striker versus ground fighter. Overeem has won 15 of 36 fights by KO or TKO and 19 fights by submission, but none since 2009. Of his 13 losses, only two have come by way of submission. With a third straight loss, Overeem's UFC career could very well be over while a win could put 'The Reem' back on track toward the UFC title.

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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