"Redemption means you make a change in your life and you try to do what is right, versus what you were doing, which was wrong." -- Ice T
He was supposed to be "the one."
When Alistair Overeem crumpled Brock Lesnar with a thunderous liver kick in the main event of UFC 141, which sent the pasty-faced brute back to the land of make believe, one of my fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) writers sent me a text message that read, "This division is in trouble."
Sure felt that way at the time.
After all, Overeem went nearly six years without a loss, racking up 11 straight wins with 10 violent finishes. In addition, the towering Dutchman captured heavyweight titles for Strikeforce and DREAM, as well as the K-1 2010 World Grand Prix. It wasn't a matter of if he would challenge for UFC gold, but rather when.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, everything. Shortly after laying waste to Lesnar, Overeem found himself in trouble with the law following an altercation with a female casino patron. That was in addition to his public and messy split with Golden Glory, which spilled over into the courts.
But hey, that was outside the cage.
There were more important things to worry about, like his pending showdown against then-UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos, which was expected to take place over Memorial Day Weekend in 2012. Unfortunately, the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) didn't stick to the script, and popped "The Reem" for a staggering testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) ratio of 14:1.
The cutoff in Nevada is 6:1 (4:1 in California).
NSAC benched him for nine months and once the hullabaloo died down, the promotion was able to reschedule a fight. Since Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos were busy battling for the belt, Overeem was paired off against Antonio Silva, a formidable bruiser with a questionable chin.
Fight fans saw "Bigfoot" as a heavyweight fluffer, charged with keeping Overeem in fighting shape until Velasquez was cleared to defend.
Apparently, Silva didn't get the memo.
Overeem was smashed and trashed by the hulking Brazilian and sent to the back of the line -- but not very far -- and would get a chance to redeem himself with a big win over talented up-and-comer Travis Browne later that year. Maybe "Demolition Man" was overlooking Silva and just got caught?
Browne also put Overeem in la-la land and two consecutive knockout defeats is a surefire way to eliminate yourself from the division title chase. In fact, one more loss would have likely earned him a pink slip. But wait, what happened to that killer who was standing over Lesnar's limp carcass?
Perhaps the Overeem of myth does not measure up to the Overeem of reality. Or maybe the former light heavyweight hit a rough patch after having it easy on the international circuit. While he eventually got back into the win column with a tepid unanimous decision victory over the rapidly-fading Frank Mir, it wasn't enough to announce his return.
He's not "back," he simply pulled his chute and landed safely.
But now that both feet have touched down, Overeem has some work to do. Not only does he need to defeat Ben Rothwell at the UFC Fight Night 50 event this Friday night (Sept. 5, 2014) in Ledyard, Conn., he needs to do it with the kind of beautiful violence fans have become accustomed to prior to his ho-hum run under the UFC banner.
At 34 years old, it's now or never.
And this is about more than just contending for a division title, or repairing a damaged public persona, it's about validation.
Supporters will tell you Overeem is one of the best heavyweights in the game, holding the kind of championship accolades only few fighters can boast. Detractors will counter that "Reem" is nothing more than an equine-eating can crusher, who padded his resume with a wheelbarrow full of nobodies.
Which one is the real Alistair Overeem?
We're about to find out, assuming he can stay out of trouble between now and then.
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