You can find the tape of Alistair Overeem’s professional MMA debut online if you want to see it – although you don’t expect to see it in high definition. It was October 24, 1999. Overeem was 19 years old and was fighting a very muscular older opponent named Ricardo Fyeet, also known as “The Animal”, in Haarlem, the Netherlands.
When the opening bell rang, Overeem’s first action as a teenage professional fighter was a dead sprint over the ring into a flying knee.
The knee missed about 5 feet, but in retrospect what a fitting way to begin a career in MMA. More than two decades and 65 fights later, Overeem is 40 years old and about to retire – it is him Recognized many times lately that his career is almost over – but possibly right before a UFC title shot.
Overeem (47-18, 1 NC) will face Alexander Volkov (32-8) at the main UFC Fight Night event on Saturday at the Apex facility in Las Vegas. And just like this 19-year-old boy who went into his pro debut guns (he’d win the fight in the first round, by the way), Overeem remains fearless, confident, and unmistakably optimistic.
Just two and a half years ago, Overeem had devastating losses to Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou. It seemed like a fair time to wonder how his career would end. And when Overeem decided to still talk about winning a title, it felt a little like a delusion. It just didn’t seem like that was still on the cards for him.
Ultimately, it couldn’t be. Overeem fell short when challenging Stipe Miocic in 2016, and time will tell if he can even make it back to a title fight.
But Overeem’s readiness to fight someone – He has refused to pick high-profile opponents even at this stage of his career – and his ability to still make big wins has him at least on the verge of the cover picture. If he wins on Saturday he could be just one more win away.
It’s rarely the case that a 40-year-old fighter can realistically discuss pursuing his first UFC championship and his upcoming retirement at the same time. Overeem’s self-titled #onefinalrun quest is definitely worth seeing.
By the numbers
66: End of the career of these two fighters together. Overeem had 42 placements (25 Ko, 17 submissions) in 47 wins. Volkov had 24 placements (21 KOs, 3 submissions) in 32 wins. A night off for the judges?
4: Seconds between Overeem and a five-fight winning streak. In his fight with Jairzinho Rozenstruik in December 2019, Overeem was ahead on all three scorecards in round 5 when Rozenstruik scored a knockout with one punch four seconds before the bout was scheduled to end at 4:56.
5.22: The UFC landed significant hits per minute from Volkov, the third highest rate among active heavyweights, just behind Chase Sherman’s 6:02 and Augusto Sakai’s 5:27.
9: Knockouts in Overeem’s UFC, placing him fourth among the heavyweights. The leader is Derrick Lewis at 11. Overeem, aptly known as “The Demolition Man”, has won in his last four wins and seven of his last eight knockout games.
4-1: Volkov’s UFC record as a betting favorite. He is the favorite of -190, with Overeem as the underdog of +160 (as of Tuesday).
Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats
Five against five
The latest results from Alistair Overeem
Prize: Augusto Sakai (TKO5, September 5, 2020; see ESPN +)
Prize: Walt Harris (TKO2, May 16, 2020; see ESPN +)
Loss: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (KO5, December 5, 2019; see ESPN +)
Prize: Aleksei Oleinik (TKO1, April 20, 2019; see ESPN +)
Victory: Sergei Pawlowitsch (TKO2, November 24, 2018)
The latest results from Alexander Volkov
Prize: Walt Harris (TKO2, October 24, 2020; see ESPN +)
Loss: Curtis Blaydes (UD, June 20, 2020; see ESPN +)
Prize: Greg Hardy (UD, November 9, 2019; see ESPN +)
Loss: Derrick Lewis (KO3 Oct 6, 2018)
Victory: Fabricio Werdum (KO4, March 17, 2018)
And the winner is …
“This is going to be an extremely tactical game of chess between two seasoned fighters,” says veteran MMA coach Din Thomas, a former UFC fighter. “The more tactical it is, the cheaper it is for Overeem because he is fighting the best he has ever fought in his career.”
UFC light heavyweight Anthony Smith envisions a different scenario. “I think we’re going to see a typical Volkov fight: stay long, attack the body and be very precise,” says Smith, who acts as an analyst on UFC shows. “I really love seeing this guy strike.”
Read how these and other experts split up Saturday’s heavyweight main event.
How to watch the fights
Watch the fighting on ESPN +. If you don’t have ESPN +, Get it here.
There is also FightCenter, Here you can find live updates for every UFC card.
Battle card from Saturday
ESPN +, 8 p.m. ET
Alistair Overeem versus Alexander Volkov | Heavyweight
Cory Sandhagen versus Frankie Edgar | Men bantamweight
Alexandre Pantoja versus Manel Kape | Flyweight of the men
Cody Stamann versus Askar Askar | Men’s featherweight
Diego Ferreira versus Beneil Dariush | Light
ESPN +, 5 p.m. ET
Michael Johnson versus Clay Guida | Light
Mike Rodriguez versus Danilo Marques | Light heavyweight
Timur Valiev versus Martin Day | Men’s featherweight
Justin Jaynes versus Devonte Smith | Catchweight (160 pounds)
Karol Rosa versus Joselyne Edwards | Women bantamweight
Molly McCann versus Lara Procopio | Women’s flyweight
Seungwoo Choi versus Youssef Zalal | Men’s featherweight
Ode ‘Osbourne versus Denys Bondar | Men bantamweight
Four More Things to Know (from ESPN Stats & Information)
1. Frankie Edgar fights bantamweight for the second time when he takes on Cory Sandhagen in the co-main event as a 3-1 outsider. Edgar won his 135-pound debut against Pedro Munhoz in August, becoming the fourth fighter in UFC history to win lightweight, featherweight, and bantamweight bouts. Edgar, Manvel Gamburyan, Lucas Martins, and George Roop are among the 13 fighters who have won in three UFC weight classes.
2. The main card begins with Diego Ferreira – # 10 in the ESPN lightweight leaderboard – and continues his winning streak in six fights against Beneil Dariush, who has won five straight. This will be the sixth fight in UFC lightweight history in which both fighters will contest a streak of five or more wins, and the first since Khabib Nurmagomedov (nine straight wins then) won the 2018 championship by taking the streak from Al Iaquinta series ended with five in a row.
3. In the preliminary round headline, Clay Guida will be the eighth fighter in UFC history to play 30 fights in the Octagon when he takes on 23-man UFC veteran Michael Johnson. Their 52 combined bouts put them in a tie for the second most common combined bouts to enter a UFC matchup. The record is held by Guida along with Jim Miller (59 combined UFC bouts enter the bout in August 2019).
4th Mike Rodriguez, who takes on Danilo Marques, returns to the Octagon for the first time since a controversial loss to Ed Herman in September. After recovering during the break, Herman took a submission win. Rodriguez is 2-3 with a no contest in the UFC, but he holds the light heavyweight record for highest shot accuracy (60.7%) and highest shot rate among active 205 pounders (5.28 per minute).
ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this bout preview.