It’s no secret that the few remaining Pride stars of yesteryear are slowly burning out one at a time. As a matter of fact, two of them were stopped in the first round of their respective Main Event and Co-Main Event bouts at last Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 27.
The event was great for business, as the ultra-stacked card was action packed, making it a huge success for UFC’s debut on the new Fox Sports 1 channel. Unfortunately for the superstars at the top of the card, the outcome could not have been worse.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alistair Overeem may have seen their chances of another title run quickly disappear as neither fighter made it out of the first round, despite each being favored to win.
Overeem suffered his second straight embarrassing knockout after returning from his year-long suspension for elevated testosterone. The visibly smaller “Demolition Man” does not seem to pack the knockout punch that he once did, and his chin is more than suspect after two straight KOs left him doing the bobblehead shuffle.
The last of the great Pride legends to arrive in UFC, Overeem was considered by many to be the top Heavyweight in the world and was expected to take the division by storm. Overeem himself believed that should be handed a UFC title shot on a silver platter, and that he would cut through the Heavyweight ranks like a hot knife through butter.
Dana White was reluctant to jump on the hype train: “Anybody who sees Overeem as a top 10 MMA fighter should be embarrassed of themselves,” White said in Fall of 2010.
But the UFC President could only ignore his tremendous success for so long, and when the Strikeforce merger became official, Overeem was finally able to show UFC fans why he was so revered.
When he stopped former Champion Brock Lesnar in the first round of his UFC debut, Overeem seemed to be fulfilling his prophecy of certain domination. He immediately began campaigning for a title shot, calling out then-champion Junior Dos Santos before being sidelined for a year for astronomical levels of testosterone.
Out to prove himself in the UFC ranks once again, he returned from suspension to take on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and his arrogance proved to be his downfall. After dominating the first two rounds, Overeem was surprised with a barrage of punches that ended his four-year, 11-fight win streak with an utterly devastating TKO loss.
Overeem found himself on the rebound against Travis Browne, who is a monster in the Heavyweight division that has shown incredible skills in the octagon, improving with each performance.
Though the fight may not have been a title eliminator, “The Reem” was offered up a top-ranked opponent to facilitate his climb back to the top. Once again, Overeem looked like he was on the verge of victory in his battle with the heavy-handed Hawaiian, but unlike the “Demolition Man” of the last five years, his striking was simply not enough to finish the fight. Browne weathered an early barrage and came back to score a brilliant front-kick-to-the-face that set up another brutal TKO.
Overeem remains with the UFC -- for now -- but who knows if that will change in the next few weeks. Overall, it's unlikely that he'll be dropped. Chances are the UFC brass can still see tremendous value in Overeem given his ranking and his exciting performances, win or lose. The UFC won’t be doing business any favors if they cut him at this time, and he will most likely get at least one more shot at redemption.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, on the other hand, may be running out of second chances. Then again, you can’t help but love to watch the guy fight. His style, humility and legendary status make his fights exciting for even the most casual fan. His commercial appeal has made him an obvious choice to represent the sport on the grand stages of UFC on Fox and the promotional debut of Fox Sports 1.
Other than that, he’s a legitimate champion and just an all-around classy guy. Delusional? Maybe. He sounds convinced that he will still fight for the title one day. In a statement to MMAJunkie.com, Rua said, “I achieved everything I ever wanted. I've reached all my dreams, and I still fight because I want to live them again. I still plan on many victories and becoming world champion again.”
Everything he said was pretty reasonable except for the part about being champion again. It’s extremely rare for a former champion to regain the belt. In fact, it’s almost non-existent. Of course, three current champions of UFC -- Georges St. Pierre, Benson Henderson and Cain Velazquez -- have all done so, but they rose back to the top by dominating the ranks en route to their second run.
“Shogun” is anything but dominant. He was lucky to get a shot at the gold in the first place with his hit-or-miss record, and he’s lost three of his last four.
Again, both Overeem and Rua continue to command tremendous respect for their accomplishments and exciting styles, despite their setbacks and losses. Any ranked or grudge match featuring the two of them has the commercial viability to sell a PPV and put butts into the arena seats. Any talk of "titles" is just that: talk.
Rua and Overeem still have something left in the tank, but if either of them hopes to fight for a UFC title, they need to put together some wins right away. After all, fighters don’t age like wine and the competition continues to grow exponentially.
By: Rodney James