In the first half of 2007, a decision was made across the Atlantic Ocean that would end up affecting heavyweights across the globe.
Having spent his entire career -- minus a four-fight stint -- at light heavyweight, Alistair Overeem decided to stop cutting weight and start adding it on. After dropping three consecutive bouts to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Ricardo Arona and Mauricio Rua, the man who would soon become known as "Ubereem" made the full-time move to heavyweight and a monstrous legend was born.
He's fought 13 times since then, losing only once. His reputation became such that he supplanted Fedor Emelianenko as the one heavyweight Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) needed to get its hand on as soon as possible. And the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotions did so in early September, removing "The Reem" from Strikeforce's grand prix and inserting him into this Friday's (Dec. 30, 2011) main event at UFC 141.
Brock Lesnar will stand opposite the Dutchman that evening and should he defeat his first opponent inside the Octagon -- a tall order for any heavyweight -- it'll mark the first time he has defeated a legitimate top-ranked fighters in successive order (Fabricio Werdum being the other), a major talking point for his detractors who find his own ranking to be overstated and unearned.
Undoubtedly, a win over Lesnar would bring his heavyweight career full circle. From light heavyweight washout to title contender, Overeem has been a little bit of everything to everyone since June 2007: Overhyped, undervalued, untested, dominant.
Before he makes his Octagon debut, let's take a look at the fight where Overeem cast off his 205-pound shackles and committed to becoming the manbeast who walks among us today.
Let's dive in:
The fight -- against Michael Knaap -- actually took place on a K-1 event under its MMA banner at the time, Hero's. One of only a few MMA bouts on an event mostly filled with kickboxing bouts, Overeem was at least able to perform in front of a hometown crowd.
His opponent was no one of note -- a regional level fighter in Amsterdam who lost as many as he won. Knaap was someone a fighter the caliber of a Pride Fighting Championships veteran should have been able to finish off quickly and easily. And that's exactly what he did.
A closer look, if you will.
Oveeem wasted no time putting his legs to use, whipping them around and connecting with Knaap's head, ribcage and legs. Knaap tried to create distance between himself and his fellow Dutch opponent with a front push kick, but Overeem was able to counter perfectly and slam a straight right into Knaap's jaw.
Staggered, Knaap bounced off the ropes while "The Reem" pressed in. He immediately dived in with a flying knee before clinching up his wounded opponent and delivering rapid fire knees to the body in an effort to destroy whatever stamina Knaap may have had remaining in his depleted tank.
Seconds later, Overeem was able to drop his opponent to the mat, landing in sidemount.
Forced backward into half-guard, "Ubereem" began to work for a kimura, attempting to wrench Knaap's arm backward. His opponent defended well, however, and Overeem was unable to secure the submission. Knaap was unable, though, to keep his opponent from advancing back into sidemount, a decidedly more advantageous offensive position for someone with the ground and pound acumen Overeem possesses.
In a sight that would become very familiar to anyone who has seen "The Reem" in action, the K-1 World Grand Prix champion bullied his opponent albeit on the mat rather than in the stand-up as has been his usual gameplan as of late. Using his size and strength advantage, Overeem was able to control his countryman on the ground all the while inflicting damage.
In an attempt to escape the punishment being dished out through Overeem's fists, Knaap turned onto his side and then completely onto his stomach, freely giving his opponent his back. Already having five victories via guillotine choke to his name -- including tap outs from Vitor Belfort and Igor Vovchanchyn, among others -- "The Reem" is no stranger to this position and knew exactly how to end the fight.
That end came only seconds later after his massive arm has been wrapped around Knaap's neck for a few seconds, cutting the air supply from his throat and threatening to crush his trachea. With three simple taps of a hand, a heavyweight beast was born.
Does "Ubereem" have what it takes to make it in the big leagues or is "The Reem" in over his head?
We will find out soon enough.