In a smashing Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut this past Friday (Dec. 30, 2011), Alistair Overeem introduced himself with a bang, dispatching Brock Lesnar in just 2:26 in the UFC 141 main event from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the history of the game's biggest promotion, there have rarely been bigger stages for an Octagon first-timer, and the Dutchman's larger-than-life showing landed him a shot at heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos. This was no figurative double lined into the right-center gap.
Overeem hit the ball out of the park.
There was much ground to cover for him, recognition-wise, with casual fans. Given his years of fighting in other organizations, compiling a highlight-reel list of victims, the soft-core mixed martial arts (MMA) aficionado may well have known little to nothing about him. And facing a known commodity in Lesnar, Overeem had a huge risk-reward prospect -- 266 pounds' worth -- across the cage.
Equal parts patient and lethal, he dominated Lesnar with the kind of big-man fury that makes heavyweight fights an animal all their own.
It's hard to remember anyone who may have bridged that such a massive public-recognition gap so readily in so brief a time. Now, Overeem finds himself slotted to face newly minted champ dos Santos, whose 64-second wipeout of Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1 was a massive performance, too.
Two freight trains colliding makes for eminently promotable fights. Two heavyweights on those tracks is can't-miss viewing, and the kind of promotional mojo the organization can take as solace from Lesnar's departure from the game.
Love him or hate him, the former champ and pro wrestling star was the UFC's pay-per-view (PPV) hammer, providing a huge bump and making the vaunted 1 million buy mark as a headliner a baseline expectation for his bouts. With Lesnar's exit, there's no go-to heavyweight at present to guarantee those kinds of numbers. But, it takes time and promotional heft to build a star on that scale, and highlight-reel performance like Overeem and dos Santos' are precisely the tools to do it.
As things stand for "The Reem," he may be the only heavyweight dos Santos can't dominate standing, or vice versa. It's something a lot of us will happily pay to see.
For what it's worth, dos Santos as a -240 favorite, with Overeem a +190 underdog. I'd expect that line to tighten up as the bout approaches for a couple reasons. First, dos Santos' recent knee surgery and pending recovery are a wild card. Second, Overeem is a decent value at that number, especially given his diverse weapons.
No firm date has been set for the bout, but given the UFC's schedule and dos Santos' recovery time, spring-early summer is the most likely window.
It can't come soon enough.