By Jason Kelly www.twitter.com/jaykaymma
While Fedor Emelianenko was falling victim to the much larger Antonio Silva in the opening round of Strikeforce’s heavyweight Grand Prix last weekend, cageside spectator and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem might have let his mind wander to a bout in which he might enjoy the same advantage.
“It would be great if Strikeforce can do a co-promotion with UFC,” Overeem told MMA DieHards. “(Then) I could fight someone like Cain Velasquez.”
Similar to the Fedor-Silva fight, Velasquez would be the much smaller man in a fight with Overeem. But with politics and business rendering that scenario unlikely, Overeem must be content to remain the favorite to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
For now, Overeem is concentrating on winning the Grand Prix, not thinking about lack of opponents or where else he can fight, including the UFC.
“At the moment I would say no (to the UFC) because I’m very happy with Strikeforce, but if there is nobody that wants to fight me then I will take any offer serious,” Overeem explained.
While the largest roadblock to the Grand Prix title is obviously not Velasquez, it appears to be the dangerous Fabricio Werdum, his quarterfinal opponent.
Whether the “Demolition Man” is demolishing foes in Japan or in the United States, it is nearly always an exciting fight that usually ends with Overeem’s counterpart laying on the canvas trying to figure out what happened.
Overeem’s long list of knockouts and submission wins, plus the fact that he has not lost in over three years, has earned him recognition as one of the best heavyweights in the sport. As champion of the promotion, his assessment of Fedor-Silva carries extra weight.
“Fedor fought like a lion,” Overeem said. “He gave everything to get out, but Silva was just too strong.”
A vast majority of the MMA community was counting out Silva, yet Overeem viewed the match up as almost equal.
“I wasn’t very surprised,” said Overeem. “When the fight was announced I was thinking of a 60-40 (edge) in favor of Fedor, but after seeing how confident Silva was I changed it into 50-50. Silva fought a perfect game plan and he knew what he had to do to beat Fedor.”
Even though Fedor himself mentioned thoughts of retirement after the loss, Overeem does not think this will be the end for the Russian.
“No, (Fedor’s) not done as a fighter, but these two losses will affect him for sure,” Overeem said.
Emelianenko is someone who Overeem had his eye on for a few years, but the fight never materialized and now Fedor has back-to-back losses. The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix had the potential to make this fight happen in the semifinals, which was enticing to the champion, but that is not where his focus lies.
“To be honest, Fedor’s not my priority right now,” Overeem admitted. “My priority is winning the Strikeforce Grand Prix title and my first fight is going to be Werdum. That fight is the only one on my mind. If I win I will face Silva, (and) that would be the next challenge, so thinking of a Fedor fight right now is not very smart to do because there are amazing fights waiting for me in Strikeforce.”
Werdum was the first man to finish Emelianenko, and he also holds a submission win over the “Demolition Man.” Those submission skills are something Overeem is very aware of going into this fight.
“We all know he’s a BJJ specialist,” Overeem said. “His ground game is one of the best, if not the best, in the world, so I have to be cautious for that.”
Although Overeem does not hold a belt in jiu-jitsu, he is still well-versed on the ground and says he is prepared for Werdum.
“My ground game has always been solid,” Overeem stated. “I don’t want to go as far as saying my ground game is better than his, but this is MMA. There are more things you have to keep in mind, like for example BJJ. The improvement I’m going through is an overall improvement so my ground game is better now compared to my first fight with Werdum.”
Constant improvement is something Overeem displays every time he competes, whether he is winning K-1 tournaments or challenging himself in Strikeforce. After winning the K-1 tournament in December, Overeem was hoping for a little vacation time, but that wish went relatively unfulfilled.
“I wanted some holiday time after my four fights in December,” Overeem said. “I just came back from doing a PR
tour in the States promoting Strikeforce Grand Prix tournament and myself, (but) I’m going to start training again next week.
“I will train like I always do, but I will organize a training camp. I mostly have a special training camp in preparation of my fight. I’m thinking of going to Thailand to train there.”
While the K-1 champion awaits his initial bout in the Strikeforce Grand Prix, a teammate of his from Golden Glory has already competed and won his first bout in the tournament. Sergei Kharitonov dismantled Andrei Arlovski in the first round of their quarterfinal match, and Overeem is exceptionally proud of his friend.
“Kharitonov was very motivated and it showed in the fight,” said Overeem. “He was waiting for the moment to capitalize. His knockout was just brutal; what a great finish for Kharitonov.”
Fedor may be eliminated from the tournament, but Overeem admits that there is tough completion remaining.
“I think that Kharitonov and Antonio Silva showed us that they are the toughest fighters in the tournament,” Overeem said.
It was not too long ago when Overeem left Strikeforce to compete in Japan because of the lack of worthy opponents in the Strikeforce heavyweight division. Now Strikeforce has a solid stable of heavyweights and has thrown the majority of them in this tournament, which could result once again in a lack of matchups should Overeem win the tournament. However, the heavyweight champion does not anticipate that happening.
“It’s always difficult to find suitable opponents,” Overeem admitted. “But Strikeforce (has) a big pool of heavyweight fighters, so there will be no problem to find opponents. Although Fedor is out of the tournament, a superfight with him would be something that fans would like to see.”
There are a few opponents that stand before Overeem in Strikeforce, and after that we may or may not see him in the UFC.
But you never know. After all, a fight between Overeem and the UFC champ sounds exciting to just about everyone, especially the “Reem.”