At UFC 156, heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem will make his long-awaited return to the octagon. Following a nine-month suspension, the hulk from Holland will meet Brazil’s Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in a fight that will likely produce the next No. 1 contender to Cain Velasquez’s heavyweight title.
Overeem said he’s happy and pleased to be back in the mix after the long layoff. The chance at the heavyweight belt is within his massive reach, and all that stands in his way is a fighter he said he doesn’t see any problems with.
“It’s just a matter of time in my sense,” Overeem said recently. “We still have one more mountain to climb; that’s ‘Bigfoot.’ To be honest, I do not see any problems. It’s going to be an exciting day [on Saturday].
Clearly, the Dutch striker is confident he’ll get passed Silva at the Feb. 2 fight card in Las Vegas. It will be the second time he’s had to go through a contender before getting a title opportunity. The first time this happened, he beat former champ Brock Lesnar before scheduling to fight then-champion Junior dos Santos. A positive test for elevated levels of testosterone put a stop to that title tilt, and forced the nine-month absence.
But Overeem isn’t the only one saying he’s next in line for the gold. Silva, who lost to Velasquez in devastating fashion at UFC 146 last May, is positive he’ll get his rematch with the two-time heavyweight champ.
Silva said he’s focused on Overeem and winning on Saturday, but after that he’ll meet Velasquez in a rematch.
“I waited for this fight for two years,” Silva said recently, referring to his long overdue bout with with Overeem. “After Feb. 2, I’m going to see Cain Velasquez.”
With talk like that, one would assume there’s extra pressure headed into Saturday’s heavyweight showdown. The more the better, said Overeem, but it’s no different than any other fight. Whether or not it’s for a title shot makes no difference to him. He said the job still has to be handled, regardless of circumstances.
“There’s always pressure [and] tension. I like that. That’s my fuel,” Overeem said. “But every fight is the same — you have to get the job done … Winning the next fight is the most important thing, [whether it’s] for a title or not.”
As for Bigfoot, his two-year wait for Overeem will finally end on Saturday. Before and during that time period, Overeem collected a number of championship belts outside of the UFC. One of the most notable belts was the K-1 title he earned in 2010, fighting in the World Grand Prix. The win gave Overeem the reputation in many circles for being the best striker in the heavyweight division.
Silva recognized his opponent’s efforts in the K-1 ring, calling him the best striker the UFC has on its roster. But that’s not going to matter on Saturday, according to Silva. The UFC is a different arena, and kickboxing belts don’t shake Silva’s confidence going into the 256-pound matchup in Las Vegas.
“He’s a complete guy, the best striker in the UFC,” Silva said. “But this is not kickboxing, it’s not a K-1 fight.
“I’m going to win this fight.”
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