There's a new doctrine for those paying attention to UFC post-fight interviews.
It's not exactly, "Ask and ye shall receive," but it's closer to "Ask and your chances of receiving increase greatly."
On Sunday, Alistair Overeem, fresh from fourth win in a row, asked for the winner of this coming Saturday's Fabricio Werdum vs. Stipe Miocic fight for the heavyweight title. He went on to say he'd like the fight in November, in Madison Square Garden, and then to make his first title defense on a show next year in Amsterdam, Holland, where he grew up.
He may not get all of that, but in the battle for the next title shot between Overeem and Cain Velasquez, Overeem (41-14, 1 no contest) strongly helped his cause. Overeem defeated a former champion, Andrei Arlovski, with a TKO finish. In a sport where luck and timing are game changers, a top contender getting an impressive win one week before the title is defended is a lot better timing than fighting and possibly winning eight weeks later, which is the best Velasquez would have to offer.
Overeem also, in the post-fight press conference, pushed the line that he's got the best shot at a title win. While Velasquez's overall record against top tier competition is superior, Werdum did beat him, and Overeem does have a win over Werdum.
If the winner of the Werdum vs. Miocic fight comes in unscathed, UFC will be likely looking at booking them in a fight they can announce at some point sooner than two months from now. If Velasquez, the former champion who had a title shot but lost it due to needing back surgery, was to be considered, UFC would have to put all decisions on hold until after UFC 200. That's when Velasquez next fights, against Travis Browne.
With that timetable, Overeem is currently in the front of the line. And by talking, he reminded everyone of it.
Overeem makes the third fighter in recent weeks, Glover Teixeira and Michael Chiesa being the other two, to have asked for a specific match that is the most beneficial one to their career, and then getting it.
Teixeira vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, with the winner becoming top contender for the light heavyweight title, scheduled for the July 23 FOX card, is the natural and most logical match-up possible for both men,. But Teixeira asking for it at the April 16 FOX show likely helped his cause in getting the fight and having it on a high profile event.
Chiesa, who asked for Tony Ferguson on April 16, after he submitted Beneil Dariush, was officially announced on Sunday as getting the fight he wanted. He's also getting it in a main event position, on July 13 in Sioux Falls, S.D.
With all the depth at lightweight, it's likely Chiesa publicly pushing for the fight got it for him. Time will tell if his choice to face someone who may have otherwise been considered above his level will work out for him. A win over Ferguson will take Chiesa from just another lightweight who has won three in a row, to a guy who will be talked about for title consideration. And really, unless it's a blow-out, a loss won't hurt him much either.
Sunday's show was a huge success. The first UFC event in Holland sold out as soon as tickets were put on sale with an announced 10,421 fans at the Ahoy in Rottderdam. Holland is known in combat sports for being the home of some of the best kickboxers. MMA under various different rule incarnations has existed there since the 90s. But it is still more of a kickboxing country, a sport the fans have more familiarity with. From an MMA standpoint, this was its highest profile event ever in the country.
With wins in three of the four top fights by Holland's Overeem, Stefan Struve and Germaine de Randamie, all by stoppage, the loud fan base seemed to get what they wanted. The fans seemed to have an appreciation of the different skill sets. European fighters got their hands raised in all six main card fights, with other wins by Gunnar Nelson (Iceland), Nikita Krylov (Ukraine) and Karolina Kowalciewicz (Poland), It also helped that five of the six wins were stoppages and the sixth, Kowalciewicz's decision win over Heather Jo Clark, was clear cut, so there was none of the controversy about outcomes that has taken place on a number of shows this year.
Let's look at what the figure holds for five stars of Sunday's event:
ALISTAIR OVEREEM - From his arrival in UFC in 2011 when a 20 pounds larger version of Overeem finished Brock Lesnar in the first round, Overeem seemed like a potential heavyweight champion. The Lesnar win was the last one in a streak of 11 wins and one no-contest in his prior 12 fights.
Then, after three losses in his next four fights, all by knockout, Overeem seemed like an overhyped fighter who fattened up on a lesser level of competition on the unregulated Japanese scene. But his last two wins have been knockouts against former UFC champions, and he's got the 2011 decision win over current champion Werdum on his resume.
The heavyweight division in MMA is the most unique. It's an aging division which has had mostly the same cast of characters for years, so there aren't a lot of new matches out there. Overeem hasn't faced Velasquez or Miocic, and somehow never ended up crossing paths with Josh Barnett since Overeem was a light heavyweight in the Pride days.
But for now, if for some reason he doesn't end up getting the shot next, his most logical opponent would look to be Mark Hunt (12-10-1), who he beat back in 2008.
ANDREI ARLOVSKI - Arlovski (25-12, 1 no contest) was another fighter written off five years ago, but had a career resurgence working with Greg Jackson. A six-fight win streak had put him to where he was heavily talked about as an opponent for Werdum. But a loss to Miocic took him out of line. A next opponent could be Ben Rothwell (36-10), who he beat in 2008, or Barnett (34-8).
STEFAN STRUVE - At 28, Struve (31-8) is one of the few under-30 name heavyweights. He also has a win over Miocic, but battles with heart problems and a loss to Jared Rosholt in November knocked him out of the top 15.
His 16-second win over Antonio Silva puts him back in the game. A fight that makes sense would be with Ruslan Magomedov (14-1), but with Magomedov recovering from knee surgery, the timing may not work out. Frank Mir (18-11) would be a name fighter who he could face in the interim.
ANTONIO SILVA - With his fourth first-round knockout loss in his last five fights, all within three minutes, Silva (19-9, 1 no contest) may simply be done as a fighter. Then again, Overeem, Arlovski and Struve were all written off in recent years. But Silva is clearly not the same guy who survived a five-round war with Mark Hunt less than three years ago. But the only person who can make that decision is himself. If the UFC was to cut him, and he still wanted to fight, he would seem like exactly the type of fighter Bellator would go after.
GUNNAR NELSON - Nelson's win over Albert Tumenov was easily the biggest of his career. Nelson came into the UFC with great fanfare, but lost to Rick Story, a fighter who was not really considered a threat to him. Nelson's other career loss, to Demian Maia, was him beaten at his own submission game by someone who is one of the best grapplers in the company.
A good next test for him would be Neil Magny (18-4). It would be a tough test because Magny did lose to grappler Maia, but has been on a hot streak with ten wins in 11 fights. Another possible opponent would be Dong Hyun Kim (21-3-1), but there is more upward elevation possible right now beating Magny.