Alistair Overeem waited six-and-a-half years to make his MMA return to the Netherlands. And he needed just over six minutes to become a winner in his homeland.
Overeem used a ferocious finishing flurry to defeat Jackson's MMA teammate Andrei Arlovski in the main event of UFC Fight Night 87 in the UFC's debut in Rotterdam on Sunday. He won the heavyweight bout via TKO at 1:12 of the second round.
While Arlovski, the former UFC heavyweight champion, had his moments in the opening round, particularly in a fast start, Overeem got his bearings and turned the fight in his favor.
But it was early in the second round that he finished things off. A wicked kick to the jaw was followed with a left to the jaw that dropped Arlovski. A follow-up onslaught of ground strikes led to the fight getting waved off.
Overeem appeared to break the big toe on his kicking foot with the fight-changing face kick, but the doctor popped it back into place after the fight.
"My toe was on a 45-degree angle," said Overeem (41-14, 1 NC). "I was like ‘no, I didn't hurt myself,' the medic put it back in. it might have been falling off, I don't know."
Overeem has won four straight fights with three finishes in that stretch. He wants the winner of the UFC 198 heavyweight title fight between Fabricio Werdum and Stipe Miocic and he wants it at Madison Square Garden.
"We're going to get that belt in Nov, Nov 12 at Madison Square Garden, said Overeem, who fought in his homeland for the first time since a submission win over Tony Sylvster on Oct. 17, 2009 in Amsterdam. "Then next year im going to defend the belt in Amsterdam Arena."
Arlovski (25-11, 1 NC) has been TKOd in each of his past two fights.
In the co-feature bout, Stefan Struve's return to his homeland was a memorable affair. The 28-year old from Beverwijk, Netherlands needed just 15 second to finish former Elite XC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva via TKO.
Struve landed an uppercut, then a shot to the body in the clinch which dropped Silva to the mat. A series of elbows to the side of the head of the downed Silva caused referee Leon Roberts to step in and wave off the bout.
"It's huge. This win means everything to me. I take things one step at a time, like I always have. So now I'll go back and train and wait to see what happens," said Struve, who has won two of his past three bouts."
In a welterweight bout, Gunnar Nelson had a resounding answer for the critics of his one-sided UFC 194 loss to Demian Maia. Nelson (15-2-1) held his own standing with striker Albert Tumenov and overwhelmed him on the mat before finishing him with a rear-naked choke at 3:15 of the second round.
Nelson surprised the crowd by coming out swinging against the hard hitting Tumenov (17-3), who has 11 knockout wins. When Tumenov turned up the heat, though, Nelson effortlessly took the fight to the ground, both in the first and second rounds. By the second, Tumenov had enough, as he tapped when Nelson sunk in the choke.
Nelson's 11th career submission victory was also his second win his past three fights.
Sunday proved to be the most memorable night of Germaine de Randamie's MMA career. The 32-year-old bantamweight from Utrecht, Netherlands, was given a hero's welcome in her homeland. Then she went out and put on a beautiful performance against Anna Elmose.
De Randamie (6-3) stalked Elmose and then finally wore her down in the clinch. A series of knees set up the final knee to the midsection, which sent Elmose crumpling to the mat for the KO at 3:46 as the crowd roared.
De Randamie has won two straight bouts and is 3-1 in the UFC.
"I just wish I could do that walk out all over again," DeRandamie said. "The crowd lifted me above earth, beyond anything I could ever have imagined. They made me feel like I was the UFC women's bantamweight champion of the world when I walked out. So now, there is nothing else for me to do than to bring the belt home to them."
Nikita Krylov only knows one way to move in the Octagon: Forward. And the 24-year-old Ukrainian poured it onto an overmatched Francimar Barroso until he got the finish in their light heavyweight bout.
Krylov finished Barroso (18-5) at 3:11 of the second round by rear-naked choke to improve to 20-4. All 20 victories have been by way of finish, with 13 submissions. He's won four straight fights.
"I am happy with the win," Krylov said. "He gave me his back and there was the finish for me to take. Before the fight I didn't think about him as an opponent, but yes he was tough, his kicks were quite solid, his ground game was also quite good. When he punched me I could feel he was tough. Whoever they put me in front of next, I will prepare for him, I will face him and we will see."
In the main card opener Poland's Karolina Kowalkiewicz continued her rise in the strawweight division, as she got the best of the always-tough Heather Jo Clark.
Clark (7-5) has never been finished in her pro career, and she went the distance Sunday. But it wasn't for a lack of trying, as Kowalkiewicz took it to her for 15 minutes. She overwhelmed Clark with volume, throwing punches in bunches and landing both at range and in the clinch.
Kowalkiewicz took a unanimous decision on a pair of 29-28s and a 30-27, improving to 9-0 overall and 2-0 in the UFC.
"I feel really good right now," Kowalkiewicz said. "I knew Heather was a very tough girl and I expected her to give me a tough fight so that wasn't a surprise to me. Next I want to fight somebody from the top five in the division. I will be the champion one day, you will see."
In the featured prelim bout, lightweight Chris Wade (11-2) nailed Rustam Khabilov with a nasty head kick in the second round. But while the kick would have finished many opponents, Khabilov shook it off and was back in control of the fight within a minute.
Khabilov (20-3) resumed dominating the fight with trademark Dagestani relentlessness, earning a unanimous decision on scores of 30-27 and a pair of 29-28s for his second consecutive victory.
"I feel great," Khabilov said. "I expected his punches and I saw those coming but I didn't see the kicks, so that changed the fight a bit but I was able to recover."