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Missed Fists: The beginning of Alistair Overeem’s two decades of demolition

Alistair Overeem at an MMA event in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on March 18, 2001
Yann Michael, YouTube

Welcome to the latest edition of Missed Fists, where we shine a light on fights from across the globe that may have been overlooked in these hectic times where it seems like there’s an MMA show every other day.

In one of the cooler quirks of this past weekend, Alistair Overeem finished his main event fight with Walt Harris at UFC on ESPN 8, just minutes before the calendar turned over to May 17, the date of Overeem’s 40th birthday, on the East Coast. It was the 46th win of his career.

Overeem also became just the third man to win a fight in four different decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s), a list that includes him, Aleksei Oleinik, and Missed Fists patron saint Shannon Ritch – and that’s it. Vitor Belfort could join them when he debuts with ONE Championship.

To celebrate, let’s look back on the earliest days of “The Reem,” before he became an MMA Mainstay, and a couple of his K-1 clips just for funsies. It should be mentioned that most of these bouts appear to be of the mixed rules variety, as opposed to “pure MMA” as we know it.

Fight No. 1: vs. Ricardo Fyeet — Oct. 24, 1999

AL: Look at this young gunner. That’s a 19-year-old Overeem fighting for the first time. His opponent? The absolutely terrifying Ricardo Fyeet. We’re going to be talking a lot about how Overeem’s look evolved over the years, but I don’t know if he ever matched whatever it is Fyeet had going on here.

JM: Well from a pure style point, no. No one has ever matched Ricardo Fyeet here, except maybe “Rufio” in Hook.

Can we mention again how wild it is that Overeem is one of two fighters to ever win bouts in FOUR different decades. He’s the Vince Carter of beating ass!

AL: The graphic is cut off, but it looks like this event was sponsored by some sort of live sex show. At least now he works for a reputable company that works with such sponsors as Reebok and Manscaped.

JM: You know, I was just wondering what the official electric trimmer of the UFC was, and now I have my answer. I can finally sleep tonight.

AL: A good sign that Overeem was marked for greatness? He rockets out of his corner with a flying knee. That’s the first strike he threw in his MMA career...think about that.

JM: We might as well get this out of the way now: If you’ve never seen early Overeem fight, you’re in for a bit of a culture shock, dear reader. Before he became THE REEM, Overeem was a beanpole kickboxer with a wicked sharp grappling game, as you see here.

AL: Seventeen of his first 31 wins were by submission!

There’s some wild brawling, but for the most part Overeem realizes it’s a good idea to trip Fyeet down when he can to slow the pace of the fight. Eventually he just grabs the dude’s head and chokes him out. That’s a recurring theme in the early stages of his career, as a lot of his wins came from him tripping up less well-rounded kickboxers.

JM: Yeah, Overeem can kickbox. He’a a K-1 champion after all. But why get punched in the face when instead you can just twist some hapless fool up into a pretzel?

Fight No. 3: vs. Chris Watts — Feb. 6, 2000

AL: After dropping a decision in his RINGS debut to Yuriy Kochkine, Overeem bounced back with his first TKO victory in his fight against Watts. This fight lasts longer than his first one, but he’s even more in control here. Watch how he spams that clinch knee-trip combo. If it ain’t broken, don’t break it, like Charles Oakley used to say.

JM: I’m really in love with the pumping house music that is introing all of these fighters.

AL: Maybe the best part of this whole exercise.

JM: I think that is what’s wrong with MMA. The culture never advanced past the 2000s Affliction era, when really, it should’ve stagnated with 90s everything. Give me house music and Saved by the Bell color schemes all day.

AL: Don’t forget the hair styles. But we’ll get to that.

JM: Overeem beats Watts by unveiling the devastating knee attacks that will go on to be a staple of his game for over two decades. But I’m more interested in the start of this bout. Overeem walks to the ring without gloves on, but then, he has them on when it’s fight time. Did he not get his hands wrapped? Has this always been the case with RINGS, and I’ve just never noticed before?

Fight No. 4: vs. Can Sahinbas — March 5, 2000

AL: Yes, that’s right. He’s literally fighting a Can here.

JM: Oh man. This is definitely the best music so far.

AL: This would be perfect for a Jordan Jamming edit.

JM: I’m vibing this hard. Almost as much as I’m digging “Allister” Overeem. Just think of the possibilities: Allister “The Alligator” Overeem.

AL: Ah yes, how could I forget the MMA tradition of having the spelling of your name butchered to begin your career? First it was “Allistair” and now, Allister. Getting colder.

JM: Also, poor Can. More like Cannot, amirite?

AL: Once again, we see The Reem using intelligent grappling to control his opponent. See? We told you there was a pattern. The difference this time around is, he blows Sahinbas away with a knee, as he would to so many future victims.

JM: Yeah man, Overeem was four fights into his career, and we already saw the bones of all of his success. Slick grappling and savage knees.

Fight No. 8: vs. Peter Verschuren — Dec. 12, 2000

AL: We’re really just mentioning this fight because of Overeem’s hair. Brutal.

Let’s just pretend this was an homage to Kevin Randleman if that makes it any better.

JM: He went full Melvin Guillard (except for the part where he immediately started grappling). Never go full Melvin Guillard.

AL: Overeem was just 4-3 heading into this one and coming off of the first losing streak of his career. This win over Verschuren was the first of 12 straight, and he wouldn’t lose consecutive fights again until 2006, when he faced a murderer’s row of Lil Nog, Ricardo Arona, and Shogun.

JM: Now that is all true. And far be it from me to disparage The Great and Powerful Reem. But uh, that win streak doesn’t exactly jump out at you as far as a who’s who.

AL: I know you’re not dismissing the likes of Sergey “The Kid” Kaznov, Moises “Swamp” Rimbon, Dave “My Name is Almost a Palindrome” Vader, Aaron “The Frijolero” Brink, and Mike “Batman” Bencic.

JM: Just saying, Travis Fulton had a win streak of 40 at one point, and not one of them was a porn star, as far as I know. (I kid, I kid. While Aaron Brink was never good, he fought some good names in his time, including Alistair’s older brother, Valentijn #themoreyouknow).

Also, shouts to the commentator here who sounds stunningly sophisticated while talking about a dude getting his arm snapped in half.

Fight No. 10: vs. Stanislav Nuschik — March 18, 2001

AL: You know we had to include this for the walkout alone. Look at that manly man. Bas Rutten was handling ring announcing duties, and I’m nearly certain that when you see Overeem whisper into his ear, he said, ‘Hey, don’t forget the whole ‘Demolition Man’ thing.’”

JM: 2 Hot 2 Handle is one of my favorite MMA organization names of all time. I think it might just be because of 2 Fast 2 Furious.

AL: Needs no further justification.

JM: I’m a simple man.

Also, speaking of porn stars, Overeem comes out to this fight looking like a male stripper who just missed the cut for a Village People cover group. Maybe it’s just the music, but shouts to the producer who cut to the woman in the audience when Overeem started his sledgehammer walkout.

AL: She’s really buzzing about it! Strong bachelorette party vibes.

JM: He’s carrying a sledgehammer. Into a fight! I’d be buzzing too.

Also, I’m going to stop poking fun at The Reem, because I don’t want him to ever knee me like that. It looks unpleasant, to say the least. When someone is asking you, “What’s your name? What day is it?” You know you’ve made a mistake somewhere down the line.

Fight No. 13: vs. Vesa Vuori — May 26, 2002

AL: This was Overeem’s last fight before making his PRIDE debut. As you can see, by this time, they’d got that whole name thing down. He’d finally made it.

JM: The Demolition Man is such a blah nickname. For one, he’s mostly tapping people out. For two, he looks like he’s 17 years old. Man is a stretch.

And for three, if you’re going to be “The Demolition Man,” you need to go full send on it. Get the bleach blond Simon Phoenix flat top. Don’t just carry around a hammer. Commit, dammit!

Also, this music slaps. I recognize that has nothing to do with anything else, but Overeem needs to come out to jams like this again. Recapture that youthful magic.

AL: He’d bleached his hair enough up to this point, thank you very much.

There’s a new wrinkle here as he shows some ground-and-pound in addition to just controlling Vuori when he gets him down. This is one reason why Overeem has been able to stay relevant. You see a fighter with no ego, one who is constantly learning and adapting. He looks so much more refined just two and a half years after the Fyeet fight.

JM: Maybe it’s that he’s getting better. Maybe it’s that he fought a 0-0 fighter in his 13th professional fight. Who can say?

Not gonna lie, having never done a deep dive into early Overeem before, it makes a lot of sense why they matched him up with Chuck Liddell in round one of Pride Total Elimination 2003 – trying to set up a Murilo Bustamante rematch for Liddell. But Quinton “Rampage” Jackson mucked it all up.

AL: The objective of this feature was strictly to focus on Overeem’s career before making the jump to the big show. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least a couple of his kickboxing ventures.

There was the first meeting with kickboxing superstar Bard Hari in K-1, that ended with Overeem crumpling him with a vicious left hook.

JM: You’re not gonna catch me saying anything bad about K-1 Overeem. Man did some real things here. I will just note this is when Overeem officially locked in the Barry Bonds parallels though.

AL: Yes, perhaps readers needed more of a warning before we jumped seven years ahead from 2 Hot 2 Handle to the “Ubereem” era.

JM: The MMA world didn’t get much of one.

Overeem got SWOLE and focused on his power game, and he stopped doing the things that made him actually awesome (grappling/anything other than power hitting). And like Bonds, the manner in which he got SWOLE is hotly contested.

AL: Vitamins, water, and a healthy sleep schedule.

JM: “Horse meat,” bruh. Horse meat.

AL: And then there was the legendary knee knockout of Ewerton Teixeira that actually resulted in K-1 changing their rules surrounding the legality of clinch knees.

JM: Whenever you literally break an organization’s rules because you’re so violent, you know you’ve done something either incredibly wrong or incredibly right. In this instance, it’s a bit of both as The Reem provides us with A++ violence, but also probably took a few years of Teixeira’s life.

AL: It was a safe bet that Teixeira would not have as long a career as Overeem after this. Then again, few ever will.

JM: The man only just turned 40. It’s not inconceivable to think he could keep fighting for another decade.

AL: See you all back here in 10.

If you know of a recent fight or event that you think may have been overlooked, or a promotion that could use some attention, please let us know on Twitter – @JedKMeshew and @AlexanderKLee – using the hashtag #MissedFists.

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