Alistair Overeem has all the accolades one could ask for in his fighting career minus being a UFC champion, but he’s been right at the top of the mountain several times. Overeem is a former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, former DREAM interim heavyweight champion, as well as a former K-1 World Grand Prix champion, and while those accolades certainly carry significance, Curtis Blaydes is coming to jump over the legend.
With only one loss and one no contest being the blemishes on his young professional MMA career, Curtis Blaydes has his own accolades to bring with him on Saturday night when he faces Overeem. Blaydes won the NJCAA National Championship while he attended Harper College and has utilized his wrestling background to help propel his young career inside MMA, especially in the UFC.
Although it was later overturned to a no contest, Blaydes had one of the most dominant performances of his career back when he faced Adam Milstead and was successful on 8 of his 10 takedown attempts which led to a TKO victory when Milstead suffered a knee injury. Blaydes bounced back from that no contest ruling and went on to win his next three fights, including his most recent against another former legend in Mark Hunt.
In his fight against Hunt, Blaydes landed 10 takedowns that helped him control and dominate Hunt on the ground, but even more impressively, was able to survive the heavy hands of Hunt and secured his biggest victory to date. In defeating Hunt, it became clear that Blaydes belong along the best in the heavyweight division, and now the conversation turns into title talk as he prepares to take on Overeem.
There’s no more questioning or doubting if Curtis Blaydes should be at the top of the heavyweight division, the only question is, when will he get his first UFC title shot? The answer could come quickly if victorious in front of his hometown crowd on Saturday night.
Born in Chicago, Blaydes has been very open about how excited he is to be on the big stage in front of his hometown crowd, and there’s every reason to get behind him if you’re part of the local fan-base. He’s already defeated one legend and will take on another in Overeem, and with the heavyweight division looking for a new contender, Blaydes could ink his name atop the list.
His only loss came on short notice against Francis Ngannou when he made his UFC debut, but to think that he’s the same fighter from that fight would be a very foolish assumption. Blaydes has shown improvements in every aspect of his game with each fight since his debut, and while Stipe Miocic will face Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title at UFC 226, just the thought of a possible matchup between Blaydes-Miocic or even Blaydes-Cormier, should make fans overly excited, especially those who enjoy good wrestlers.
Those from Chicago fight, that’s just what they do, and Curtis Blaydes is the clear definition of a fighter. The possibility of defeating two heavyweight legends back-to-back not only cements his place in the division, but turns the conversation into a new fresh face for the division. While Francis Ngannou was all the hype and talk earlier this year, when he stepped inside to face Miocic, the champion used wrestling and his IQ to show that Ngannou was simply not ready for championship level fighting.
What more would there be left to prove for Blaydes with a win over Overeem? He’d have to wait to see what unfolds in his division following UFC 226 and there’s still the potential return of Cain Velasquez, but Blaydes’ time is right now. There would be no reason to put him up against a returning Velasquez or another heavyweight that’s not the champion if he comes out with a victory.
As he has the hometown crowd behind him and with his stock rising in the division, Blaydes’ skill set has proven to be among the most versatile in his division. At UFC 225 Curtis Blaydes won’t just be looking for a win over Overeem, he’ll be looking to put the heavyweight division on notice. He’s not here for a one-punch knockout highlight, he’s here to fight for the UFC heavyweight title, because being from Chicago, there’s nothing more that a fighter wants than championship gold.
Mike Pendleton is a current contributor to MyMMANews, BJPenn.com, and TheScrap.Co while also hosting his “On The Mic” podcast and works as an Associate Producer on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation channel.
With a special passion for interviewing and talking to some of the very best around the fight game, you can read or listen to Mike’s work across his multiple outlets.
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