This time last year, not many people would have predicted that Stipe Miocic would be preparing to defend his UFC heavyweight title against a rampaging Alistair Overeem. Well, that's where the heavyweight division finds itself, and there is a case to suggest this could well be one of the most exciting title fights to come between now and the end of the year. After Miocic stunned the world by knocking our Fabricio Werdum in front of 45,000 stunned Brazilians at UFC 198, Overeem will now finally have his chance to get his hands on UFC gold having been granted his title shot after a four-fight win streak.
After his explosive arrival in the UFC, beating Brock Lesner in his debut, Overeem had been in danger of going down as one of the biggest flops in the organisation's history. The former Strikeforce, Dream and K1 champion suffered crushing KO losses to Antonio Silva, Travis Browne and Ben Rothwell after his Lesner win, albeit scraping a narrow points win over Frank Mir during that time. That run seems a long time ago now, though, with the Dutchman coming off the back of four straight wins, three coming by way of knockout, all against top-15 contenders.
It says a lot about Overeem's recent form that he currently finds himself priced at 11/10 with the latest Bet365 odds going into UFC 203. Having returned to the win column following his loss to Rothwell with a stoppage of fellow Dutchman Stefan Struve, Reem followed that up with a comprehensive points win over Roy Nelson. If these two wins bought the veteran some time and possibly saved his UFC career, his next two victories really saw him shoot up the rankings and earn his title shot.
It wasn't just the way Overeem knocked out Junior Dos Santos at the end of last year, but the way in which he controlled the entire fight against the former champion before landing a delightful left hook that brought the bout to an end in the second round that was really impressive. While Dos Santos didn't look anything like his best in the fight, Overeem's win was made even more eye catching by the Brazilian rebounding from that defeat to hand a beating to Ben Rothwell, who had been on a four-fight win streak.
Knowing he was within touching distance of a title shot, Overeem followed up his stoppage of Dos Santos with a sensational knockout of training partner Andrei Arlovski in May to earn himself a bout against the champion - which will now be Miocic after the unassuming Cleveland ripped the belt from Werdum. While the defending champion might not have the same aura as some of the men who have recently worn the belt, it would be extremely risky for Overeem to underestimate a fighter who is coming off three tremendous stoppage wins, all of which have come against top contenders.
If he can go on and win the title, though, Overeem would complete one of the most incredible journeys to the belt in UFC history.