What’s next for Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem?
The end of a pair of classic UFC runs came to an end on March 3, when it was reported that the promotion had parted ways with both Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem.
Dos Santos made his Octagon debut in 2008 with an 80-second knockout of Fabricio Werdum at UFC 90. He’d eventually go on to score a first-round knockout of Cain Velasquez in the UFC on FOX premiere to win the UFC heavyweight championship. He’d have one successful title defense against Frank Mir before dropping the belt back to Velasquez and eventually losing the trilogy bout.
JDS would unsuccessfully challenge Stipe Miocic for the title at UFC 211 before some time away due to a USADA run-in. He’d win three straight but leaves the UFC off four straight KO/TKO losses. His Octagon career ends with a 15-8 UFC record.
Overeem, a former champion of Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1, had his own impactful UFC debut at UFC 141, knocking out Brock Lesnar. Despite losing three of his next four, he’d go on to win four straight and challenge Miocic for the heavyweight title at UFC 203, losing via first-round TKO. Since switching to Elevation Fight Team in 2018, Overeem had won four of five — which could have been five straight had he not lost to Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the closing seconds — before a loss to Alexander Volkov last month.
Both men are up there in age, with Overeem at 40 and already openly talking about retirement prior to this release. If either of them decides to continue on their MMA ventures, what promotions would most likely sign them?
Possible next homes for Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem
1. Bellator MMA
This is the most obvious choice, and probably the most likely. Bellator has been focused on a youth movement of sorts as of late, but they have shown they will still make moves for big-name free agents, such as Yoel Romero and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in December, as well as Cristiane Justino (aka Cris Cyborg) in mid-2019.
Overeem has a history with Bellator CEO Scott Coker, having once been the heavyweight face of Strikeforce. And at the time, Overeem was one of the biggest things about heavyweight MMA as held three heavyweight titles.
Overeem has shown he can still compete at a high level with some of the younger heavyweight talent. And looking at Bellator’s heavyweight roster, Overeem should be able to hang around — especially if he was able to be a top-five heavyweight in this era of the UFC. If he wanted to continue his path towards one more heavyweight title reign in MMA, the Bellator title is very achievable. And if he wanted just one or two more fights, Coker should be able to set him up with a big bang of an ending — perhaps even an Overeem vs. Fedor Emelianenko bout?
As for dos Santos, his losses have come to some of the best contenders in the UFC’s heavyweight scene, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to find his footing in Bellator’s heavyweight division. In fact, just like Overeem, JDS would be a top contender immediately upon signing with the promotion. His first fight may not be for the belt, but he’d most likely be put in a position where he’d need just a win or two — including potential fights with Chieck Kongo, Linton Vassell, Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov.
Come on. Even if you don’t think this is a realistic idea, would it not be fun as all hell?
Overeem may have never won a championship during his time in PRIDE, but he was a legendary competitor for that Japanese promotion, competing against the likes of Antonio Rogerio (“Lil Nog”) Nogueira, Vitor Belfort, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Fabricio Werdum, Ricardo Arona and even Chuck Liddell. Add in his experience in DREAM, and Overeem has even competed against the likes of Mark Hunt, Gary Goodridge and Mirko Filipovic (aka Mirko Cro Cop).
RIZIN may not have a heavyweight championship, but it would give Overeem the chance to compete in whatever kind of crazy bout the folks at RIZIN can come up with. Maybe they’ll throw him into a kickboxing rules match. Maybe they’ll put him in the ring with Bob Sapp. Maybe they’ll have him compete against a middleweight in some openweight slugfest.
It’s admittedly a little harder to see dos Santos in RIZIN, noting that he’s only competed in Brazilian promotions and the UFC during his career, and he doesn’t have experience with the PRIDE-based ruleset like Overeem does. Nonetheless, it’d be a fun possibility to picture JDS competing in similar types of situations if he, too, is winding down on his career.
There’s also the possibility for both that they can compete in both Bellator and RIZIN, given the promotions’ working partnership.
3. ONE Championship
To be honest, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) may have been a better third option over ONE Championship. But, the 2021 PFL rosters are locked in place. The PFL would be a possibility if either man is willing to wait until the 2022 season, but that’d be a while out of action — and considering the veteran status of Overeem and dos Santos, and both possibly winding down ‚— that might be too long a wait. The only way this might be a bit more possible is if they do one-off bouts — especially if they somehow wanted to give one to Overeem for a retirement bout.
But considering that second part is doubtful and the PFL has their 2021 rosters, let’s focus on ONE.
Just like the PFL and their recent big-name signings, ONE has been trying to make waves on the MMA scene since 2018 through the signings of talents like Demetrious Johnson, Eddie Alvarez and Sage Northcutt.
Signing a big deal with ONE would make Overeem and JDS arguably the biggest heavyweight names in the promotion, given ONE’s only bigger heavyweight names thus far are champion Brandon Vera, Alain Ngalani, Vitor Belfort (who hasn’t competed in ONE since signing with the promotion nearly two years ago) and Marcus Almeida (who’s making his debut in April).
ONE would certainly get the bigger benefit of signing both men, while the two athletes will have a fairly high chance at securing gold one more time. And for Overeem, going back to his PRIDE and K-1 history again, there’s the possibility of working bouts in kickboxing and Muay Thai, considering those kinds of bouts are sanctioned by ONE.