All it took was one opportunity. Just one opportunity, and the most hyped heavyweight the UFC had to offer was out like a light, lying on the Octagon mat.

The landscape of the UFC heavyweight division changed in that instant. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva had knocked out Alistair Overeem. It was the shot heard around the world. Overeem was the favorite—the better striker, the better fighter—yet somehow Silva didn’t get the memo. Silva was supposedly destined to lose, but he didn’t.

Instead, a flurry of punches led to the most iconic knockout of the last year. A defeated Overeem laid on the ground after months of being borderline arrogant—or definitely arrogant, depending on where you stand on the subject.

Overeem didn’t think Silva had it in him. Look where that got him. Now he is here, in this position.

After an injury forced Overeem out of his fight with Junior dos Santos, he is now stuck in the fighter’s conundrum of waiting to see how the chips fall. Does dos Santos lose to Mark Hunt, therefore setting up the fight Overeem wanted all along with the former heavyweight champion? Does Overeem get a shot at redeeming himself against Silva? Should Overeem just fight another middling opponent to get his confidence back?

Fans certainly would want to see Overeem fight dos Santos after all this time, regardless of whether dos Santos wins or loses versus Hunt at UFC 160. Overeem got knocked out by the likes of Silva, who doesn’t have the boxing credentials of dos Santos, who owns 12 career knockout victories.

It’s all dependent on whether or not dos Santos loses, and even then, dos Santos probably wouldn’t be ready in time for the UFC 164 target set for Overeem’s return. So now Overeem is stuck here waiting. Instead of a fight with dos Santos or a title tilt, he’s now just trying to get a fight with the best possible opponent he can find.

Stefan Struve is one option that makes sense for a returning Overeem. Struve, with his kickboxing background, would bring out the best in Overeem. The Dutch fighter is somebody who would stand and go toe-to-toe with Overeem. Better yet for Overeem, Struve has a tendency to be on the wrong end of highlight-reel knockouts. It would showcase all that Overeem is—a K-1 champion kickboxer with a punch that shakes the stadium each time it lands—and give Overeem the opportunity to score a confidence-inducing knockout win.

Struve is a middle-of-the-pack heavyweight, but he is also a fringe top-10 heavyweight. In other words, he is someone with just enough relevance to serve as a rebound opponent for Overeem. The fight would be entertaining, as both guys go back and forth trying to outstrike each other. It would also be a great test for Overeem, as not only is Struve coming in with a professional kickboxing background, but he also holds 16 submission victories in MMA and could give Overeem a run for his money in the grappling department. Plus, it also helps that Struve is bigger at 7-foot tall and with a reach of 84.5 inches. He makes for a somewhat credible opponent and one that could aide Overeem in recapturing some of the momentum that Overeem lost when he fell to Silva.

Another fight that could interest Overeem is a go at somebody slightly higher in the rankings and on a losing streak of his own: Frank Mir. Mir’s last two fights have been against top fighters like dos Santos and Daniel Cormier. Feeding him to Overeem wouldn’t make much sense, considering Mir’s two-fight losing streak, but the former UFC champion has always fought the best regardless of whether he was on a winning or losing streak.

Both fighters could use the fight to propel themselves back into title contention. They’re both recognizable names and highly ranked heavyweights. It would also be a test for both fighters. Overeem holds a huge advantage in terms of striking, whereas Mir’s jiu-jitsu black belt and nine submission wins give him the distinct edge in grappling. Mir’s grappling was good enough to submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and we can safely say he’s the best submission artist at heavyweight.

A fight with Mir could easily be a co-main event on a pay-per-view card or the main event on Fox, FX, Fuel or Fox Sports 1, take your pick.

Then, there’s Travis Browne, the apparent front-runner for the honor of fighting Overeem at UFC 164. Browne, like Overeem, met up with Bigfoot’s fists and lost via TKO to Silva. Browne had injured his leg early in the fight with Silva, and is on his own quest for redemption. Browne has been climbing up the rankings since entering the UFC, but he certainly makes for the toughest possible adversary that Overeem could face. Browne is coming off a “Knockout of the Night” victory over Gabriel Gonzaga and is healthy now. Putting him in the cage with Overeem could create a much closer fight than having the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ lock horns with either Struve or Mir.

It may be the best fight from a matchmaking standpoint, but Overeem would be taking the most risk in this affair. He could find himself stunned and half-conscious on the mat once again, and this time the result might haunt Overeem’s long-term chances for a title bid.

Overeem has three ways he can go here, and all cases he comes out big with a win. Mir offers a significant payday and a bigger chance at marketing his comeback, Struve offers a safer fight with a more determined outcome, and Browne offers a big risk with an even bigger reward. It’s just up to Overeem to decide which route to take. Will it be the easy win and a chance to earn back his title shot without having to break a sweat, or a tougher fight with more money and a better chance at marketing his comeback to once again be the No. 1 contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division?

Photo: Alistair Overeem (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.