source: Damon Martin | mmaweekly.com
Call it the UFC curse. Call it the UFC jitters. Call it whatever you want, but there’s definitely something that happens to a lot of first-time UFC fighters in their debut fights in the Octagon.
Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the proof has been shown in so many big stage fights. A fighter comes over from another organization where they’ve either been extremely dominant or been a champion in another promotion, but when they have their first fight in the UFC, it’s like night and day.
Coming off his incredible run through the Pride Grand Prix and being ranked as the top light heavyweight in the world, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua laid an egg with his first fight in the UFC, losing by submission to future champion Forrest Griffin.
While it wasn’t a loss, no one would call Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s first fight in the UFC against Eddie Sanchez a whirlwind performance, especially after his run through the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix just before that bout.
Jake Shields, after dominating Dan Henderson for the better part of 25 minutes in Strikeforce, came to the UFC and struggled mightily against Martin Kampmann in his first UFC performance.
Now there’s Alistair Overeem, who will finally make his UFC debut this weekend against Brock Lesnar at UFC 141. There’s a lot of hype to live up to for the Dutchman. Overeem is a former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, a former K-1 Grand Prix champion, a former Dream heavyweight champion, and now he has to show that all of that prepared him for the biggest stage in all of MMA.
Going into the fight, Overeem isn’t worried about what any other fighter did in the past. As a matter of fact, he’s predicting an even better performance because when the most is on the line, he exceeds expectations.
“Well, I’ve been fighting in the States before because I fought for Strikeforce, I believe four or five times,” said Overeem recently. “Pressure, I don’t really see it as pressure. Of course, UFC is a hundred times bigger than Strikeforce. UFC is huge and there is a lot of media attention on it.
“But the thing is, the nice aspect about me is the bigger the fight, the bigger the media attention, the more people come to watch, the better that I am. So the bigger it is, the better for me.”
Can Overeem go where few fighters have gone before him in their UFC debut on such a big stage?
For all of the instances where past champions failed to explode onto the scene in their debut fight in the UFC, there have been performances where people were blown away.
After a long career fighting in Japan and the U.K., Anderson Silva made his UFC debut and mauled Chris Leben in his first fight out of the gates. He’s now gone on to become the greatest champion in UFC history, and arguably the greatest fighter to ever step foot in the Octagon.
Obviously, those are lofty goals to live up to as well, but Overeem is confident that he’ll show up in a big way on Friday night in Las Vegas.
“Is there pressure to fight in UFC? Of course there is pressure, but that pressure is the same pressure that is on Brock. I mean, one of us is going to take a step up and one of us is going to take a step down,” Overeem stated.
The talk will end on Friday and then it’s all up to Alistair Overeem to back it up in the Octagon when he makes his debut in the main event of UFC 141 against Brock Lesnar.