One of the best camps in all of mixed martial arts, at least on paper, has to be the “Blackzilians”. Based out of Boca Raton, Florida, the camp is awash in marquee fighters, title holders, former champions, contenders and potential contenders.
When the camp first came together in 2011, much was expected of its stable of stars. However, for all the talent fighting under the team’s banner, there wasn’t a great deal of success. The biggest busts coming out of the camp were probably Alistair Overeem, Rashad Evans and Thiago Silva. Over the last couple of years each has failed to impress or bring home a significant win to the club.
In Overeem’s case we’d have to go back to UFC 141, December 30, 2011 and his UFC debut performance and trashing of Brock Lesnar, to find a win. Since then, he’s been hampered by a suspension (PEDs’), two losses, bad cardio, low Octagon IQ and a questionable chin.
In terms of Rashad Evans and even though he recently beat Dan Henderson in June of this year, he hasn’t turned in an impressive performance since he schooled Phil Davis, back in January of 2012.
As to Thiago Silva, it’s just been one disaster after another, and every time fans thought he’d turned it around, he hadn’t. Whether or not it’s been the failed drug tests, overturned victories or the egregious shape that he was in for his last bout (UFN 29 in October), he hasn’t had a good run since joining his Blackzilian teammates.
However, just as many fans were beginning to write the team off, the Blackzilians have suddenly begun to turn it around and indeed in the last two weeks, culled victories in the two biggest MMA fights going; Eddie Alvarez winning the Bellator lightweight championship and Vitor Belfort defeating Dan Henderson, and securing the next UFC middleweight title shot.
Beyond Alvarez and Belfort, there’s Michael Johnson. “The Menace” appears to have breathed new life into his skill set, as he looked like an improved version of himself in his last outing and win, over Joe Lauzon back in August. Not only did Johnson look good in completely outclassing Lauzon, but more importantly it stopped Johnson’s two fight losing streak.
Then there’s Anthony Johnson. “Rumble” is currently on a five fight winning streak and hasn’t lost since January of 2012; UFC 142. He’s presently signed to the WSOF, with his third bout coming up on December 7th, as against Mike Kyle. If Johnson can keep the streak going, he’ll be the odds on favorite to continue on and win the promotion’s inaugural light-heavyweight belt. If he does, it would be another feather in the Blackzilians cap and further evidence of the club beginning to live up to the promise of their collective talents.
Of course, there is also Tyrone Spong. The "King of the Ring", is a world class kickboxer, indeed a champion and now also competes in MMA. Fighting under the WSOF’s banner since November of 2012, Spong is 2 & 0, and another strong candidate to bring home a belt to the Blackzilian gym.
However, before fans can declare the Blackzilians ship righted, two of its members need to demonstrate that they’re in step with Alvarez and Belfort’s surge, and that’s Evans & Overeem.
Both have fights coming up, November 16th and February 1rst respectively, and both need to prove that they still have the hunger and ability to win. Of the two, Evans has the tougher match in the way of Chael Sonnen. Regardless of them being friends, Sonnen will come to fight and Evans had better be both ready and in shape for him. However, an impressive win over Sonnen’s rising star would go a long way to bolstering Rashad’s career and his team’s name.
As for Overeem, he needs a win more for himself than he does the team. And where a victory or even a decisive victory over Mir won’t immediately turn it all around for the 33 year old, it would be a good beginning and a step in the right direction. It would certainly help him keep his job with the UFC.
It’s not too late for “The Demolition Man” to become a successful star in the senior promotion, but the clock is ticking. He needs a good three fight winning streak before his name will be in the title shot mix and Frank Mir is a great place to start. And to be honest, he’s probably the perfect candidate. On the face of it, Overeem should have no problem putting Mir’s lights out and taking the win. However, as Alistair’s has blown two fights in a row that he was winning and should have won, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not he’ll repeat previous mistakes and lose the match.
As Overeem was / is the center piece of the Blackzilians and their biggest star, having his name back in the win column, consecutively and as a UFC fighter, would be the final piece in the puzzle for righting the whole ship. Conversely a loss to Mir and Alistair’s cutting by the promotion would be a black eye to the team.
All things considered, the Blackzilians are doing better now than they have since banding together in 2011, and are finally beginning to show the promise of their mighty roster. If Evans and Overeem can continue what Alvarez and Belfort have started, then 2014 should be a great year for the club and it might even deliver their first UFC title.