While Oleinik accepted the fight on short notice after Overeems original opponent Alexander Volkov fell off the card, he still made a strong showing for himself even in defeat.
And that was how ‘The Demolition Man’ made the breakthrough heading toward the end of the first frame, catching Oleinik with successive knees to the head before finishing him with big punches and elbows as the Russian lay stricken on the canvas.
Known best for his suffocating submission game, Oleinik almost immediately pulled guard when the fight started as he looked to apply one of his infamous Ezekiel chokes but Overeem was wise to the strategy before working his way back to the feet.
Elsewhere on the card, rising Russian lightweight star Islam Makhachev picked up a decision win in the co-main event against Armen Tsarukyan, although he was made to work a lot harder than many people expected.
Recognized as one of the most accomplished strikers in MMA history as a former K-1 Grand Prix champion, Overeem showed power and patience while facing some truly wild attacks from Oleinik on the feet.
Video: UFC St. Petersburg: Alistair Overeem Octagon Interview
Time after time, Oleinik would just dive forward while throwing a massive overhand right and he appeared to clip Overeem early in the opening round, sending him backwards against the cage. Oleinik followed up with a barrage of punches but as Overeem covered up it was clear that he wasnt absorbing any damage but rather allowing his opponent to zap his strength by putting everything into those combinations in an ill-fated attempt to get the finish.
Video: Alistair Overeem Top 5 Knockouts
When Overeem finally decided to return fire, he blasted Oleinik with huge bombs on the feet while constantly setting up the strikes that would bring an end to the contest.
With Oleinik constantly pressuring forward into the clinch, Overeem took advantage by grabbing onto his head and then bringing up a devastating series of knee strikes.
After a few glancing shots, Overeem finally began connecting flush and one final knee strike dropped Oleinick to the ground as he fell to his back just trying to survive. Overeem followed up with a series of punches, hammer fists and one final elbow that finally did enough for referee Marc Goddard to step in and stop the fight.
Overeem had suffered through a tough stretch in his career just recently after dropping back to back knockout losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes but a change in training camps and a move to Denver have rejuvenated the former UFC title contender.
Now Overeem has rattled off two wins in a row, both by TKO, and hes looking forward to keeping that momentum going with a potential matchup against the main he was supposed to face on Saturday in Russia.
Well I was originally scheduled to fight Alexander Volkov, Overeem said. The fight did not happen tonight but Im very open to that fight in the future.
But the co-main event sees Nurmagomedov’s teammate and fellow Dagestani Islam Makhachev take on Arman Tsarukyan in a 155lbs match-up.
UFC lightweight king Nurmagomedov was seen dressed in a black flat cap as he sat among the crowd of around 7,000 in attendance.
Video: UFC St. Petersburg Fighters Top 5 Finishes
The night got off to an explosive start when Russia’s Magomed Mustafaev scored a stunning spinning head kick KO win over Rafael Fisiev.
As the action progressed, Khabib joined the crowd as attention turned towards Makhachev’s bout against dangerous UFC debutant Tsarukyan.
Nurmagomedov would likely have been cornering Makhachev, were it not for his suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for the mass melee following his submission win over Conor McGregor in Las Vegas in October.
‘The Eagle’ himself is expected to next land in the octagon in September, potentially in Abu Dhabi, against interim lightweight champ Dustin Poirier, who recently outpointed Max Holloway at UFC 236.
On spotting their hero, fans in St. Petersburg let out sporadic chants of “Khabib, Khabib.”