Alistair Overeem is on the road to redemption in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he had to go through a difficult fight even before stepping into The Octagon against Mark Hunt at UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, Saturday night.

Overeem spent part of the previous day in the hospital because of food poisoning, and yet, still managed to knock out Hunt, one of the strongest-willed heavyweight fighters in the UFC.

“So he was in the hospital for 24 hours with food poisoning throwing up and all the other pleasantries that come with food poisoning,” UFC President Dana White said of Overeem. “We brought him home, and then, we had to bring him back to the hospital.

“They had to fill him with bags of fluids, IVs, and at one point, he was afraid to leave his room because he couldn’t stop throwing up and everything else. (He) did not want to turn down the fight, still came out and fought and knocked out Mark Hunt. And more to his credit, did not say a single word about it in his interview, and did not say it here yet. I just came in to thank him and tell him how much I respect him.”

Throughout the fight, Overeem was the more active and accurate fighter, landing 59 of his 76 overall strikes, 55 of which were considered significant, according to FightMetric, while Hunt landed only 29 punches, kicks and knees during the duration of the bout.

After absorbing a brutal elbow in the clinch early in the third round, Overeem disengaged from the dirty boxing in the middle of The Octagon, turned his back to Hunt, ran away and regrouped before again locking up with his opponent. Then, Overeem got Hunt against the cage where the Dutchman, known for his kickboxing prowess, began peppering his opponent with knees to the body.

A final knee to the head from Overeem dropped Hunt and the referee called a stop to the bout at the 3:17 mark of the third round.

The No. 3 ranked heavyweight in the UFC, Overeem improved to 41-15-0 with one no contest after the 21st knockout win of his nearly two-decade MMA career, while Hunt fell to 12-11-1 overall and has now lost three of his last six fights, all by knockout.

“We went through all of the steps necessary,” Overeem said. “I got really sick, and at the weigh-ins, I was out. I was like low energy. I mean, I put on my acting face, looking angry, but I had like zero energy. If I’d felt today like I did yesterday, I would not have been able to perform, but I went to the hospital, got an IV, slept very good, took something to help me sleep.

“I could get some food in, even before sleeping, recovered okay and we were going to go for it and we’re going to do this. Getting a lot of confidence from my training, my preparation, studying tape, all of the work that’s been done not just the last two months in Albuquerque, but also, right after the Stipe fight, I just went back to the gym and started improving.”