UFC Vegas 9: Overeem Looks to Move Closer to Gold Against Sakai

Alistair Overeem and August Sakai, UFC Vegas 9
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - SEPTEMBER 04: (L-R) Opponents Alistair Overeem of the Netherlands and Augusto Sakai of Brazil face off during the UFC Fight Night weigh-in at UFC APEX on September 04, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Longtime veteran Alistair Overeem continues his march toward another title shot as he looks to take out Brazilian product Augusto Sakai at UFC Vegas 9.

Erase ten seconds last December, and Alistair Overeem is sitting on a solid four fight win-streak in the heavyweight division.  “The Demolition Man” has put together a coveted resume with belts from K-1, Dream, and Strikeforce adorning his trophy case and victories in PRIDE and Glory nestled in-between.  If there is one knock on his career since 2010, it is that his UFC career has not panned out like expected when he entered the company as the most decorated fighter outside of the promotion.  He is 11-7 in the UFC.  His win streaks have often been stopped in devastating fashion, even by heavyweight standards.  At 40 years old with a few fights left on his contract, Overeem admits that he feels this is his last run at the biggest belt missing from his collection.

Coming off a victory over Walt Harris in May, Overeem seemingly had his pick of anyone not named Stipe Miocic or Daniel Cormier.  While opponents like Derrick Lewis stood out and stoked the flames on social media, the Dutchman and the UFC settled on the lower ranked Sakai.  Should he walk away with the victory, as he’s expected to, he would stand at 4-1 going back to 2018 and likely one more fight away from possibly challenging for the heavyweight title one last time.

Heavyweight stand-out Augusto Sakai will be looking to snap a unique losing streak when he meets Overeem on Saturday.  Entering the promotion through the only season of Dana White’s Contender Series: Brazil, Sakai will be looking to change the fortunes of Contender Series alumni by becoming the first fighter from the show to win a UFC main event.  In the past two months, prospects Dan Ige and Edmen Shahbazyan both came up short in their shots at headlining fights after being two of the more highly lauded fighters to come from the program.

To his credit, the 29 year old Sakai enters Saturday as one of the more experienced fighters from the show.  Prior to his Contender Series bout, Sakai had a amassed a 10-1-1 record that included a six fight stint Bellator.  Since then, he’s been on a six fight win-streak that includes dispatching former champion Andrei Arlovski and ranked contender Blagoy Ivanov.  The fight with Overeem is by far his biggest to date and a huge leap in competition, bringing with it a chance to catapult himself into the conversation of the upper echelon of the division.

The methodical approach of Overeem will face the multi-faceted attack of Sakai.  The Brazilian brings a high output for a heavyweight and Overeem will need to be disciplined with his defense.  “The Demolition Man” has proven his ability to pick his spots and surge forward and he should rely on that strategy to avoid exchanges with Sakai.  Overeem is proven in five rounds as opposed to Sakai, but the key will be to raise his output if he finds himself struggling to do damage in the earlier rounds.

A victory for either man figures to leave the winner waiting to see the outcome of the title picture as the MMA world waits to see if current champion Stipe Miocic fights Francis Ngannou or Jon Jones next.  The result will leave several fighters on the outside looking in with contenders like Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis also already paired up in a high profile bout.  More than likely, Overeem or Sakai will await the winner of Blaydes and Lewis next with the hope that Miocic will make a quick turn around to move the title picture forward.