Phil De Fries Notches Title Defense #10 in Grindfest with Augustl Sakai at KSW 95

Phil De Fries and Augusto Sakai, KSW 95
Phil De Fries and Augusto Sakai, KSW 95 weigh-in Credit: KSW

Brazilian heavyweight Augusto Sakai was the latest challenger looking to end the reign of Phil De Fries, with the two throwing down at KSW 95 on Saturday.

Like so many before him, Sakai entered with a solid pedigree of his own, a contender in Bellator MMA and at one point a ranked UFC heavyweight who left that promotion off a win over Don’Tale Mayes.

Yet KSW heavyweight champ De Fries, who had his own early-career run in the UFC end following a 2-3 run that included a loss to future great Stipe Miocic, had been unbeatable since 2017. Twelve straight wins, nine straight defenses of his KSW heavyweight title.

Early on in Friday’s co-headliner, De Fries looked to take control, leading the dance and looking to get Sakai to the ground. Sakai mixed in leg kicks, while De Fries won the grappling exchanges along the fence and connected with some heavy leather off the break. What Sakai did not do in the opening round was go to his back, resulting in a very close first frame.

In the second, Sakai found success early, putting De Fries on the fence, taking a page out of the champ’s book. De Fries, however, managed to defend with a guillotine, reverse the position, and land a few knees to the body before they came off the cage, then re-engaged.

De Fries briefly flashed his guillotine again, but this time he was the one driving Sakai into the fence, before he reversed with about a minute and a quarter left in the frame, only to be reversed himself a moment later. The champ fired a few overhands, but the grinding pace, low on action, had the ref break them up, restarting the action at center only to end up with the same result: De Fries putting Sakai on the fence, firing knees while controlling one wrist.

Phil De Fries easily closed the distance early in the third round, shooting in for a double-leg almost immediately. Brazil’s Sakai, however, refused to be taken down, leading to De Fries instead firing a knee to the midsection. De Fries stayed on the attempt, and Sakai spent the first minute of the round again trapped on the fence. For all of his success with the leg kicks early, Sakai had been unable to peel himself off the wall over the past round and a half.

When they did get back to open space a minute later, however, the nasty leg kick was back for Sakai. De Fries quickly tied things up, then nearly gave away top position on a takedown attempt that backfired, though he scrambled out. Augusto Sakai, perhaps feeling the momentum shift, drove in for his own takedown, but De Fries came close to reversing that. For the rest of the third, De Fries would put his weight on Sakai, landing left hands and knees, but eating the odd knee from Sakai as well.

De Fries went right after the takedown in round four, and Sakai once again defended the attempt expertly. That led the champ to falling back on his guillotine; when Sakai popped out, De Fries landed a couple punches, then went back to the clinch. Try as he might, however, De Fries couldn’t get the big man down. Going old school, De Fries added a foot stomp. Sakai fired a knee, back still glued to the fence. A knee, then a left hand, then another knee landed for the champ.

The ref would restart the pair at center with a minute left in round four; De Fries then walked down the challenger, leading with his jab and missing with an uppercut. Having spent four minutes with his back to the cage, there was little chance of Sakai winning the round, but the third had been up in the air, making the fifth critical.

Like clockwork, De Fries again looked to put Sakai on the fence early in round five. Sakai reversed, but not for long. De Fries worked the body a little, and the pair battled for head position. When Sakai reversed, the champ put the guillotine on once more, turning him back around. De Fries then nearly wrenched Sakai to the mat, but they wound up back on the fence.

Somewhere in all the exchanges, Sakai had been bloodied around the mouth. Sakai was continuing to defend every takedown attempt and occasionally reversed position, but to that end, you simply don’t score points for defending. And so, as low-action as the fight often was, Phil De Fries controlling the bulk of five rounds resulted in “and still” being the end result.

Official Result: Phil De Fries def. Augusto Sakai by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)