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UFC Vegas 9 preview, ‘Overeem vs Sakai’ predictions

UFC 203 Open Workouts Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back in action this weekend with the UFC Vegas 9 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, scheduled for Sat., Sept. 5, 2020 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, and headlined by the heavyweight showdown between Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai. Elsewhere on the main card, which airs exclusively on ESPN+, former light heavyweight title contender Ovince St. Preux collides with “Contender Series” standout Alonzo Menifield.

Before we dive into the main and co-main events, be sure to check out the complete UFC Vegas 9 preliminary card breakdown, expertly deconstructed by the jet-setting Patrick Stumberg here and here. Fighter-turned-writer-turned-fighter again, Andrew Richardson, did most of the heavy lifting for the rest of the main card right here. For the latest “Overeem vs. Sakai” odds and betting lines click here.

Let’s get to work ...

265 lbs.: Alistair Overeem vs. Augusto Sakai

Alistair “Demolition Man” Overeem

Record: 46-18, 1 NC | Age: 40 | Betting line: -145
Wins: 24 KO/TKO, 17 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 14 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.66 | Striking accuracy: 63%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.18 | Striking Defense: 59%
Takedown Average: 1.40 (54% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 73%
Current Ranking: No. 6 | Last fight: TKO win over Walt Harris

Augusto Sakai

Record: 15-1-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: +125
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 77” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 5.45 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.89 | Striking Defense: 55%
Takedown Average: 0.19 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 83%
Current Ranking: No. 9 | Last fight: Decision win over Blagoy Ivanov

Alistair Overeem was facing some pretty tough questions back in summer 2018, after losing consecutive bouts to top contenders Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, both by way of knockout. But “Demolition Man” was able to silence any retirement talk by putting together a 3-1 stretch over the next two years, finishing all three opponents in the process. I’m sure for Overeem, the Jairzinho Rozenstruik loss was a tough pill to swallow — no pun intended — because he was cruising to victory before losing his lips in the waning seconds of round five. His ability to rebound from that fight and smash Walt Harris stands as further proof that ‘Reem still has plenty to offer at age 40, but if I was running Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC), I would not sleep well at night knowing I rubber stamped a fight license for a combatant with 14 losses by way of knockout. Maybe that doesn’t matter in this moment, since the hulking Dutchman is still in control of all his faculties, but sooner or later that cumulative damage is going to catch up to him, as well as many other fighters.

Augusto Sakai seems like a baby comparatively speaking. Not to suggest that 29 should be considered “spring chicken” but Overeem has more wins by knockout than Sakai has total career fights. The Brazilian graduated the inaugural season of Dana White’s “Contender Series” by planishing Marcos Conrado Jr. and hasn’t looked back, passing some pretty stiff tests along the way in both Andrei Arlovski and Blagoy Ivanov. His performance against the latter is perhaps the bigger story, as “Baga” is one of the toughest outs in the heavyweight division and damn-near impossible to finish. I think my concern heading into this fight is the fact that Sakai has never been asked to compete past the third round so we don’t really know what’s in the tank until we get to the fourth frame, particularly if Overeem implements a wrestling-based attack. At the same time, it may not matter because Sakai has 11 knockouts in 15 wins and could end up sending the crew home early.

I know fans like to go after Overeem’s chin but the aforementioned Arlovski also has double-digit losses by way of knockout and Sakai was stymied by the Belarusian’s boxing. Even at his age, “Demolition Man” — a former world champion in both MMA and kickboxing — presents a serious threat on the feet. His ability to control range will be the deciding factor on fight night because there is no universe where Sakai outstrikes Overeem in a technical stand-up war. The Brazilian will have to make this ugly and force his foe to fight up close and personal. I can’t promise an exciting fight but I do expect it to last all five rounds. Overeem will likely play keep away for the better part of the contest and result to takedowns or wall-and-stall when Sakai tries to enter the phone booth. Barring an early one-hitter quitter, patience and experience will be the deciding factor in favor of “The Reem.”

Prediction: Overeem def. Sakai by unanimous decision

Note: The following preview was penned by Patrick Stumberg ahead of the UFC on ESPN 15 event, where Saint Preux and Menifield were originally expected to face off before a positive COVID-19 test delayed the fight until September.

205 lbs.: Ovince Saint Preux vs. Alonzo Menifield

Ovince “OSP” Saint Preux

Record: 24-14 | Age: 37 | Betting line: +110
Wins: 11 KO/TKO, 8 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 3 SUB, 9 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 80” | Stance: Southpaw
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 2.60 | Striking accuracy: 47%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 2.91 | Striking Defense: 45%
Takedown Average: 1.27 (40% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 65%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Split decision loss to Ben Rothwell

Alonzo Menifield

Record: 9-1 | Age: 32 | Betting line: -130
Wins: 8 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 76” | Stance: Orthodox
Significant Strikes Landed Per Minute: 3.75 | Striking accuracy: 48%
Strikes Absorbed Per Minute: 3.75 | Striking Defense: 40%
Takedown Average: 0.19 (50% accuracy) | Takedown Defense: 85%
Current Ranking: Unranked | Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Devin Clark

After brutal knockouts of the athletically overmatched Paul Craig and Vinicius Moreira, “Contender Series” veteran Menifield entered his UFC 250 bout with Devin Clark a massive favorite. Despite Clark’s historically iffy chin, however, “Brown Bear” put the pace on Menifield and exploited the technical limitations he’d yet to smooth out after five years in the game. Now, just two months later, Menifield has elected to deal with one of the most well-traveled veterans in the division on short notice.

I respect Menifield’s confidence and can definitely see why he’d take this fight; Saint Preux, a fellow football veteran, never even approached the lofty heights his athleticism promised when he jumped ship from Strikeforce back in 2013. He’s 2-4 in his last six, both of those losses coming by comeback submission after getting dropped, and his only non-comeback victory since 2016 came against an aging and undersized Yushin Okami.

That said, Saint Preux is still significantly taller and rangier than Menifield, whose ability to go three hard rounds is now in question. Saint Preux also has the ostensible wrestling edge and likely hits harder than anyone Menifield’s yet faced, making him a mighty difficult opponent to deal with even without the quick turnaround. Menifield could definitely just destroy Saint Preux right off the bat, but the likelier outcome sees “OSP” exploit Menifield’s greenness to survive the early onslaught and pick away with long lefts and power kicks for a decision win.

Prediction: Saint Preux via unanimous decision

Remember, the rest of the UFC Vegas 9 main card predictions are RIGHT HERE.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 9 fight card this weekend right here, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 9: “Overeem vs. Sakai” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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