Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is gearing up to start the month of September with a bang as UFC Vegas 9 goes down later tonight (Sat., Sept. 5, 2020), featuring a Heavyweight showdown between Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai. In the co-main event, Alonzo Menifield battles Ovince Saint Preux in Light Heavyweight action.
Overeem has been very open about the fact that his time in mixed martial arts (MMA) is nearing its end, recently saying that once his current UFC deal runs out it could be all she wrote. And with good reason, “The Demolition Man” has been fighting for nearly 20 years in both MMA and professional kickboxing, taking on the best both sports have to offer. Facing that level of competition for that long certainly takes a toll on the mind and body. And “The Reem” is content with hanging up his gloves when the time comes. But he still wants to make one last run at claiming the one world title that has eluded him his entire career: The UFC Heavyweight strap.
Overeem came up short in his first and only bid to win the title back in 2016 after getting knocked out by current champion, Stipe Miocic, at UFC 203. He has gone 5-3 since and is currently coming off a knockout win over Walt Harris (see it here). The Heavyweight division recently lost Daniel Cormier to retirement, but will be getting another heavy hitter in the form of Jon Jones, which means Overeem — and any other big man hoping for a title shot — will likely have to wait a while. That’s because Miocic is on tap to face Francis Ngannou and Jones will likely face the winner, which means those two bouts could take up to six to eight months to complete. In Overeem’s case, he is still behind Curtis Blaydes so he has to put on one hell of a performance in “Sin City” to stand out.
Sakai, meanwhile, won’t be in the championship picture anytime soon. But that isn’t because of his performances (or lack thereof). Sakai is on a six-fight win streak and has won all four of his UFC bouts. Still, the 29-year old Brazilian bomber has a lot of ground to cover in the rankings, though a blistering win over “The Reem” could be his shortcut to the Top 5. Though he has shown to have knockout power — what big man doesn’t? — Sakai has struggled a bit so far inside the Octagon, edging out two split-decision wins, one over Blagoy Ivanov and the other against Andrei Arlovski. He will need a more convincing win over Overeem if he wants to put his name on the map.
The card definitely leaves a lot to be desired. One more big time match up on the main card would have been nice, but they can’t all be home runs. And that’s okay, the rest of the month looks very promising ... as does the remainder of 2020.
Original Card Vs. Actual Card:
A fight between Nicco Montano and Julia Avila was scrapped after Montano tested positive for COVID-19. Viviane Araujo stepped in for Maryna Moroz, who was forced out of her fight against Montana de la Rosa due to visa issues. Also, a 135-pound bout between Brian Kelleher and Ricky Simon was scrapped after one of Simon’s cornermen tested positive for COVID-19. Kevin Natividad stepped in to fill the void.
Macy Chiasson pulled out of her Bantamweight fight against Sijara Eubanks for undisclosed medical reasons and was ultimately replaced by Karol Rosa. In turn, Rosa was forced out of her fight against Eubanks due to weight-cutting issues. Eubanks will now face the aforementioned Avila on Oct. 3, 2020.
How The “Prelims” Look:
Kelleher has proven over the last few months that he is as game as they come, as the rapping pugilist has taken on any and all comers on short notice either as a late replacement himself or having to adjust to a new opponent on short notice. He will face off against UFC rookie Kevin Natividad after Simon was forced out. “Boom’s” willingness to adjust on a fly definitely earns him points with the UFC brass, but he still needs to win to keep them. He won’t have an easy night against Natividad, who is currently on a five-fight win streak and has racked up a 9-1 record since making his professional MMA debut in 2016.
Also, Araujo will look to get back in the win column after having her five-fight win streak snapped by Jessica Eye last December as she faces off against Montana de la Rosa. De la Rosa has proven to be a quiet force, going 4-1 so far in her UFC career, recently defeating Mara Romero Borella.
After suffering the first loss of his pro MMA career via split-decision against Miles Johns in Sept. 2019, Cole Smith is looking to get a statement win against Hunter Azure, who also suffered the first loss of his career, a knockout defeat to the aforementioned Kelleher. The two scrappy Bantamweights have proven to have the right stuff, unfortunately for one of the rising contenders he will go home with two straight defeats.
In Heavyweight action, Marcos Rogerio de Lima — who has been with UFC for six years now — will look to force some attention his way with a win over Alexander Romanov. De Lima has been consistent since 2014, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. That’s because the 265-pound heavy-hitter has alternated wins and losses over his last nine fights. While that may be good enough to keep your job it isn’t doing him any favors in his quest to get a Top 15 ranking. Romanov, meanwhile, is undefeated at 11-0 and will be making his UFC debut.
More on the Russian bruiser below.
Alexander Romanov will get his chance to impress in his UFC debut against the aforementioned de Lima. Romanov has yet to taste defeat, winning all 11 of his pro MMA fights so far. But what truly makes the big man scary is his 100 percent finish rate, as he has five (technical) knockout wins and six submissions to be proud of. Nine of those have come in the very first round which means he likes to take care of business as fast as possible, which doesn’t bode well for Marcos, who does have his own share of finishes on his resume.
Kevin Natividad got the call up on short notice to face elleher after Simon was forced out of the card due to coronavirus precautionary reasons. Natividad is currently on a five-fight win streak with four of them coming under the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) banner, where “Quicksand” spent the last few years competing before getting the call up to the big show.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
Ovince Saint Preux’s Heavyweight experiment didn’t go as panned after dropping a split-decision to Ben Rothwell. Overall, “OSP” is 1-3 in his last four outings which isn’t a good look during a time when the promotion is serious considering thinning the herd in the coming months. Now that he’s back at Light Heavyweight, Saint Preux needs a win pretty badly to avoid digging a deeper hole for himself. Alonzo Menifield, though young in his UFC career, has proven to be a legit threat at 9-1. While he is coming off a loss to Devin Clark this past June, he previously won nine straight bouts via stoppage.
Interest Level: 5 of 10
Overeem will look to prove that he is still one of the best big men on the planet by stopping the rise of Sakai, a young big man looking to pave his own path in MMA after earning his way via “Contender Series.” Overeem desperately wants one more crack at the UFC title before his combat career comes to an end, and defeating the up-and-coming star (impressively) could inch him closer to that goal. The Heavyweight landscape is slowly changing but “The Reem” has always remained a constant, and winning the UFC title before he retires will put a nice bow on a stellar career.
Wild man Michel Pereira will make his return to action to face off against Zelim Imadaev in Welterweight action. Pereira is looking to avoid the first three-fight losing streak of his career, though one of his previous defeats was a disqualification against Diego Sanchez, a fight he was dominating. Imadaev has also lost two straight after starting off his career a perfect 8-0. One man will get a new lease on his combat life while the other will be looking for a ladder in order to climb out of a huge hole.
Jalin Turner and Thiago Moises will be kicking off the main card in Lightweight action. Turner is looking for some consistency as he has gone an even 2-2 so far in his UFC career with his previous win coming against Joshua Culibao. Moises, meanwhile, is in the same boat as his opponent, going 2-2 since earning his shot via “Contender Series.” Moises is coming off a huge win over longtime UFC staple Michael Johnson, whom he defeated this past May via submission.
Enjoy the fights!
Full Fight Card:
UFC Vegas 9 Main Event on ESPN+:
265 lbs.: Alistair Overeem vs. Augusto Sakai
UFC Vegas 9 Main Card on ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
205 lbs.: Alonzo Menifield vs. Ovince Saint Preux
135 lbs.: Karol Rosa vs. Sijara Eubanks Cancelled
170 lbs.: Zelim Imadaev vs. Michel Pereira
145 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Ray Rodriguez
155 lbs.: Thiago Moises vs. Jalin Turner Cancelled
UFC Vegas 9 Under Card on ESPN+ (6 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Bartosz Fabinski vs. Andre Muniz
125 lbs.: Viviane Araujo vs. Montana De La Rosa
265 lbs.: Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Alexander Romanov Cancelled
135 lbs.: Hunter Azure vs. Cole Smith
***Fight card, bout order and the amount of matches subject to drastic change because of the various global quarantine restrictions.***
Remember that MMAmania.com 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.