Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai will clash TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 5, 2020) at UFC Vegas 9 inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Few fighters rebound like Overeem. When he suffered two consecutive brutal knockout losses in 2018, most assumed “The Reem” would drop off, as he was getting up there in age and wear-and-tear. Instead, Overeem is 40 years old with three wins in four fights, attempting to make one final run at the title. On the other hand, Sakai has yet to taste defeat in his UFC career, though he has faced adversity. The big Brazilian has yet to really blow the world away in any of his victories, but consistent success has nevertheless earned him an opportunity to step up in this main event slot.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 46-18 (1)
Key Wins: Fabricio Werdum (UFC 213, Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum), Junior dos Santos (UFC on FOX 17), Brock Lesnar (UFC 141), Mark Hunt (UFC 209, Dream 5), Walt Harris (UFC on ESPN 8)
Key Losses: Stipe Miocic (UFC 203), Francis Ngannou (UFC 218), Curtis Blaydes (UFC 225), Jairzinho Rozenstruik (UFC on ESPN 7)
Keys to Victory: Overeem has shown opponents many different looks in the last decade, but at its core, his game is about accuracy and ruthless power. Overeem is a sniper at range, where he’ll deal major damage with kicks and counters, and he’s quite brutal in the clinch as well.
This is a strange stylistic match up for Overeem. On one hand, Sakai’s plodding boxing game should be easy pickings for the veteran, who should be able to land and escape nearly at the will. However, Sakai has cast iron built into his jawline and fists. He only needs one opportunity in 25 minutes, whereas Overeem is famous for his occasional lapses in concentration.
Assuming Overeem can keep focused, avoiding the pocket shouldn’t be overly difficult. Sakai is far slower than someone like Walt Harris, so Overeem’s strategy of blasting kicks then moving away or clinching should work well.
On the whole, I’d like to see a clinch-heavy strategy from “The Demolition Man.” Sakai has been jammed into the fence and out-wrestled in the past, a pair of very viable and relatively safe paths to victory for Overeem.
Key Wins: Blagoy Ivanov (UFC on ESPN 9), Marcin Tybura (UFC Fight Night 158), Andrei Arlovski (UFC Fight Night 150), Chase Sherman (UFC Fight Night 137)
Key Losses: Cheick Kongo (Bellator 179)
Keys to Victory: Sakai is a fighter whose physical attributes account for a fair amount of success. Sakai cuts to make the Heavyweight limit, which is definitely advantageous in terms of power and strength. Unlike most similarly-sized men, Sakai keeps his power late into the fight.
Sakai has to force the fight here and stay in Overeem’s face. He cannot get reckless — that’s how Overeem convinces opponents to run into his cross — but Sakai’s goal should be to constantly keep Overeem working. Even if Sakai is not consistently getting the better of exchanges, he’s more durable, and a tired Overeem is more likely to make a questionable decision.
On a technical level, perhaps the most important thing Sakai can do in this bout is kick. If he strictly boxes, he’s giving up so much range to the former professional kickboxer. Sakai has a solid low kick and should make use of it, as that weapon could limit Overeem’s movement and help Sakai close distance.
The next two title shots seemed to be lined up at Heavyweight in Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones (though perhaps not in that order), so there’s time for the other contenders to build a major win streak.
Heavyweight is the division of older contenders, but one has to assume Overeem cannot handle many more losses to younger fighters. If he’s to somehow score one final title shot, it has to be on his current win streak. Regardless of his legendary career, there simply isn’t time for another setback anymore.
The opposite is true for Sakai, who is still a bit rough-around-the-edges technically, but also 29 years old. He’s practically an infant by most Heavyweight standards, so there’s plenty of time for him to rebound if Overeem does indeed pick him apart. If, on the other hand, the powerful Brazilian knocks Overeem flat, it’s time to take him seriously as a possible contender.
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.
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At UFC Vegas 9, Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai will battle in the main event. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?