Augusto Sakai is hoping to position himself close to a UFC heavyweight title shot with a win over veteran Alistair Overeem later tonight (Sat., Sept. 5, 2020) at UFC Vegas 9 live on ESPN+ from inside UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This will undoubtedly be the biggest fight of Sakai’s career. It will not only mark his first main event nod as a member of the UFC roster but Sakai has never fought somebody quite as dangerous as Overeem. The Japanese-Brazilian fighter has squared up with veterans Andrei Arlovski and Blagoy Ivanov — winning both of those fights via split decision — but “The Reem” is simply on another level.
Knowing that he is just scratching the surface of the top fighters in the UFC’s heavyweight division Sakai is ready to pace his ascension and get the necessary wins he needs.
“I’m not in a hurry, but I know I’m getting there step by step,” Sakai told MMA Fighting. “It’s going to be another step in my career, another step in the company, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I can jump the line because it will be five wins in a row in the UFC - six if you consider the Contender Series one - so I would deserve it.”
Sakai, 29, is one of the more promising names in the heavyweight division today. He has produced a 4-0 record since his debut two years ago and carries an overall 15-1-1 mark in his professional MMA career, losing only to former UFC contender Cheick Kongo via split decision under the Bellator banner in 2017.
While a win over Overeem this weekend at UFC Vegas 9 will give Sakai a five-fight win streak inside of the Octagon he understands he’ll have to wait his turn in line for a title shot.
“There are other names in front of me, of course, but I’m ready to live great things,” Sakai said. “I’ve been battling for years for this moment and it’s time now. We’ll continue to work hard and work right.”
Sakai may have to wait for other heavyweight contenders like Francis Ngannou, Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, and Jon Jones to fight for their own shot at the heavyweight crown, but the young contender understands a win over Overeem leaves him in a great spot. After all, Ngannou and Lewis have already fought for a title, and Jones is completely new to the division.
“I believe they could give me one more fight if Ngannou fights for the belt now, and then I’ll definitely be ready for it and pumped for the opportunity,” Sakai said. “The news of Jon Jones (moving up to heavyweight) makes the division even more crowded, but my focus is on Overeem now. We’ll see what happens after this.”
As for his tilt with “The Reem” later tonight in Vegas, Sakai is hoping to send a message and capture a memorable knockout win. It actually might be the only way Sakai can defeat Overeem, who hasn’t lost a decision since 2005.
“We’re training hard for (the knockout), working on my strong points and his weak points, and I’m expecting a knockout,” he said. “No rush, it can be in the first or it can be in the fifth round, but I’m expecting a knockout.”
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