Overeem vs Sakai

Photo credit to Fight Book MMA

UFC on ESPN+ 34: Overeem vs Sakai Preview

Overeem vs Sakai preview

This Saturday’s main event features a heavyweight clash between #6 Alistair Overeem and #9 Augusto Sakai. Sakai (5-1-1) is looking to keep his undefeated record intact. After securing a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series, Sakai quickly rose through the heavyweight rankings with four straight wins, albeit with two questionable split-decisions that leaned in Sakai’s favor. Overeem (46-18) represents a significant step up in competition for Sakai. “The Demolition Man” is looking for another win against a surging contender after getting a TKO win against Walt Harris in May. 

This fight is looking to be mostly a stand-up battle, as both fighters possess technical striking prowess. They are both quicker than their sizes suggest and also carry great power in their hands and feet. Overeem has been known to mix in a few takedowns along with his striking, particularly against other credentialed strikers. Sakai also looked uncomfortable in the clinch and on his back, especially in his last fight against Blagoy Ivanov when Sakai utilized a blatant fence grab that went unnoticed. Look for Overeem to utilize his wrestling during the fight, particularly as he has been working with ground-and-pound specialist Curtis Blaydes at Team Elevation in Denver, Colorado.

Of course, Overeem’s chin is always a question mark, as he has lost via knockout fourteen times throughout his career. However, he has looked flat-out dominant in his last four fights. Even in his devastating, last-second KO loss against Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Overeem was previously controlling every aspect of that fight and was looking like the clear winner before eating that nasty right hand.

Sakai is a patient fighter, letting TKOs naturally occur rather than forcing finishes. He remains calm under pressure and picks his shots very deliberately. This will be important against Overeem, as lesser fighters seem to fold under the overbearing power in Overeem’s hands. Sakai has notably never fought past the third round of a fight, so his cardio and experience will be a big question heading into Saturday night. 

The 40-year-old Overeem has made it clear that he is making one final run at the title. This looks to be an uphill battle, especially as he has lost to four of the six fighters ahead of him in the rankings. However, a win against Sakai will bolster his resume to fight another serious contender higher in the rankings, moving him closer to that elusive UFC title. 

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