MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 34, a five-round heavyweight bout between Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai. The event takes place on Saturday, September 5 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Alistair Overeem (-145)
Overeem (46-18, 1 NC) is the No. 6 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. The 40-year-old Dutchman is one of the most accomplished fighters in MMA heavyweight history, having fought the best of the best for the last 20 years. Throughout his career, he has defeated a who’s who of heavyweights including Junior dos Santos, Brock Lesnar, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt, Frank Mir, and Andrei Arlovski. He is a finisher, having 41 career wins by stoppage. Overeem is a well-rounded fighter with excellent striking and terrific grappling which has allowed him to remain competitive this late in his career. He has won three of his last four fights, showing off improved wrestling and ground and pound. The biggest problem for Overeem is his chin as he’s been knocked out 14 times in his career. That is a massive problem and it puts him at risk of being KOed against almost anyone he fights. However, if he doesn’t get caught then he is an extremely dangerous opponent for anyone.
Augusto Sakai (+125)
Sakai (15-1-1) is the No. 9 ranked heavyweight in the UFC. The 29-year-old Brazilian has gone 4-0 in the UFC with notable wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Marcin Tybura. He only has one loss, a split decision defeat to Cheick Kongo in Bellator. Sakai is an impressive young heavyweight who has quickly risen the ranks of the UFC. He is an effective volume striker who can finish fights as he has won 11 fights by stoppage, though many of them are more of the death-by-1000 cuts type of TKO wins. Sakai has looked good against lower-ranked heavyweight but he is getting a serious step up here against a legend in Overeem. It’s a heavyweight bout and Overeem can get knocked out by anyone so this a huge opportunity for Sakai to jump into the heavyweight elite, but until he goes out there and proves he can hang with the big boys he is rightfully the underdog to a guy like Overeem.
Fight Breakdown: This should be a fun heavyweight bout and I don’t see it going the full five rounds as I see a finish happening here. With Overeem’s chin issues, he’s always at the risk of being finished by strikes, but Sakai is not really known for his knockout power. When you match up these two fighters skill-for-skill, Overeem is superior in almost every way. He is the better striker, the better grappler, has the better gas tank, has all the championship experience, and he should be able to control and dictate where this fight takes place. As long as Overeem doesn’t get caught with a big punch on the chin I believe he dominates this fight. I see Overeem using his improved wrestling to get this fight to the mat where I believe he will finish the fight with ground and pound for a TKO win.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem wins via TKO