What Alistair Overeem is doing — particularly at this level of his occupation — you simply do not see on a daily basis. Veterans of his caliber aren’t all the time prepared to simply accept this sort of a combat.

Overeem (46-18) will face Augusto Sakai (15-1-1) in the principle tournament of UFC Fight Night on Saturday, throughout the UFC’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. It will mark Overeem’s 7th time headlining a UFC tournament, in comparison to Sakai’s first. In truth, that is most effective the second one time Sakai has been on a UFC leading card. Just being on this place is a vital accomplishment for Sakai.

And that isn’t a knock on Sakai; it is a mere statement of the place he is at in his occupation. The 29-year-old is most effective two years got rid of from being a contestant on Dana White’s Contender Series and is an entire unknown to a good portion of the UFC’s fan base. He has the whole lot to achieve on Saturday … and truly not anything to lose.

Why is Overeem preventing him then? This is the type of matchup that, for the fighter in Overeem’s place, typically calls for numerous persuasion from the UFC. The factor about Overeem, on the other hand, is that he all the time takes those fights. His earlier opponent, Walt Harris, would have catapulted into name competition with a win towards Overeem. When Overeem beat him, Harris kind of stayed the place he used to be.

A few appearances earlier than that, Overeem fought an undefeated 26-year-old in Sergey Pavlovich. Pavlovich had lots to achieve in that contest, but if Overeem knocked him out within the first spherical, the similar wasn’t true for the veteran. The win slightly increased Overeem’s occupation in any respect, if we are being truthful.

Overeem, 40, has achieved just about the whole lot one can in struggle sports activities, however his willingness to simply accept these types of high-risk, low-reward fights on the tail finish of his occupation should not be lost sight of. It’s commendable, and no longer each fighter does it. Frankly, there is an issue to be made towards it.

Overeem has earned some proper to select and make a selection his combatants. But he merely has no longer finished that over the process his occupation, and it is by no means been extra obvious than now. Saturday will mark the largest combat of Sakai’s occupation. By some distance. It almost definitely does not sign up within the best 20 for Overeem. And the truth he continues to simply accept the ones cases, in essentially the most risky department within the game, is commendable.

By the numbers

74: Percentage of important moves thrown through Overeem that land, making him through some distance essentially the most correct striker in UFC historical past. Next easiest is Tatiana Suarez, at 65.8%. No different lively heavyweight reaches even a 60% connection charge.

6: Consecutive victories for Sakai. The previous 4 of the ones have come within the UFC, tying him with Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes for the longest lively profitable streak amongst heavyweights.

10: Knockdowns within the UFC for Overeem, tying him with Andrei Arlovski and Cain Velasquez for 2d maximum of all time amongst heavyweights, at the back of Junior dos Santos (14).

5.45: Strikes landed consistent with minute within the UFC through Sakai, which might rank him 3rd amongst lively heavyweights if he had the desired 5 fights.

65: Fights within the skilled MMA occupation of Overeem, the second one maximum of somebody at the UFC roster, at the back of Aleksei Oleinik‘s 74. Both males have received fights in 4 many years. Overeem, 40, has been a professional fighter since 1999, making his debut when Sakai used to be Eight years previous. When Sakai made his debut in October 2011, Overeem used to be 47 fights into his occupation.

Sources: ESPN Stats & Information and UFC Stats

A glance again

Five vs. 5

Alistair Overeem’s most up-to-date effects
Win: Walt Harris (TKO2, May 16, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Loss: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (KO5, Dec. 7, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Aleksei Oleinik (TKO1, April 20, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Sergei Pavlovich (TKO1, Nov. 24, 2018)
Loss: Curtis Blaydes (TKO3, June 9, 2018)

Augusto Sakai’s most up-to-date effects
Win: Blagoy Ivanov (SD, May 30, 2020; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Marcin Tybura (KO1, Sept. 14, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Andrei Arlovski (SD, April 27, 2019; watch on ESPN+)
Win: Chase Sherman (TKO3, Sept. 22, 2018)
Win: Marcos Conrado (TKO1, Aug. 10, 2018)

And the winner is …

When Overeem has misplaced in recent times, he has a tendency to lose large. See: Vicious knockout losses to Stipe Miocic, Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes. But check out the ones names. Those guys he misplaced to are lovely excellent. Even even though Overeem has been at the flawed finish of a few horrible knockouts in recent times, it is been to simply the easiest of the department. Sakai may be very cast, and the one lack of his occupation got here in a detailed break up determination. I feel the 5 rounds favors him, however I’ve to head with Overeem. Overeem by means of TKO 2d spherical.

Saturday’s combat time table

ESPN+, Eight p.m. ET
Alistair Overeem vs. Augusto Sakai | Heavyweight
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Alonzo Menifield | Light heavyweight
Michel Pereira vs. Zelim Imadaev | Welterweight
Brian Kelleher vs. Kevin Natividad | Men’s featherweight
Jalin Turner vs. Thiago Moisés | Lightweight
ESPN+, 6 p.m. ET
Bartosz Fabinski vs. Andre Muniz | Middleweight
Montana De La Rosa vs. Viviane Araújo | Women’s flyweight
Alexander Romanov vs. Marcos Rogério de Lima | Heavyweight
Cole Smith vs. Hunter Azure | Men’s bantamweight


How to observe the fights

Watch the fights on ESPN+. If you shouldn’t have ESPN+, get it here.

There’s additionally FightCenter, which provides are living updates for each UFC card.


What to search for … past the principle tournament

Nickname of the week

Marcos Rogério de Lima is referred to as “Pezão,” which is Portuguese for “Bigfoot.” Sorry, however regardless of your shoe dimension, you’ll’t borrow Antonio Silva‘s trademark moniker and be expecting to earn our Nickname of the Week award. Cole Smith (“The Cole Train”) is clearly a jazz fan, and that does not truly jibe with the MMA musical demographic. Michel Pereira is “Demolidor” (or “Demolisher” in English), and should you’ve observed his high-flying preventing taste, you kinda need one thing flashier from the nickname. Alexander Romanov is “King Kong,” and he is a heavyweight and undefeated. Not unhealthy. But let’s cross with “The Butcher,” despite the fact that it makes Bartosz Fabinski look like part of a professional wrestling tag staff. Or perhaps on account of that.

Five extra issues to grasp (from ESPN Stats & Information)

1. After their combat used to be postponed a few weeks in the past, Ovince Saint Preux and Alonzo Menifield will face off within the co-main tournament. Saint Preux has fought 20 occasions at gentle heavyweight within the UFC, two at the back of Jon Jones for many within the department’s historical past. Saint Preux has 10 finishes at 205 kilos, one at the back of Glover Teixeira for many in UFC gentle heavyweight historical past.

2. Thiago Moisés faces Jalin Turner in a combat of Contender Series alums. Moisés is amongst 11 contract winners from the display’s one season that featured most effective Brazilian combatants. Turner fought on Season 2 of the U.S. model however didn’t obtain a freelance.

3. Montana De La Rosa, who faces Brazilian flyweight Viviane Araújo, is 4-1 throughout the Octagon and has received thrice through submission, one shy of the ladies’s report held through Gillian Robertson.

4. One fighter at the card enters with an undefeated report: 11-0 Moldovan heavyweight Alexander Romanov, who makes his promotional debut towards 10-fight UFC veteran Marcos Rogério de Lima. Romanov has received all 11 fights through stoppage (seven through submission, 4 through knockout).

5. Cole Smith faces Hunter Azure within the opening bout of the cardboard. In the previous 3 UFC occasions, combatants within the opening bout have received both a Performance of the Night bonus or a Fight of the Night bonus.

ESPN’s Jeff Wagenheim contributed to this record.

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