FightWatch: UFC Fight Night- Overeem vs. Sakai
It's time! The Octagon has come back to The Arena, as we examine a recent Fight Night. This one's headlined by a heavyweight battle of hard hitters, as veteran striker Alistair Overeem takes on relative newcomer Augusto Sakai.
Overeem has done it all in his career. Making his MMA debut in 1999- when your writer had no idea what MMA was, although he knew about some Ken Shamrock guy that liked to put people in ankle locks- Reem has earned every bit of his veteran status. Along with a decorated kickboxing career, he went through PRIDE and Strikeforce, picking up a multitude of titles along the way. He made his UFC debut at the tail end of 2011, making Brock Lesnar's liver quiver and sending him back to WWE. It seemed like a matter of time before Overeem was UFC Champion... unfortunately, that is the one title that has eluded him, losing at pivotal points, including a title shot against the current champ, Stipe Miocic, where he hurt the champion early before ultimately getting sparked out himself. Poor Reem. At least he can say he was in LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" music video. On a serious note, Overeem appears to be in great form, showing little signs of slowing down despite having 65 fights (and that's only the MMA ones) on his record coming in. In his most recent fight, he scored a 2nd round TKO over Walt Harris.
His opponent, Sakai, was a mere 8 years old when Overeem started mixing his martial arts. Prior to coming to the UFC, he fought in Bellator, going 3-1-1 before coming up on the UFC radar with a fight on the Brazil version of Dana White's Contender Series (which, admittedly, I didn't know was a thing until I started doing research for this intro). However, Sakai has largely gone under the radar for much of his UFC run- he did beat Andrei Arlovski, albeit via split decision. After picking up another split decision last time out over Blagoy Ivanov, Sakai has a chance to make a significant statement in this main event showcase.
Let's do this!
(NOTE: This fight card was ravaged by COVID-19 and other injuries. We were left with only 7 fights, so as a result, no prelims took place here).
Fight 1: Bantamweight (135) -Hunter Azure def. Cole Smith via unanimous decision (29-29 X 3)
WORTH A WATCH? Decent competitive action between two young fighters. Azure seemed to have the striking advantage in R1 and R2, but Smith rallied late with aggression, almost locking in a rear naked choke. Since we've only got 7 fights to watch, I'd recommend this one, on a bigger card I'd probably skip it if you were pressed for time. Good effort, just not a lot of exciting or spectacular moments.
Fight 2: Women's Flyweight (125)- Viviane Araujo def. Montana De La Rosa via UD (30-27 X 2, 29-28)
WORTH A WATCH? Okay, this was a fun scrap. They went to the final horn simply down to the pure toughness of De La Rosa. Araujo had a significant striking advantage, busting her up early and also slowing her down with leg kicks. Montana soldiered on though, and began landing well in the 3rd, taking that round on one judge's scorecard- which was how I saw it also. Great stuff from both ladies.
Fight 3: Featherweight (145)- Brian Kelleher def. Ray Rodriguez via submission (guillotine choke) at 0:39 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Damn! Like Wu Tang said, protect yo neck! The newcomer, Rodriguez, shot an early takedown and Kelleher leapt on that guillotine. So yeah, put aside 39 seconds of your day and watch this fight.
Fight 4: Middleweight (185)- Andre Muniz def. Bartosz Fabinski via submission (armbar) at 2:42 of R1
WORTH A WATCH? Well, the finishes are starting to come quick and fast, giving me little to write about! Come on, guys! Bit of a slow start with some clinch work on the fence... and then we almost had a repeat of the previous fight with Muniz leaping on a guillotine. Fabinski, to his credit, fought out of it after a struggle... and then Muniz switched to an armbar for the quick tap! Worth watching just for the speed and fluidity that Muniz showed to lock in that armbar after the failed choke.
Fight 5: Welterweight (170)- Michel Pereira def. Zelim Imadaev via submission (rear naked choke) at 4:39 of R3
WORTH A WATCH? Pereira busts out a Spinaroonie during the introductions, so that makes this automatically worth watching. I like this guy. He fights like I play UFC games on the PS4. Constant attacks with the flashiest shit he can muster. Flying knees. Showtime Kick. Superman Punch off the cage. Imadaev was tough and willing to go to war, frequently sticking his tongue out after taking these big shots. Pereira mixed the fundamentals and great defensive skills to go with the flashy shit, and also showed a ton of attitude, constantly taunting his opponent, keeping his hands down to goad Imadaev, doing the Ali Shuffle... and even slapped him in the face! He got that late finish to really put a bow on things, and I really can't wait to see this guy move up the ranks and face higher level competition, because this was absolute domination, but in the most fun way possible.
Fight 6: Light Heavyweight (205)- Ovince St Preux def. Alonzo Menifield via KO (punch) at 4:07 of R2
WORTH A WATCH? That KO was something else, and definitely worth seeking out that highlight at least. But the fight as a whole was a good one. It proved my thought about this fight when it was booked- there's levels to this game. OSP comfortably controlled this fight. He managed distance, used his reach well and was able to hit and not be hit over the 2 rounds. Menifield is a promising fighter, but coming off the Contender Series a few fights ago, against a veteran who went 5 rounds with Jon Jones in a title fight... he just wasn't ready. And that KO! A walk-away effort Mark Hunt would be proud of. Ovince is known for his submissions, but that was an excellent counter hook.
Shit, it's main event time already? Okay then!
Fight 7: Heavyweight (265)- Alistair Overeem def. Augusto Sakai via KO (elbows and punches) at 0:26 of R5
WORTH A WATCH? A legend like Overeem, it's always worth seeing him do his thing, especially when he can pick up key victories at this stage of his career. But this was an excellent fight. Overeem looked in trouble early, with Sakai hurting him with pressure striking, including some high quality Muay Thai work against the fence. He was able to turn the tide in R3 with a takedown and damaging ground and pound that busted Sakai open. R4 saw more blitzing from Sakai, which included a nice elbow which busted Reem open significantly. But the veteran had the formula now, getting another takedown and more brutal ground and pound. Likely 2-2 going into the final round, but Sakai was spent at this point, Reem easily getting the takedown and landing more strikes on the ground, and before long, Herb Dean had seen enough. The main event definitely gave us our money's worth on the Fight Pass subscription.
Bonuses: No Fight of the Night (Overeem and Sakai getting a bit shafted there)
Performance of the Night: OSP, Pereira, Muniz and Kelleher
All in all, a nice way to return to MMA action on The Arena. Short but sweet, we had some big time finishes, the Michel Pereira show, and a tremendous showing by the big boys in the main event.
Until next time, take care,