#6 Alistair Overeem and #9 Augusto Sakai face off in a heavyweight showdown that will be the first baby step towards a title, waiting behind N’Gannou to take his second shot.
UFC Fight Night 176: Overeem vs Sakai Predictions & Results
Before we kick off the pre-fight predictions, there is a very important piece of news that must be revealed. Main card fighter, Michel Pereira, has spent portions of his training camp taking down a variety of farm animals, most notably cows and horses. Pereira, the same fighter who breakdances during his ‘Buffer’™️ octagon announcement, has endured an animal farm training camp that would have made George Orwell proud. Perhaps more important for Pereira, would have been trying to devise a strategy to work around his limited gas tank. Improving his takedown game is also commendable, however.
The heavyweight main event has remained a staple of the UFC’s promotion since their inception. Luckily, it is hard not to love the kill or be killed Reem, so the main event is super necessary. Overeem is one of the few technically sound heavyweights, and he faces off against Augusto Sakai, grandson of Japanese immigrants to Brazil. Sakai bases his game around Muay Thai that he has trained since he was fourteen. Sakai is a big durable boy, but if the contest were based on skills alone, Reem is stratospheres ahead of Sakai. Yet with a susceptible chin and questionable back-foot striking defence, Reem is always good money to keel over early to the pressure fighting of Sakai.
If we are to be brutally honest, this card is a fairly sad looking pandemic-induced card. We have missed the chance to watch two very equal and exciting Bantamweights, Ricky Simón vs Brian Kelleher, go at it. Simón’s cornerman testing positive for Coronavirus and forced a late replacement in Kevin Natividad. Simón and Kelleher would have been a certified banger on the feet. Simón‘s delicious left hook-straight combination would have been on show against the speed of Kelleher, which surely would have poked holes in Simón’s defensive frailties. Alas, the fight will surely be made soon IF Kelleher is to get through Saturday night unscathed.
Alistair Overeem (46-18) vs Augusto Sakai (15-1-1)
Sometimes it feels like Alistair Overeem has been around since the dawn of man. While morphing between shredded-reem to ubereem to USADA-reem across his sixty-four fight career has been a pleasure to watch, more impressive has been Overeem’s willingness to consistently develop his skill set. Dissatisfied with his crushing ground and pound loss to Curtis Blaydes, Overeem jumped camps to Team Elevation in Colorado so he could learn directly from his murderer. Stockholm syndrome aside, Overeems desire for continual evolvement has resulted in him representing perhaps the most well-rounded heavyweight active within the UFC (on par with current champion, Stipe Miocic). There is just one drawback to the wealth of experience that the reem has gathered, Overeems chin has been worn down.
Look no further than Reem’s most recent fight against Walt Harris to see the Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. Harris dropped Overeem in the first round, and if his ground striking had have been more calculated, would have finished a turtled Overeem. Instead, Overeem was granted a second life after Harris shot most of his load in the first, and was able to smesh his way to a dominating technical knockout on the ground. One issue with Overeem is his discomfort at being pushed consistently on the feet. Takedowns and clinch work have been successful emergency outlets, but if Sakai can keep the fight standing, Overeems lack of sophisticated striking defence will be exposed. A similarly hearty and combination puncher to Sakai is Stipe Miocic. Miocic was able to out-tough Overeem in a hectic first round which then gave himself enough time to land at will during later rounds.
Augusto Sakai is a fighter who I am currently rather lukewarm on. Sakai is not a very nuanced striker, he struggled to outwork the granite chinned but robotic Blagoy Ivanov. Moreover, Sakai couldn’t switch off the lights of the ancient Andre Arlovski, a decent litmus paper test for a fighters ceiling. Compare a select few who have knocked out Arlovski since 2016.
- Those who have knocked out Arlovski: Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Overeem, Miocic, Francis N’Gannou, and Josh Barnett – all firmly top-five heavyweights at some point
- Those who won but failed to knockout Arlovski: Tai Tuivasa – cut, Marcin Tybura – failed to break top-10, Shamil Abdurakhimov – decent fighter but now thirty-nine with no top heavyweight scalps.
Sure MMA math is never an accurate measurement, but the ability to put away Arlovski is a tried and tested method. Sakai’s volume centric style is probably enough to be able to land somewhat consistently on Overeem, however. Additionally, Sakai possesses a ton of heart so expect Sakai to dominate the championship rounds if Overeem fails to take an early grappling initiative.
Predicted Result: Overeem Decision
Sakai is a tough man who will endure long periods of punishment off of his back. There will also be a couple scares for Overeem late on in the contest, as he tires and has to face the unrelenting pressure of Sakai’s volume. Sakai’s lack of pop, and Reems grappling superiority, will be enough to win comfortably on the scorecards.
Result: Overeem def. Sakai // TKO (elbow and punches) Round 5 0:26
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Light Heavyweight (205)
Ovince St. Preux (24-14) vs Alonzo Menifield (9-1)
Below is a repost of my initial prediction of the OSP-Menifield fight, two weeks ago for UFC on ESPN 15. The two week break may have affected both men , but honestly, it was always destined to be a sloppy affair.
Hahaha, how is this co-main event? Good Lord. OSP returns to light heavyweight after an embarrassing decision loss to heavyweight veteran, Ben Rothwell. The same problems that have plagued OSP’s career at LHW, appeared at HW, as his rampant inactivity trumped any significant shots he landed. OSP is only one big head kick, or random Von Flue Choke, away from securing an emphatic victory. Aside from the hail mary’s, OSP is a very limited fighter with a gas tank that rivals the early World War One tanks.
Speaking of gas tanks, Alonzo Menifeld enters the room. The man is built like a Greek God but gassed after a minute during his decision loss to Devin Clark. During that opening round, Menifeld looked viscous dangerous but the gameplan on how to beat him is now out in the open. Any competent striker should almost always be able to evade the more damaging strikes of Menifeld. Beating Menifeld is made slightly more difficult by his solid TDD which prevents the easy route of draining Menifeld on the mat during the dangerous first round. Moving up to light heavyweight is a strange career move for a man who tops the scale at a generous 6″0′, but perhaps the weight cut was draining gas tank.
Predicted Result: OSP Submission Round 3
Battle of the gas tanks. It will be a fun watch for about a minute. Hopefully it ends there.
Result: OSP def. Menifield // KO (punch) Round 2 4:07
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Michel Pereira (23-11) vs Zelim Imadaev (8-2)
I really like Michel Pereira. There I said it. For a man who at one point had all the hype of the UFC world, Pereira now finds himself lost in the Welterweight division. Following a highlight reel debut, a destructive first-round flying knee knockout of the underrated Danny Roberts, Pereira has fallen far from grace. A three-round humbling at the hands of journeyman Tristan Connelly, and a strange DQ loss to the corpse of Diego Sanchez, Pereira has seemingly been exposed as just an athletic, acrobatic one round fighter. I would agree with the question mark over his conditioning past the first round; Pereira looked fine against Sanchez throughout their bout but he effectively had free reign over the pace and distance. Almost forty fights in a career just nine years old, Pereira still has room to improve at twenty-six years old, but I don’t think there will be enough time for him to unlearn his bad habits. Instead, I hope Pereira doubles down and continues to thoroughly entertain me with flying knees, superman punches and showtime kicks.
Zelim Imadaev is another fighter who has fallen onto hard times. Entering into the UFC as a hotly anticipated 8-0 prospect, Imadaev delivered a heated cagey showdown with Max Griffin but was handily out-grappled for the first two rounds. Faced off with a like-for-like slugger in Danny Roberts, Imadaev was expected to relight his hype train, but was knocked out cold in the second round. Imadaev is a powerful and accurate striker, who has been trying too hard for highlight-reel finishes during his UFC career. This contest is one for Imadaev to lose, as he is the far more technical striker and possesses cardio that holds up beyond the first round.
Predicted Result: Imadaev TKO Round 3
Got a lot of love for Pereira, please please please UFC DO NOT cut him if he is to lose
Result: Pereira def. Imadaev // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 3 4:39
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ✔️
Brian Kelleher (21-11) vs
Kevin Natividad (9-1) LMR: Ray Rodriguez (16-6)
Brian Kelleher is a fantastic gatekeeper of the stacked featherweight division (the man has a W over former champion and P4P great Renan Barão!). Kelleher was preparing for the slicker boxing of Ricky Simón, and will have to adjust to the lower output but harder hitting Kevin Natividad. Last minute call-up, Natividad has his work cut out for him if he is to be victorious on his promotional debut. Kelleher is stronger in all aspects of mixed martial arts, but last minute replacements during this pandemic period have been taking their opportunities.
Predicted Result: Kelleher TKO Round 3
Hopefully after this fight, Kelleher-Simón will be rescheduled as a banger of a fight in the murkier ends of bantamweight.
Result: Kelleher def. Rodriguez // Submission (guillotine choke) Round 1 0:39
Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Thiago Moisés (13-4) vs Jalin Turner (9-5)
Moisés, as I had to remind myself, was the fighter who my boi Michael Johnson was piecing up at range before falling into a submission out of nowhere. The Moisés who was content to sit at range and eat big shots will be slept by the far larger Jalin Turner. The Moisés who entered the second round aggressive, actively searching for a takedown, will be able out-grapple Turner and likely find a submission for his troubles.
Turner is a massive 6”3’, take one to give one, striking machine. The ideal fight for Turner would be to establish his power early and keep Moisés on the outside where he can throw his powerful straight shots. By virtue of his size, Turner represents a puzzle to takedown, on par with Pereira’s horse/cow training partners.
Predicted Result: Thiago Moisés Decision
A very close fight. Turner could certainly finish this early, but Moisés is a far superior technician on the ground. Unless Turner’s size proves an issue to keep him down, Moisés should win this on control time alone.
Result: 🚫 CANCELLED FIGHT 🚫
Bartosz Fabiński (15-3) vs André Muniz (19-4)
Fabiński is the Middleweight Snoozeman without the toe stomps. Absolutely suffocating on the ground, Fabiński does little to progress the position once he’s firmly locked into top position. The calibre of opposition faced has allowed Fabiński to lay and pray his way to the scorecards, this will not be the case as he moves up the ranks.
Muniz is a submission first fighter, and will hopefully thrive off of his back if/when Fabiński takes the fight there. Even if Muniz cannot finish the fight off of his back, he will force Fabiński to work at the very least. Sloppy striking from both men but Muniz probably edges it with volume and general bravery.
Predicted Result: Fabiński Decision
Not a pretty match to watch, may be worth sorting your emails during this one.
Result: Muniz def. Fabiński // Submission (armbar) Round 1 2:42
Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Montana De La Rosa (11-5) vs Viviane Araujo (8-2)
Enjoyable high paced scrap between these two fighters desperate to assert themselves back into the top ten. De La Rosa is a high octane grappler who actively pursues the submission. Since her defeat to Andrea Lee, De La Rosa looked as if she had taken her wild volume striking down a gear in favour of a slightly more patient, and as such, effective striking game.
Araujo loves a big windmill and spinning shots, qualities that naturally make me a fan. Humbled by Jessica Eye in her last fight, Araujo needs to have added a stronger fundamental base to her extreme pot shotting game – at the very least a consistent jab. Araujos real strength is on the mat. An exceptional athlete, Araujo has the strength to control most flyweights on the mat and the toughness to endure any damage absorbed on her way to securing a takedown.
Predicted Result: Araujo Decision
Another tough scrap to call, favouring a razor thin Araujo decision based on more significant work on the feet and ground.
Result: Araujo def. De La Rosa // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
Marcos Rogério de Lima (17-6-1) vs Alexander Romanov (11-0)
A sloppy big boy fight, but a wholesome cooking kinda sloppy, like momma’s piping hot spaghetti bolognese on a fiercely cold winters night. De Lima is an undersized heavyweight with freaky power and it shows in his knockout win/loss dominated career. A patient back foot striker, de Lima’s power has cracked the chins of many upstart heavyweights e.g. Ben Sosoli.
Romanov is a promotional newcomer and a big ol chungus of a bear. Head first rushing offence with the sole aim to ground an opponent and beat them to a pulp is Romanov’s sole strategy. It may lack nuance, but it is hella entertaining to watch.
Predicted Result: Romanov TKO Round 2
Both men won’t be challenging for triathlon medals anytime soon, so expect a frenetic first round in which Romanov is able to beat the will out of de Lima, and sloppiness if the fight boils into the second or third.
Result: 🚫 CANCELLED FIGHT 🚫
Cole Smith (7-1) vs Hunter Azure (8-1)
Cole Smith is a fun watch as he often negates his Muay Thai background and exceptional height advantage at 5”11’, to instead fight at the pace and style dictated by his opponent. A toss up decision loss to undefeated Miles John could have been easily avoided if Smith had just opted to settle down into his striking advantage rather than wrestle.
Hunter Azure is a rugged wrestler with incredibly strong hips for the weight. Unfortunately for Azure, he seemed takedown shy against Kelleher, and was knocked out in the second round for his grappling timidity.
Predicted Result: Azure Decision
Azure will have learnt a lesson from the Kelleher loss and won’t fall in love with his hands so foolishly again. A return to his dominant wrestling game will see him through to an easy victory.
Result: Azure def. Smith // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️
UFC Fight Night 176: Overeem vs Sakai
2020 MMA Season
Takeaway comments: Low-key kinda sad to miss out on Romanov’s debut and a sloppy heavyweight showdown.