Dubai: Augusto Sakai’s rise up the UFC ranks has been nothing short of meteoric and the 29-year-old Japanese-Brazilian mixed martial artist finds himself on the cusp of breaking into the top five of the heavyweight division should be defeat longtime veteran Alistair Overeem in the main over of Saturday night’s UFC Vegas 9 fight card.
Sakai, (MMA 15-1-1, UFC 4-0-0,), who began the year ranked 27th in the promotion, has catapulted to No. 9 spot following a sequence of six wins.
Overeem (46-18, 1 NC, UFC 11-7-0), a 40-year-old Dutch-born veteran is ranked two places higher after winning three of his last four fights, including a second-round TKO over American Walt Harris in May.
The grandson of Japanese immigrants to Sakai’s day job sees him working at an aquarium store in Curitiba, Parana, Brazil.
Speaking to MMA Junkie, the six-footer said: “He hits hard, and so do I. He’s a good striker, as am I. When we meet, I’ll show that I’m ready for this challenge.
“Everyone wants to see a fast finish. That’s also what I want. I never like it when it goes to the judges. But it’s part of our sport.
“Across from me stands another tough fighter who trained just as hard, and wants to win just as badly.”
With the retirement of Daniel Cormier, the heavyweight division is badly in need of a makeover and a win for either fighter could propel them into the top five with a chance at a title shot next.
Overeem, a former K-1 and Strikeforce heavyweight champion, realises that time is running out on his career as he prepares to making a final push for a shot at the title.
Saturday’s card also features a light-heavyweight clash between Ovince Saint Preux (24-11-0) and Alonzo Menifiel.
Saint Preux has a good record having scored big wins over Mauricio Rua (UFC Fight Night 56), Corey Anderson (UFC 217), Tyson Pedro (UFC Fight Night 132), Michal Oleksiejczuk (UFC Fight Night 160), Patrick Cummins (UFC on FOX 15), while Conder Series star Menifie has put away Paul Craig (UFC on ESPN 3), Vinicius Moreira (UFC Fight Night 143).
The preliminary card starts at 1am UAE time on Sunday morning. The main card begins at 4am.
UFC Vegas 9
Alistair Overeem v Augusto Sakai
Ovince Saint Preux v Alonzo Menifield
Sijara Eubanks v Karol Rosa
Michel Pereira v Zelim Imadaev
Brian Kelleher vs Kevin Natividad
Thiago Moises v Jalin Turner
Andre Muniz v Bartosz Fabinski
Viviane Araujo v Montana De La Rosa
Alexandr Romanov v Marcos Rogerio De Lima
Cole Smith v Hunter Azure