MMA veteran Alistair Overeem will take on rising star Augusto Sakai in a heavyweight main event on Saturday’s UFC Fight Night card, with the winner potentially landing a top-five ranking.

Sakai Overeem UFC Fight Night
Augusto Sakai (left) attempts to continue his run up the UFC heavyweight division when he takes on veteran Alistair Overeem on Saturday. (Image: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa)

Sakai (15-1-1) is 4-0 so far in his UFC career, but Overeem looms as the biggest test yet for the 29-year-old Brazilian.

Sakai Prepared for First Main Event

Still young for a heavyweight, Sakai believes that earning a victory over the legendary Overeem could be just what he needs to propel himself into title contention.

“I know that if I have a great performance on Saturday night, all eyes will be upon me, and I will be one of the top five guys in my weight class,” Sakai said via a translator during the UFC’s virtual media day on Thursday. “That’s my goal.”

The only blemishes on Sakai’s record both came while he was still fighting for Bellator. In 2016, Dan Charles held him to a majority draw. In his next fight, nearly exactly a year later, Cheick Kongo defeated Sakai by split decision.

Since then, it’s been smooth sailing for the Japanese Brazilian. After earning a contract on Dana White’s Contender Series by stopping Marcos Conrado in the first round, he has knockouts over Chase Sherman and Marcin Tybura. However, two of his UFC wins have also come via split decision over Andrei Arlovski last year, and Blagoy Ivanov in May.

Furthermore, Sakai has never fought in a five-round fight. However, he says his training camp prepared him for 25 minutes in the Octagon.

“We’ve trained a lot to fight for five rounds,” Sakai said. “If we reach the championship rounds, I’ll be ready to keep my rhythm going.”

Lack of KO Threat Could Define Fight

At 40, Overeem (46-18) stands as one of the true veterans of the UFC heavyweight division. While he hasn’t had a title shot since Stipe Miocic knocked him out in the first round of UFC 203 in 2016, he remains dangerous. Overeem has won three of his last four fights, including a TKO victory over Walt Harris in May. He holds the No. 6 rank heading into Saturday’s fight.

UFC Fight Night 176 Odds

  • Alistair Overeem (-170) vs. Augusto Sakai (+138)
  • Ovince Saint Preux (+108) vs. Alonzo Menifield (-123)
  • Sijara Eubanks (+116) vs. Karol Rosa (-142)
  • Michel Pereira (-115) vs. Zelim Idamaev (-105)
  • Brian Kelleher (-245) vs. Kevin Natividad (+194)
  • Thiago Moises (-170) vs. Jalin Turner (+138)

Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook

Overeem enters the fight as a -170 favorite over Sakai (+138), according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Unlike most top heavyweight fighters, Sakai doesn’t possess the kind of one-punch knockout power that tends to define the division. That could prove to be a problem against Overeem, who usually finds trouble when opponents challenge his durability. If the two grind things out for five rounds, Overeem likely has the advantage.

The co-main event features light heavyweight prospect Alonzo Menifield (9-1) taking on Ovince Saint Preux (24-14), who postponed this fight two weeks ago due to a positive COVID-19 test. Menifield enters as a slight -132 favorite over Saint Preux (+108). However, St. Preux may have the edge if he can survive Menifield’s signature early aggression: seven of Menifield’s nine career wins have come in the first round.