Alistair Overeem battered Augusto Sakai for five rounds before finding a finish to win at UFC Fight Night on Saturday.
Overeem won via TKO 26 seconds into the final round after nearly finishing the fight in the fourth.
Overeem Uses Ground-And-Pound to Finish Sakai
The first three rounds saw the two heavyweights engage in a technical, back-and-forth battle. Sakai (15-2-1) got the best of the first two rounds, scoring multiple times with long unanswered combinations. But Overeem (47-18) began surging in the third as he managed to get Sakai on the ground in dominant positions.
That strategy carried over to the fourth round. Sakai barely survived the final seconds, with all three judges giving the fourth round to Overeem by a 10-8 margin.
“I was actually focused on maybe a submission,” Overeem told reporters after the fight. “But I kind of saw that the damage was kind of substantial with the ground-and-pound. I was like, ‘Oh well, this is working. Let’s stick with this.”
Sakai needed a big fifth round to have a chance in the fight, but Overeem immediately put him on the ground before landing several big elbows. At that point, referee Herb Dean stopped the fight.
While the victory won’t propel Overeem into the title picture – he came into the fight ranked fifth in the heavyweight division – he believes he’s getting close.
“I’ll need another win,” Overeem said. “It also depends on the other landscape. But another win.”
COVID-19 Shortens Card to Seven Fights
The clash between Overeem and Sakai came at the top of one of the shortest cards in the modern UFC era. UFC Fight Night 176 featured just seven fights – the least since UFC Fight Night 2 in 2005 – after several bouts fell apart at the last minute due to COVID-19.
The UFC canceled fights between Thiago Moises and Jalin Turner, and between Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Alexander Romanov because of positive coronavirus tests. Three cards have now lost fights due to COVID-19 in the past three weeks.
UFC Plans Five Fight Island Shows
The UFC plans to return to Fight Island beginning later this month, with ESPN reporting that the promotion will stage five cards on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.
That run will begin with UFC 253 on Sept. 26. Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa will fight for the middleweight title at the top of that card.
Fight Island will then host three UFC Fight Night events before wrapping up its Abu Dhabi swing with UFC 254 on Oct. 24. Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight title against Justin Gaethje on that show.
This marks the second stay on Fight Island for the UFC. The company held four events at the facility in July, including UFC 251. The UFC worked with local authorities to build the infrastructure for hosting fights, and has used the venue as a way to hold bouts between international fighters who can’t travel to the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.