What mattered most at UFC on ESPN+ 34 in Las Vegas? Here are a few post-fight musings …
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1. Alistair Overeem is still here
Alistair Overeem kept his “one final run” narrative alive by beating Augusto Sakai with a main event performance that would best be described as crafty violence.
There was some concern for Overeem in the bout after a slow start in the first two rounds, but as time wore on, it was evident his strategy was to drag Sakai into uncharted waters and sap his energy before cranking up the volume. It worked brilliantly, because by the time the fourth and fifth rounds rolled around, Sakai couldn’t stop a takedown or get up from bottom position, allowing Overeem to bloody and batter him into a late TKO.
It was an effort that showed exactly why Overeem is still able to compete at the top level at his age. The 40-year-old had better tactics than a surging name in the division who was 11 years his junior, and the Dutchman’s hope of getting one more crack at UFC gold before hanging up his gloves remains realistic.
Some things have to play out with the heavyweight belt in the coming months before Overeem gets the call, and in the meantime he just needs to keep at the forefront by winning another fight. If he can do that against someone in the top-5, few would argue against him trying to make a fairytale career end.
2. Another awesome Ovince Saint Preux finish
That’s a pretty bold statement, because Saint Preux has a lot of them. In fact, his knockout of Menifield moved him out of a tie with Jon Jones and into tie with Glover Teixeira for the most stoppage wins by a light heavyweight in UFC history.
Whether it’s a crushing strike with the hands or feet, or one of his slick signature submissions, Saint Preux has a lot of ways to keep a fight away from the judges, and Menifield experienced the brunt of that. The problem, however, is Saint Preux’s struggle to do it consistently. He hasn’t won consecutive fights in nearly three years, and if he wants to be something more than just a fun character at 205 pounds, that needs to change.
At 37, it would seem Saint Preux’s time to put it together has to come soon. The post-Jones version of the division is ripe with opportunity, and Saint Preux has the ability to become a factor.
3. Michel Pereira’s post-fight hiccup
It was pretty much a perfect night for Michel Pereira, except for one resounding error.
After putting on a classic Pereira performance against Zelim Imadaev that led to a third-round submission win, the Brazilian used his platform and big moment to call out … Jorge Masvidal?
Sure, that sounds like a fun fight on paper, and it probably would be in practice, too. But it’s deeply, deeply improbable. Pereira isn’t ranked at welterweight, first of all, and second of all he just beat an opponent in Imadaev who is now 0-3 in his UFC career. Masvidal, for his part, is expected to rematch Nate Diaz for the “BMF” title in January, so he’s not even available.
Pereira would’ve been better served using his post-fight moment to ask for a fight that actually made sense at this point in his career. Hopefully he’ll come out with a better name during any subsequent post-fight media rounds, because there’s no shortage of compelling fights for Pereira out there that are better served for his wheelhouse.
4. A welcomed seven-fight serving
By no means should we be happy about fighters losing opportunities to compete in the final days or hours leading up to an event, but after several late changes to Saturday’s card, the end result was the UFC’s first seven-fight lineup in nearly 15 years.
The last time a UFC card had that few fights was The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale in November 2005, and it was a completely different world back then. This event was still stretched out over roughly three-and-a-half hours despite five finishes (including two in the first round), but that still put it at about half the run time from a normal show, which is welcomed.
UFC is the only sport in town where events run six to seven hours on a weekly basis, and it can be painstaking at times. This card was much more in tone with what it would take to sit down for an NBA or NHL game, and it makes a world of difference for the viewer.
Unfortunately, this is not going to become the norm. The shortened night was merely a product of circumstance, and unless upcoming cards are ravaged to the same degree, we’ll be right back to getting 11-14 fights on every show.