Augusto Sakai looked like he belonged in the cage with a legend in his first UFC main event Saturday. But the legend ultimately taught the upstart there are levels to this game.
Alistair Overeem took everything his Brazilian opponent could throw at him – and Sakai threw out quite a bit – during the UFC on ESPN+ 34 heavyweight main event in Las Vegas. But using veteran guile, Overeem (47-18 MMA, 12-7 UFC) turned the tables in the fourth and finished things in the fifth. The time of the TKO stoppage at the UFC Apex was 26 seconds into the final round. Overeem won for the fourth time in his past five fights.
“Augusto is a tough guy, and an up-and-comer. We kind of knew that he’d take the punishment,” Overeem said in his post-fight interview. “But we did it, at 40 years of age.”
The fight was fought at a methodical pace, with Sakai the aggressor for the bulk of the fight. Overeem frequently covered up in a high guard whenever Sakai (15-2-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) pushed forward, and while Overeem parried most of the blows, some of them got through.
Much of the fight was a clinch war, usually with Sakai pressing Overeem against the cage, with both fighters landing knees on the break.
On this went for the better part of three rounds, and it appeared perhaps Overeem was attempting a bit too much to conserve energy. This further seemed the case early in the fourth, when a Sakai elbow broke through Overeem’s high guard, landed flush, and cut him open.
But that’s when things changed for good. Overeem landed a sloppily executed but effective takedown and then went town from the top, absolutely battering Sakai with a wide variety of punches, hammerfists, and elbows.
Sakai made it to the horn, but Overeem immediately landed the same takedown in the fifth, and poured it on until referee Herb Dean waved things off.
The victory was the 42nd finish of Overeem’s career. All four of his wins on his current 4-1 run have been by knockout or TKO. Sakai’s first career stoppage loss ended a six-fight winning streak.
The heavyweight bout was the UFC on ESPN+ 34 main event at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. It aired on ESPN and streamed on ESPN+.
Complete UFC on ESPN+ 34 results: