The UFC returns tomorrow night for their ninth fight night from the APEX. In the main event of the evening, Alistair Overeem (46-18, 1 NC) will be taking on Augusto Sakai (15-1-1). Let’s take a dive into the main card of UFC Vegas 9.
Overeem & Sakai look to emerge as top UFC contenders
In the main event of the evening, we have a battle between these two top nine UFC heavyweights. Overeem and Sakai are both looking to take another step forward towards a shot at the division’s best on Saturday night.
Alistair Overeem has been fighting for 21 years which is absolutely insane to think about. He’s fought the best of the best in every organization he’s ever competed in from Pride to Strikeforce to the UFC.
Overeem doesn’t have many weaknesses outside of his chin. He’s great on the feet and he’s great on the ground. Again, he really doesn’t have areas of weakness outside of that chin of his. Of his 18 losses, 14 of them have come by knockout.
In his last fight, Overeem was rocked early and dropped by Walt Harris. At first, it looked like Overeem was going to suffer his second straight knockout loss, but he weathered the storm. He would go on to finish a tired Harris in the second round. At 40 years old, Overeem has said this is his last run towards UFC gold.
Augusto Sakai has won all four of his fights since making it into the UFC. The only loss on Sakai’s record is a split decision loss to Cheick Kongo back in Bellator. Inside the octagon, Sakai has defeated the likes of: Blagoy Ivanov, Marcin Tybura, and Andrei Arlovski.
Sakai isn’t the fastest guy in the world, but his speed is deceptive. He moves pretty quick, and he’s got good pop on his shots. 11 of his 15 wins have come by knockout. In watching Sakai’s fights in the UFC, he’s either going to finish you, or it’s going to be razor close.
In analyzing this fight, it looks like a clear win for Overeem on paper. I just don’t see anywhere where I could say Sakai has an advantage. Sakai has never been finished, and I don’t see him getting finished in this one.
That being said, with Sakai’s power and Overeem’s chin, this fight is always one shot away from ending. I hate predicting Overeem fights because based on skill, you would pick him often, but that chin makes every pick feel uneasy. Over five rounds, Sakai will have his chance to finish it, but I’ll lean towards skill on this one.
Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision
Ovince St. Preux vs Alonzo Menifield
After one weird fight at heavyweight, Ovince St. Preux (24-14) heads back to the UFC‘s light heavyweight division against Alonzo Menifield (9-1) in the co-main event of the evening.
OSP has been a consistent light heavyweight contender over the years. He’s got good power, good submissions, and good wrestling. He’s used those tools to get wins over guys like Corey Anderson, Shogun Rua, and Yushin Okami.
OSP most notably stepped in for Daniel Cormier to fight Jon Jones at UFC 197 for the interim light heavyweight title. While Jones won the fight, OSP at least proved that he could stand in there with the greatest of all time.
St. Preux made the choice to try to move up to heavyweight in his last fight back in May against Ben Rothwell. While OSP had moments, his lack of activity led to his split decision loss. After one attempt, it’s back to the 205 well for OSP.
Heading into UFC 250, Alonzo Menifield was 9-0 with all nine wins coming via stoppage. Six of those wins came in the first round and he never saw a third round. That all changed that night.
Devin Clark was able to withstand the power and drag Menifield into a decision fight. We saw that Menifield does not have a style that carries well over three rounds and Clark got the decision victory.
With Menifield, you know what you’re going to get. He’s a world beater in the first round and even early in the second, but if you can survive that, you should be okay. The opening minutes will say a lot about the outcome.
Can Menifield catch OSP and put him away or can St. Preux drag Menifield into some deep water. St. Preux has only been finished twice in his UFC career with the last one coming in 2016 to Jimi Manuwa.
I keep going back and forth because I can see both men winning. I can easily see Menifield getting the knockout, and I can also see OSP surviving to get a decision. With no confidence at all, I’m going to say OSP gets dropped early, but is able to survive and win the final two rounds to edge Menifield in the co-main event.
Prediction: Ovince St. Preux by Unanimous Decision
Michel Pereira vs Zelim Imadaev
The third fight on the main card of UFC Vegas 9 is one I’m very excited for. We have a welterweight contest between Michel Pereira (23-11, 2 NC) and Zelim Imadaev (8-2). If you love a striking battle, this should be the fight for you.
Simply put, Pereira is an absolute wild man when he fights. I mean how many fighters have you seen do a backflip and dance in the middle of a UFC fight? Not many I’m assuming. Well, we’ve seen Pereira do that in his fights.
Despite the antics, extremely solid striking and good power hide behind the moves. Pereira entered the UFC with a big knockout over Danny Roberts. He then laid an egg against Tristan Connelly where he gassed himself early with all of his antics.
In his last contest, Pereira was dominating Diego Sanchez. However, Pereira hit Sanchez with an illegal knee in the third round. Now, I’m not trying to disrespect Sanchez, but it was obvious that he was fine but took the DQ victory by telling the ref he couldn’t continue. I’m not holding that loss against Pereira.
Zelim Imadaev entered the UFC with a ton of hype. The Russian had an impressive 8-0 record on the regional scene with all eight wins coming by knockout. After having all that hype, it’s quickly faded as he’s gone 0-2 on the big stage.
Imadaev does have very good striking and very good power. His boxing is very crisp, he just hasn’t looked great in his first two UFC fights. He lost a decision to Max Griffin then was knocked out by Danny Roberts. His back is against the wall in this one.
I believe this fight is going to end with someone staring at the lights. The big question is, who is going to land the big shot first. I could see either man doing it, but I’m going out on a limb and saying the wildman from Brazil is going to land something shocking early to take it.
Prediction: Michel Pereira by TKO – Round 1
Brian Kelleher vs Kevin Natividad
The second fight of the main card features a featherweight contest between Brian Kelleher (21-11) and UFC newcomer, Kevin Natividad (9-1). Kelleher was supposed to fight Ricky Simon, but a cornerman for Simon tested positive for COVID-19 causing Simon to withdraw.
Kelleher is looking to bounce back after his loss to Cody Stamann back at UFC 250. Prior to that loss, Kelleher had won two straight fights by stoppage. Kelleher is very well rounded, and he’s been in there with some of the best guys.
Originally a bantamweight in the UFC, Kelleher moved up to a more natural featherweight. The move to featherweight has paid off for Kelleher. He has good striking, and he’s good on the ground. This fight can’t go anywhere that would make Kelleher feel uncomfortable.
Natividad is making his debut after his fifth straight win in the last two years. He normally fights on bantamweight, but when the UFC calls with a fight, you take the fight. Natividad just fought back in July where he knocked out Kyle Estrada in LFA.
Natividad has very good striking and good footwork. He has a reach advantage in this fight which can really help him out. Natividad strikes well from the pocket, and he does a fantastic job of striking down the middle with his shots.
Despite moving up in weight and taking the fight on short notice, I think Natividad has a great chance to pull off the upset here. Kelleher was training for a completely different style of opponent which is never ideal.
That being said, it’s a lot to ask of Natividad to make a successful UFC debut against a guy like Kelleher. I believe this fight is going to be razor close, and I could see either getting their hand raised. However, I’m going with experience on this one.
Prediction: Brian Kelleher by Split Decision
Thiago Moises vs Jalin Turner
Kicking off the UFC Vegas 9 main card is a lightweight matchup between prospects Thiago Moises (13-4) and Jalin Turner (9-5). Both of these fighters will try to make it two wins in a row tomorrow night.
Thiago Moises enters this contest coming off of a win against Michael Johnson in his last fight back in May. Johnson was winning the fight early on, but Moises was able to lock up a submission that got him the victory.
Moises has a massive advantage once this fight touches the ground. Given how long Turner is, it will be easier for Moises to try to lock up a limb once the fight touches the ground. I’m expecting Moises to push forward early looking to get the fight to the ground.
Jalin Turner is astonishingly long for the lightweight division. Turner’s nickname is, “The Tarantula,” for good reason as he stands 6’3. He’s coming off of a TKO win in his last fight which brought him to 2-2 in his current UFC stint.
Turner has good striking and decent power for the lightweight division. As noted, Turner is very long, but he doesn’t seem to use his length very well. If he could make his straight shots more crisp and effective, he could be deadly. However, he doesn’t use his length the same way a guy like Jon Jones does.
I think this fight is going to come down to the takedown. If Turner can defend and keep the fight at range, he has a good shot. However, I just don’t see him stopping Moises from taking him down in this one. Again, once it hits the mat, it’s all Moises from there.
Prediction: Thiago Moises by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 2
UFC Vegas 9 Outlook
There are some incredible fights tomorrow night. While there are not the biggest names on the UFC Vegas 9 card, the fights should be incredibly entertaining. One of the last cards in the US before a trip to Fight Island should be entertaining for the fans.