Middle age has not yet had much of an effect on Alistair Overeem’s potency within the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight division.
“The Demolition Man” in his first post-age-40 appearance laid waste to Augusto Sakai with elbows and punches in the fifth round of their UFC Fight Night 176 main event on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Sakai, who had never before been finished, succumbed to blows 26 seconds into Round 5 and experienced his first setback in five starts inside the Octagon.
Overeem was measured in his approach and withstood a number of early offensive bursts from the Brazilian upstart. He seized control in the second half of the fight and paired takedowns with crushing ground-and-pound in the third, fourth and fifth rounds. Overeem connected at a staggering 80-percent clip (92-for-114) on significant strikes and slowly wore down his game but outmatched counterpart.
In the aftermath of UFC Fight Night “Overeem vs. Sakai,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Alistair Overeem vs. Ciryl Gane-Shamil Abdurakhimov winner: Overeem continues to excel as an old man in a young man’s game. The former Dream, Strikeforce and K-1 World Grand Prix champion has rattled off four wins over his past five appearances and was one Jairzinho Rozenstruik punch away from going 5-0. No one knows whether or not Overeem’s late-career spike will last, but for now, he remains one of the sport’s most accomplished active heavyweights and a key figure in the UFC’s plans moving forward, either as a gatekeeper or a contender. The unbeaten Gane will face Abdurakhimov under the UFC 253 banner on Sept. 26 in the United Arab Emirates.
Ovince St. Preux vs. Johnny Walker-Ryan Spann winner: Experience and craft lifted St. Preux in his latest assignment, as he cut down Alonzo Menifield with a counter left hook in the second round of their light heavyweight co-headliner. Menifield met his end 4:07 into Round 2. St. Preux used his superior size and length to corral the knockout-minded Fortis MMA export on the outside, battering his body and lead leg with powerful kicks. As Menifield charged forward late in the second round, “OSP” uncorked a scorching counter that planted him face-first on the canvas. It was St. Preux’s first clean knockout in nearly three years. Walker and Spann are scheduled to collide at UFC Fight Night 178 on Sept. 19.
Michel Pereira vs. Alex Oliveira: Pereira has established himself as an intriguing but maddening talent who struggles to strike a balance between showman and competitor. The flashy Brazilian evened his UFC record at 2-2 with his rear-naked choke submission of Zelim Imadaev in their welterweight feature, drawing the curtain 4:39 into Round 3. Pereira was in control from start to finish and assaulted the Russian boxer with a mesmerizing blend of punches, kicks and knees, as he outlanded him by an 88-24 margin by the time it was over. Still just 26 years of age, the Scorpion Fighting System standout appears to have all the tools necessary to contend at 170 pounds, provided his approach undergoes some moderation. Oliveira last competed at UFC on ESPN 14, where he took a unanimous decision from Peter Sobotta on July 25.
Viviane Araujo vs. Alexa Grasso: Araujo rebounded from her Dec. 14 decision loss to former title challenger Jessica Eye with a unanimous decision over Montana De La Rosa in a three-round battle at 125 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it for the Brazilian: 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27. Damage was the difference. Araujo unleashed punishing jabs, stinging calf kicks and thudding overhand rights, as she had “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 26 quarterfinalist bleeding from the nose, mouth and multiple facial cuts. De La Rosa did what she could to stay competitive but could not match the horsepower of the skilled muay Thai stylist. Araujo, 33, has won six of her last seven bouts. Grasso made a successful flyweight debut on Aug. 29, when she captured a unanimous verdict over Ji Yeon Kim at UFC Fight Night 175.