The UFC is once again at the UFC APEX Center in Las Vegas to promote their UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Sakai show this Saturday night. The card features a heavyweight clash between Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai taking the main event spot. The stage is undoubtedly set to position the winner of this fight to begin the ascent to a contender’s spot in the heavyweight title picture. The rest of the card is a mashup of some familiar names as well as a couple of fresh faces from the regional scene. Let’s see which studs are primed for victory and which values are primed for upsetting the favorites on DraftKings.
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Alistair Overeem ($8,800)
Alistair Overeem may be 40 years old, but he’s still an incredibly dangerous fighter. He’s got loads of power and while he’s not as fast as he once was, he’s a lot quicker than much of the opposition from the division. His clinch work is legendary, especially his penchant for working powerful knees up the middle while pulling his opponent’s head down simultaneously. His high kicks are destructive, his body kicks are lethal, and he has the grappling chops to be a real threat on the ground, as 17 of his wins are via submission.
Overeem is a known training camp nomad and has switched teams numerous times over the course of his career. After four-plus years with Jackson-Wink, he made his latest camp change about two years ago, moving to Elevation Fight Team, which has seen him go 3-1 since joining their ranks. Over the years, it became abundantly clear that Alistair has a softish chin, however, his knockout losses have been to some of the heaviest hitters in the sport. That said, he has made considerable strides toward protecting himself better, while still managing to keep launching his forward assault.
Augusto Sakai ($7,400) has been racking up wins, but against less than stellar competition, and has struggled with some controversial split decisions in the process (see his fight with Andrei Arlovski). If we go strictly by the available stats, Sakai is considered a volume striker and a knockout artist, but when you start peeling back the layers of the onion, we find that he is also prone to taking breaks in the middle of rounds and his knockouts aren’t the result of one punch haymakers, but rather they are accumulative stoppages or from knees. One has to give the power advantage to Overeem. The cardio on Sakai is impressive, no doubt due to careful pacing, but Alistair also manages his stamina reserves well. Try as I might, I just can’t find any one thing outside of youth and a titanium chin that Sakai has over “The Demolition Man.” But it is heavyweight, and anything can happen.
Brian Kelleher ($9,200)
Brian Kelleher is an outstanding grappler who also happens to have the hot hand, just ask Hunter Azure. He’s quick and powerful with smooth transitions and does well in scrambles, no doubt thanks to his BJJ brown belt. He’s an aggressive cage general who likes to get right in the pocket and swing for the fences. He has porous defense, though, and is willing to stand and bang at the cost of taking a few to land one. His guillotine choke is impressive, and he uses that wild and reckless striking to set it up, throwing bombs until his opponent level changes and shoots.
His opponent, Kevin Natividad ($7,000), is a very technical, polished striker who has high level regional experience. He’s got very capable wrestling but is susceptible to leg kicks, so keep that tidbit in your pocket when considering Kevin. All told, of the newcomers that we’ve seen making their promotional debuts, Natividad is one of the better ones, but I still think he may be a little too green for the likes of Kelleher, who has faced a who’s who of super premium competition.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ray Rodriguez will face Brian Kelleher in place of Kevin Natividad on tonight’s UFC Fight Night card.
Montana De La Rosa ($7,300)
Montana De La Rosa is a gifted athlete with an outstanding wrestling game. She is aggressive and busy, not allowing her opponents to get a leg up on her in the activity department. Viviane Araujo ($8,900) has the better striking of the two, but Montana has evolved her jab and combination boxing quite nicely, so perhaps we’ll see further improvement from her in that regard. Araujo has very good offensive grappling, but her defensive ground game leaves a little to be desired.
The thing De La Rosa will need to be wary of is the power that Viviane carries, because she has legitimate stopping power. That said, with the speed and athleticism that she possesses, she could find her way to an upset. I just don’t have a lot of faith in Araujo after the loss to Eye, especially since she was dominating Jessica in that first round and then just decided to coast along as if that was the only requirement to get the win. It will certainly be a tall order for Montana to fill, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility for her to get the W.
Jalin Turner ($7,200) Jalin Turner is a knockout artist with oodles and oodles of athleticism and the added gift of a big wingspan, resulting in a 77-inch reach. He’s a slick boxer who potshots from the outside and then starts increasing the volume in the form of a steady jab and plenty of kicks. Where he has the better striking, Thiago Moises ($9,000) is the much better, more seasoned grappler, even though Turner does have some capable wrestling to his credit, and also sports a submission among his nine finishes. Both men have four fights inside the octagon, and both have gone 2-2, but it is Moises that has the better strength of schedule, so the experience edge lies with him. The physical advantages are on the side of “The tarantula,” though, as he carries six-inches in height and seven-inches in reach over Thiago and is faster and more powerful, as well as the more dynamic striker. Moises’ ground advantage is massive and will present an incredibly lofty challenge for Jalin to get through, but it can be done. Turner’s striking is the key, so if he can stay composed enough to use his length and fight at range, keep cranking out the volume and managing the distance, he’ll have a better than average chance to score the upset in this contest.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Thiago Moises is out for his fight tonight vs. Jalin Turner after testing positive for COVID-19.
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