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Brazilian heavyweight Augusto Sakai will carry a four-bout Octagon winning streak into his first UFC headliner against Alistair Overeem – an opponent that has nearly four times his experience -- on Sept. 5.
Sakai knows that facing a former K-1 World Grand Prix champion, who already knocked out legends like Badr Hari and Peter Aerts, will be the most difficult challenge of his career.
“He has a great career in kickboxing and of course I respect his history a lot, but we will fight under MMA rules and I’m ready to bring some surprises,” Sakai recently told Sherdog.com.
Sakai believes that the smaller octagon of the UFC Apex in Las Vegas will be an advantage him.
“Overeem changed a lot of his style lately,” said the muay Thai pupil of Fabio Noguchi, who was the first master of Anderson Silva. “He is not aggressive like in old times. [He] is looking more for takedowns, like he did with [Jairzinho] Rozenstruik and avoiding strong striking exchanges.
“I´m coming from a three-round fight in that Octagon against Blagoy Ivanov, so I feel I´m pretty much adapted to that size. Overeem won't have a place to run. I´m self-confident I´ll get a knock out."
Aware that Overeem has the same number of submission wins as he has MMA fights, Sakai is also training his grappling defense with jiu-jitsu master Gile Ribeiro.
“We [recently] did a guillotine clinic. We spent more than two hours only studying different ways to defend his strongest holds,” Sakai said
Sakai believes a win over Overeem will get him one fight closer to a heavyweight title shot.
“I think [Francis] Ngannou is the next in the line. It would make sense to me if they put the winner of my fight with Overeem against Derrick Lewis to decide who will be the next contender.”
Asked to pick the winner of UFC 252 main event title clash between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier, Sakai gave the Croatian descendent the nod.
“I believe this time it's gonna be a tough five-round match, but Miocic has more weapons to neutralize DC´s game. I believe he will keep his title and beat then Ngannou in the same manner he did the first time.”
Japanese Dreams: : The name Sakai comes from his mother, whose grandfather migrated from Japan to Brazil in the beginning of the last century to work in agriculture. Born in Paraná, Brazil, in 1991, Sakai only had the opportunity to visit Japan in 2017, when he cornered teammate Rogerio Bontorin in an event called Grandslam 6.
“It was such an amazing experience to know my origins, “ said Sakai, who has two older brothers living in Tokyo. “Actually, I started to train in the peak of Pride era and always dreamed of fighting in Japan. I don’t like to pick opponents after my wins, but I would love to fight on the card the next time the UFC goes to Japan. No matter who the opponent is it would be a dream to me.”