Alistair Overeem showed a wrinkle in his game that most UFC fans haven’t seen, using his wrestling and vicious ground-and-pound to finish Augusto Sakai by TKO in the fifth round Saturday in the main event of UFC Fight Night in Las Vegas.
The finish came at 26 seconds of the final round.
Overeem, a former K-1 kickboxing grand prix champion, has been most known for his striking, with devastating knockout power in his hands, all-around technical acumen and brutal knees.
On Saturday, in his 66th career fight, Overeem took Sakai down at the end of the fourth round and did serious damage with punches and elbows from the top.
He didn’t waste any time going back to that in the fifth. Overeem came right out of the gate and used an unorthodox single-leg takedown to put Sakai on his back. From there, Overeem ripped three consecutive jaw-rocking elbows, and referee Herb Dean had to step in to call the bout.
“I was very well-prepared and we did it again — at 40 years of age,” Overeem said in his post-fight interview.
ESPN had Overeem ranked No. 10 in the world at heavyweight coming in. The card took place in front of no fans at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, the facility right across from the UFC’s corporate campus.
Saturday’s fight was a technical, back-and-forth battle that was tactical and grueling at the same time. Sakai was the more aggressive fighter, backing Overeem up several times in the early rounds with hard combinations and knees. Overeem was able to weather all those storms.
“Just cruising,” Overeem said.
Sakai did some damage. He caused a swelling near Overeem’s left temple with winging right hooks against the cage and worked the body well in the first three rounds. In the fourth, Sakai sliced open Overeem’s forehead with an elbow in the clinch. Overeem, known for his clinch work, got outworked in that position in the early rounds.
Overeem got the fight to the ground in the third round and had success there with hammerfists from the top. Before the third, Overeem was content to stay standing with Sakai, but once he saw he could put Sakai on his back, that was what he kept going back to. Overeem bloodied Sakai with ground-and-pound in the fourth and won the fight that way, with those nasty elbows, in the fifth.
When asked what he wanted next, Overeem joked that it’s time for a break, that training camp was “gruesome.” But he said he’d likely be back toward the end of next year or in early 2021.
“I love fighting,” Overeem said. “It’s been my passion for 23 years.”
Overeem (47-18, 1 NC) is considered one of the best heavyweight fighters of all time. The Netherlands native is a former Strikeforce and Dream champion. Overeem, 40, owns career wins over former UFC champions Fabricio Werdum (twice), Brock Lesnar, Andrei Arlovski, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and Vitor Belfort (twice).
Since 2018, Overeem has been training with the likes of Justin Gaethje and Curtis Blaydes with Elevation Fight Team in Colorado, which has caused somewhat of a career resurgence. “The Reem” is 4-1 now since joining up with Elevation.
Sakai (15-2-1) had put together a nice run in the UFC. He had won six straight coming in, including victories in his first four UFC fights. The Brazil native was coming off a split-decision win over Blagoy Ivanov in May.