UFC Vegas 9: Overeem vs Sakai – Prelims Predictions

An interesting card is set to take place this weekend in the APEX once again in Las Vegas, as heavyweight gatekeeper Alistair Overeem takes on up and coming contender Augusto Sakai in the main event.

Last weekend in the light heavyweight division, I secured 8/10 picks including five perfect predictions (winner, round, method) for a pretty good night overall. This time around I’m expecting it to be a bit of a tougher task, with lots of fighters I’m not the most knowledgeable on and a few pick’em fights in there too.

There is due to be 10 fights on the card this weekend, with five prelim fights and five main card fights scheduled. I’ll break down the prelims here and see how well we can do with our predictions this weekend.

PRELIMS

Cole Smith (7-1) vs Hunter Azure (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

Both men in this bout suffered the first defeat of their professional career in their last outing, with Smith beaten in a split decision against Miles Johns while Azure was knocked out by Brian Kelleher back in May. Azure is a strong wrestler who is comfortable on the feet. He is still fairly green and can lose concentration sometimes, but Kelleher is a lot better than Smith and he’s unlikely to be punished as harshly in this fight. Smith is just a big grinder and will battle hard throughout the full three rounds. But with his main strength being wrestling too, his best path to victory is taking advantage in one of those lapses and making it count. I think it’s unlikely on this occasion and Azure should get back in the win column with a fairly comfortably decision.
PICK – Hunter Azure via Unanimous Decision

Alexander Romanov (11-0) vs Marcos Rogerio De Lima (17-7-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

A big heavyweight bout between undefeated debutant ‘King Kong’ Romanov against former light heavyweight Rogerio ‘Pezao’ De Lima. This fight is the epitome of a fight that has two potential outcomes that are polar opposite scales. Romanov hasn’t fought in over a year but has had two UFC debuts scrapped due to COVID-19, so it’s not like he hasn’t been training. He is a grappling demon and does his best work on the ground, while De Lima is like a fish out of water with his back on the canvas. Despite that though, ‘Pezao’ has terrifying power in his hands and is better on the feet than anyone Romanov has ever fought before. Despite that, Romanov has a big size advantage as a natural heavyweight so if he can avoid getting clipped early he should have a relatively easy time of getting the finish on the ground.
PICK – Alexander Romanov via Submission, Round 1

Viviane Araujo (8-2) vs Montana De La Rosa (11-5) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A flyweight battle between these two women as we have a classic striker vs grappler bout in this one. Montana De La Rosa has excellent top control and a fantastic submission game, capable of winning her fights from nowhere if needed while Araujo is an accomplished striker who knows how to keep a fight standing, considering her perfect takedown defence record in the UFC. Araujo however showed some issues with her cardio in her last fight, a defeat to Jessica Eye, so De La Rosa will take encouragement from that and know that she could potentially get a late finish if she needs it. Overall though, Araujo has such an edge on the feet that even when tired she’s dangerous and if De La Rosa can’t secure a takedown then she has no path to victory.
PICK – Viviane Araujo via Unanimous Decision

Andre Muniz (19-4) vs Bartosz Fabinski (15-3) – (Middleweight/185lbs)

An interesting match up at middleweight as a lay and pray expert looks to make it back-to-back wins against a Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert. Fabinski most recently defeated Brit Darren Stewart in March, headlining a Cage Warriors card after the UFC were forced to cancel UFC London due to COVID-19. Muniz’s last fight was in November of last year, when he beat Antonio Arroyo in a not-so-exciting fight in his debut. The contrasting styles in this play in complete favour to the Polish fighter, who will look to use volume when it comes to takedowns. Once he secures one, he prefers to control from the top and land point-scoring shots as the opportunity presents itself. Muniz is good enough to potentially take the back and look for submissions, but Fabinski is experienced enough to get the job done.
PICK – Bartosz Fabinski via Unanimous Decision

Brian Kelleher (21-11) vs Kevin Natividad (9-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

Originally supposed to fight against Ricky Simon, Kelleher now steps into the octagon with debutant ‘Quicksand’ in the featherweight division. Natividad is usually a bantamweight and is up against one of the biggest hitters in the division in this fight, so instantly comes in as an underdog. Natividad is a clean, crisp striker though in his own right and he will look to stand and trade. Both are decent wrestlers too so the likelihood is they’ll look to avoid those exchanges, which for me means ‘Boom’ will be able to land one of his trademark bombs for a knockout win.
PICK – Brian Kelleher via Knockout, Round 1

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