As destructive as ever at 40 years old, Alistair Overeem will attempt to make it four wins in his last five when he takes on Augusto Sakai at UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday night (Sept., 5, 2020). In addition, Ovince Saint Preux faces knockout artist Alonzo Menifield, Michel Pereira and Zelim Imadaev look to snap two-fight losing streaks at each others’ expense, and Jalin Turner takes on Thiago Moises in what could be a banger at Lightweight.
Just two more UFC Vegas 8 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s dig in:
185 lbs.: Bartosz Fabinski vs. Andre Muniz
Poland’s Bartosz Fabinski (15-3) — who missed all of 2016 and 2017 — put together three consecutive Octagon victories before a 62-second Michel Prazeres guillotine ended his win streak at seven. He was set to welcome Shavkat Rakhmonov to the Octagon in March, but when that fell through because of COVID, he instead took a decision over Darren Stewart at Cage Warriors 113.
He’ll give up one inch of height and three inches of reach to Andre Muniz (19-4).
Though Muniz failed to find a finish on “Contender Series: Brazil,” he got a second chance on the United States version one year later and made the most of it with a 106-second tapout of Taylor Johnson. His UFC debut pitted him against Antonio Arroyo, who took an almost identical path, and resulted in Muniz winning a decision to extend his streak to five.
He has submitted 12 professional opponents and knocked out another four.
Fabinski is the ultimate wrestling stress test. Even though Merab Dvalishvili may have supplanted him as UFC’s premier accumulator of ludicrous takedown numbers, “The Butcher” still averages more than seven takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. I see him enjoying similar success against Muniz, whose wrestling has not caught up with his potent submission game.
If Fabinski was the sort to overextend himself in pursuit of ground strikes or passes, Muniz would have an excellent chance of catching him off of his back. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Fabinski is often content to just control, limiting the former’s opportunities to turn things around. Muniz could still wrap up his neck, but expect another grueling affair from Poland’s ultimate blanket.
Prediction: Fabinski via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Cole Smith vs. Hunter Azure
Cole Smith (7-1) brought his momentum to bear in his Octagon debut, out-lasting dangerous veteran Mitch Gagnon to improve his record to 7-0. “The Cole Train” couldn’t quite do the same to Miles Johns, who survived Smith’s back attack to claim a split decision.
This will be his first fight in almost exactly one year.
Hunter Azure (8-1) leaned on his wrestling to take a decision over Chris Ocon on the Contender Series, then found success with that tactic once again in his UFC debut against Brad Katona. Then came a May clash with scrappy veteran Brian Kelleher, which ended abruptly when “boom” landed a monster left hook in the third round.
Though he stands three inches shorter than Smith, he’ll have a 3.5-inch reach advantage.
This looks like a much more forgiving match up for Azure than Kelleher and arguably even Katona. Though he boasts some nasty tricks — like his excellent back take — Smith is a straightforward grinder. Azure’s own wrestling skills largely nullify Smith’s offense and he looks to be the more effective striker, giving him a variety of ways to win this fight.
Azure is admittedly still fairly green, which could allow Smith to rack up back control time as he did against Johns if Azure gets lazy in the clinch. Between his stand up edge and ostensible ability to just take Smith down whenever things get hairy, though, Azure has all the tools needed to cruise to a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Azure via unanimous decision
Two big men slugging it out and a couple of potential slugfests at 155 and 170 pounds make this a card worth watching. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 9 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance on ESPN+ 9 p.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 9: “Overeem vs. Sakai” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.