Over the course of three rounds, the Brazilian used a variety of strikes that targeted the head, body and legs while avoiding Ivanov’s biggest punches to ultimately earn a pair of 29-28 scorecards. The third official actually gave Ivanov the fight with a 30-27 score but that obviously wasn’t enough.
“Ivanov is a great fighter,” Sakai said. “I knew it was going to be a tough fight but I was sure I won the fight.
Working inside a smaller cage gave the heavyweights less room to move, which resulted in a lot of huge exchanges on the feet. While Sakai was looking to set up his kicking game, Ivanov was concentrating on the body with several stiff punches to the midsection.
Meanwhile, Sakai was more than happy to invite Ivanov into a dog fight as he began peppering away with leg kicks that really started to pay dividends with each passing round. The thudding sound of Sakai’s kicks reverberated throughout the empty arena with the Brazilian really beginning to chip away at Ivanov’s foundation.
The conditioning factor also seemed to favor Sakai as the fight moved into the final round. Sakai was faster on the feet with his combinations coming in succession but Ivanov was still keeping him honest with a lot of power behind his punches. The strike totals were close in every round but Sakai was just slightly more accurate, which seemed to make the difference in the three-round decision.
Sakai did get away with a blatant fence grab during a takedown attempt from Ivanov that UFC color commentator Daniel Cormier called out during the broadcast but the referee failed to reprimand him for the foul.
It’s impossible to know if that would have cost him a point but in the end Sakai still secured the victory as he moves to 4-0 in the UFC.