While Francis Ngannou, Jon Jones, Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik all seek their shot at UFC heavyweight king Stipe Miocic, Brazil’s Augusto Sakai hopes to enter the conversation with a victory at UFC Vegas 9.
Matched up against veteran Alistair Overeem in the main event of Saturday’s Fight Night event in Las Vegas, Sakai believes he could “definitely” jump the line with a decisive win at the UFC APEX.
“I’m not in a hurry, but I know I’m getting there step by step,” Sakai said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “It’s going to be another step in my career, another step in the company, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I can jump the line because it will be five wins in a row in the UFC - six if you consider the Contender Series one - so I would deserve it.”
Sakai enters his first UFC main after having his hands raised against Chase Sherman, Andrei Arlovski, Marcin Tybura and Blagoy Ivanov inside the octagon in a span of 20 months, but he realizes it’s unlikely that he will secure a chance against Miocic anytime soon.
“There are other names in front of me, of course, but I’m ready to live great things,” Sakai said. “I’ve been battling for years for this moment and it’s time now. We’ll continue to work hard and work right.”
If Ngannou faces Miocic next, as UFC president Dana White has been teasing in interviews, Sakai thinks he could be one win away from a title opportunity if given the right rival next.
“I believe they could give me one more fight if Ngannou fights for the belt now, and then I’ll definitely be ready for it and pumped for the opportunity,” Sakai said. “The news of Jon Jones (moving up to heavyweight) makes the division even more crowded, but my focus is on Overeem now. We’ll see what happens after this.”
Sakai usually shies away from naming names he would like to fight before securing a victory over the man standing in front of him, but made an exception this time.
The Brazilian heavyweight would welcome a chance to trade hands with Rozenstruik, who recently knocked out former champion Junior dos Santos, and Derrick Lewis, who is currently booked to fight Blaydes in November after winning three in a row.
“People want to see knockouts and it would be two strikers no matter who they bring,” Sakai said of Rozenstruik and Lewis. “That would get a lot of attention because it would be a good semifinal.”
The 29-year-old has to get past “The Demolition Man” first, though, and he believes it’s a good matchup style-wise despite Overeem’s edge in the experience area. Sakai says he has been training for five-round bouts ever since he signed with the UFC because “I knew it would happen eventually,” but doesn’t expect to go the distance this time.
“We’re training hard for (the knockout), working on my strong points and his weak points, and I’m expecting a knockout,” he said. “No rush, it can be in the first or it can be in the fifth round, but I’m expecting a knockout.”