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The Heavyweight Question

The headliner of UFC Vegas 9 features a very stereotypical matchup seen in MMA. The main event pits longtime heavyweight contender and divisional staple Alistair Overeem against rising contender Augusto Sakai. This will be Overeem’s seventh main event under the Zuffa banner, while this will be the first five round fight of Sakai’s career. This fight, on paper, is a simple example of the progression of a division, with the winner presumably moving closer to a title shot in a division currently devoid of fresh contenders and matchups outside of the very top. Although, interestingly enough, the stakes may be actually be different for each man in this main event. And while this may be a strange, stereotypical example of the UFC unnecessarily pushing heavyweights to the forefront as they so frequently do, the check books may open for either one if they can get the job done.

I am, of course, referring to the new and imminent addition (maybe additions) to the heavyweight division, and where each guy could fall in line with a presumptive victory.

A post shared by Alistair Overeem (@alistairovereem) on Aug 26, 2020 at 10:04am PDT

Alistair Overeem is a legend, there’s no two ways about it. Overeem is one of those guys that old-school MMA fans remember for his destructive rise through Japanese MMA and Strikeforce prior to his UFC days, as well as his remarkable kickboxing resume in K-1 which was spearheaded by his winning of the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix Final by defeating Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki, and Peter Aerts all in a single night.

Essentially, as long as he’s winning, Overeem’s name will be in the mix because of who he is, which is why a win against Sakai could be massive for him. I’ll get to why in a minute, but what about the ramifications for Sakai?

A post shared by Augusto Sakai (@augustosakai) on Aug 29, 2020 at 8:28am PDT

Augusto Sakai is in a bit of a different spot than Overeem. Sakai doesn’t have nearly the name value that Overeem has, nor probably ever will, but he has quietly built up one of the more impressive resumes in the current heavyweight top 15. A win for Sakai would all but definitely catapult him into a position for a massive fight against a top 5 opponent, thus putting him right in the conversation for a title fight in short order. At least, that’s presuming all is normal, which it currently is, but won’t be soon.

A post shared by BONY (@jonnybones) on Feb 9, 2020 at 11:06pm PST

So why is it normal now, but won’t be in short order? Well, unless you’ve been completely oblivious to the world of MMA over the last month, you’ve probably heard that a certain GOAT is finally making his long awaited move to the heavyweight division. And when Jon Jones gets involved in anything, it gets a bit convoluted. The best way to describe the current heavyweight title picture is, Miocic vs. Ngannou 2 comes first (at least it should come first), then the winner will presumably take on Jon Jones next, which is of course presuming Jones sits out and waits for a title fight (which, admittedly, makes the most sense). Backstage News Of Brock Lesnar Returning To UFC As noted this week, Brock Lesnar is currently a free agent after his WWE contract reportedly expired at WrestleMania 36 earlier his year. As the industry awaits Lesnar's next move, UFC President Dana White made it clear that Brock will be welcomed back with open arms if "The Beast" decides to return to MMA. This has caught the attention of some potential opponents as well, including Jon Jones and Vitor Belfort. It looks as though Lesnar's return to the Octagon isn't on the horizon anytime soon. Brock has yet to take the proper steps to join UFC's drug testing system for the fighters, according to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio. Lesnar also has yet to make direct contact with Dana White about a potential return. Although, Meltzer notes that when Lesnar first signed a deal to fight with UFC, Dana apparently kept it a secret from everyone. This may be a similar scenario in which things are being kept extremely private. It was also noted that Brock's wife, former WWE star Sable, is not a fan of the legitimate MMA fights. This may be another major factor that keeps Lesnar from stepping inside the Octagon again. As reported earlier this week, there's a belief within WWE that once Lesnar is ready to work again he will let Chairman & CEO Vince McMahon know, or vice versa. If WWE needs Lesnar, they will likely present him with a contract offer that he won't be able to refuse. It was noted that as of right now, the situation is nothing more than that.

A post shared by Brock Lesnar Fanpage (@lesnararmy) on Sep 3, 2020 at 5:10pm PDT

But wait! That’s potentially not all. News recently surfaced about the current free agency of former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, of which Lesnar, albeit unlikely, could potentially make his way back to the Octagon and completely wreak havoc on the heavyweight title picture. If we’re being realistic, which I always am, if Lesnar does decide to come back to the UFC, it is almost a virtual guarantee he’s coming back for a title fight and nothing else. Maybe, just maybe, he could return for a title eliminator fight with Jones, but given his chances in that fight (I’d cap Jones around an 8-1 favorite in that fight), it seems like it’d be in Lesnar’s best interest to just grab a title fight and bounce, again assuming he does decide to return (something I’m almost convinced he will not do).

A post shared by Alistair Overeem (@alistairovereem) on Aug 16, 2020 at 12:32pm PDT

Which brings us back to Overeem, and while a rematch with Lesnar could be one of the biggest WTF moments of the Endeavor era of the company, I wouldn’t rule him out as one of the potential names to welcome Jones to the heavyweight division. The two have previously trained together at Jackson-Wink in Albuquerque, and while they don’t have any visible heat between them, a win over Sakai would once again reignite Overeem’s name in the heavyweight title conversation. Am I claiming this is likely to happen? Not at all, in fact I’d be shocked if Jon’s first fight at heavyweight would be against anyone not named Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou, whoever wins their presumptive rematch, but the potential for a big money opportunity does still exist for Overeem with a win. It’s rare, but it happens. Donald Cerrone finally got his day against Conor McGregor earlier this year, and while it didn’t work out for him, he finally got his day of exposure to a big audience, and Overeem could be in line for his day as well.

While UFC Vegas 9 is not a stacked card on paper, this main event is an underrated fight from an excitement perspective, and does carry some real value for both fighters with a win. The winner could be in line for a big opportunity moving forward. Don’t completely write off this main event just because it may not seem the strongest on the surface.■

Follow Johann on Twitter: @thejohanncastro

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