The Prelim Breakout Star is a once per event article that helps fans get to know those who will be entertaining them from the undercard. The intention of the article is not to bring attention to the most talented fighter on the preliminary card, but rather one that the common fan may have overlooked or underestimated.
With now 12 straight correct picks, the Prelim Breakout Star column hasn’t picked up an “L” since May in London. We’ll try to keep the good times rolling on a card that is flooded with changes, including a main event that includes neither of the original fighters from when it was announced.
Affiliation – Gile Ribeiro Team
From – Curitiba, Brazil
Height – 6’4″
Weight – 265 lbs (Heavyweight)
Record – 11-1-1 (0-0 UFC)
What makes him impressive
Sakai is fairly unique for a heavyweight in that the first style that he learned was Muay Thai. His striking game might not be entirely true to that style, but it clearly remains from his youth and pops up when fighting. This style helps keep his distance when he needs to, but also makes him strong in the clinch. Look for him to land knees to the head and body when he gets control of his opponent; he’s ended more than one fight that way.
Why he has been overlooked
When Sakai began to make his name in Bellator, he went on an impressive run. Four-straight in their heavyweight division had people clamoring for a shot at then champion Vitaly Minakov. After a close split decision loss to Cheick Kongo and Bellator turning their big man division on it’s head with a crazy tournament, Sakai seemed to have no place in the company. Bellator’s loss became the UFC’s gain as they snatched the 27-year old up for the Brazilian portion of the Contender Series.
What makes this a good match-up
Sakai will be facing off with Chase Sherman. Sherman is primarily a striker who uses his quickness for his size to land his combinations. However, while Sherman does like to bang, his chin has not always held up in the UFC, having been knocked out twice in his last five bouts. Furthermore, one of those was to a Walt Harris knee. With knees being a place where Sakai has a leg up on most heavyweights, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one catch Sherman on the chin.
Prelim Breakout Star Record: 154-64-1 (2 NC) (6 DNF)