UFC Rumors: Latest Buzz on Pereira vs. Imadaev, Overeem vs. Sakai, UFC 251 PPV

Maurice Bobb@@ReeseReportFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2020

RIO RANCHO, NEW MEXICO - FEBRUARY 15:  (R-L) Michel Pereira punches Diego Sanchez in their welterweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Santa Ana Star Center on February 15, 2020 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Josh Hedges/Getty Images

It's official: UFC President Dana White has a hit on his hands with "Fight Island."

That means that events later this year could be held on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, instead of the APEX in Las Vegas if needed.

"Not officially, but yes, we're going to have another run of events out here," White told reporters during a press conference. "If you look at what's going on in the world, like I told you guys before, I don't see this changing anytime soon.

"My backup plan would be 'Fight Island.' We might be living here. Anything is possible. If Nevada shuts down and doesn't allow us to do fights in Nevada, yeah, I'm going to be spending a lot of time in Abu Dhabi."

With that said, the rumor mill is already abuzz with possible fight announcements.

According to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Michel Pereira will face off against Zelim Imadaev in a welterweight bout for UFC Fight Night on Sept. 5.

Then there's the heavyweight card featuring Alistair Overeem and Augusto Sakai. ESPN's Marc Raimondi's sources are reporting that the duo will also go head-to-head on the Fight Night card.


Pereira vs. Imadaev

While most MMA fans likely remember Pereira's controversial loss to Diego Sanchez back in February after being disqualified, the flashy Brazilian will try to put that disappointing memory behind him when he returns to the Octagon in September.

To be fair, before the illegal knee strike to Sanchez's head after he was down, it looked as though Demolidor was in control of the fight and on his way to victory in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

ESPN MMA @espnmma

Knees to the body drop Sanchez followed by an illegal knee resulting in him winning via DQ #UFCRioRancho https://t.co/33vd5duifj

Instead, it was his second-straight loss after getting upset by Tristan Connelly at UFC 158 in Vancouver late last year.

Now Pereira will bring his bag of tricks, which include flips, flying kicks and superman punches, to his bout against Imadaev.

The bout between these two seems apropos considering the fact that Imadaev is in the same boat as his opponent.

After getting knocked out cold by a clean left to the chin from Danny Roberts in the second round at UFC Moscow back in November, the 25-year-old Russian found himself on a two-bout losing streak.

Imadaev's last two fights are his only ones as a fighter in the UFC, so if he doesn't turn things around against Pereira, he could be on the outs.

Before his UFC debut, he was undefeated, winning eight fights in a row. Perhaps he can find a way to return to the kind of preparation that got him to the big stage in order to remain there.

On paper, Pereira is the stronger fighter, but if he's caught employing unnecessary theatrics during the fight, Imadaev could catch him with the right shot and notch his first win.


Overeem vs. Sakai

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Outside of Pereira's gymnastics routine, the Overeem versus Sakai fight should be the big draw.

Currently ranked No. 10 for ESPN's MMA heavyweight division, Overeem took care of business in his last bout, defeating Walt Harris via second-round TKO back in May.

The Demolition Man is a known striker, with knockouts in nine of his last 10 fights.

He downed Harris in the second round with a kick to the head and a hard left that put him on the canvas.

He has gone 3-1 over his last four bouts, but he is still in need of some high-profile victories.

With his win over Harris, the 40-year old native of the Netherlands put himself back in the hunt for the heavyweight title, so his fight against Sakai will be crucial to finally getting his shot.

For Sakai, who is coming off a split-decision victory against Blagoy Ivanov back in May, this is a chance to build on his four UFC wins since making the jump from Bellator MMA.

There was some controversy as he grabbed the fence against Ivanov to thwart a takedown, but with the referee not taking a point, he still came out on top.

Afterward, Sakai said the move was unintentional and added that he felt his win should propel him to a fight against someone in the top 10.

With his bout against Overeem, he got his wish.

Now it will be up to the Japanese-Brazilian mixed martial artist to find a way to pick up another win.

Both fighters are well-equipped strikers, so this should be a slugfest well worth the price of admission.



Judging by their willingness to pay to see Kamaru Usman defend his title against Jorge Masvidal, MMA fans overwhelmingly approved of UFC 251 on Fight Island.

According to Mike Coppinger of The Athletic, the card generated some 1.3 million per-per-view buys.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

“We’re gonna run it back.” Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal all class after going the distance at #UFC251 @espnmma https://t.co/6yPDAmkYD4

That's the most since 2018, when Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his lightweight title by defeating Conor McGregor with a fourth-round submission at UFC 229.

That fight still holds the record for PPV buys with 2.4 million.

But while White wouldn't confirm the actual numbers for UFC 251, he wasn't above taking a victory lap.

"It was a very successful event," White said (h/t MMA Fighting's Damon Martin). "We're happy. This thing killed it across the board in every way you could possibly kill it. It was awesome. The thing did really well."

The biggest takeaway, outside of the unique setting, was the star power of the fighters.

"'Fight Island' was a massive star in this thing, Masvidal was a massive star, obviously Usman, the champion and a guy that we're all starting to realize is tough to beat and a great card underneath it," White said. "It all came together perfectly and it was a major success. Everybody's healthy and it's all good. There's literally not one negative thing that I could point out."

With the resounding success of the Fight Island experiment on the board, it can serve as a baseline for protocols moving forward for future UFC events whether they happen in Nevada or should they need to take place in Abu Dhabi.


Follow Maurice Bobb on Twitter, @ReeseReport