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Sakai likes ‘great opponent change,’ hopes to crack top 5 with win over Rozenstruik

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Augusto Sakai is happy to face Jairzinho Rozenstruik instead of Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC Fight Night 189.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Brasilia
Augusto Sakai is set to face Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC Fight Night 189.
Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, a sudden opponent change happens for the best, at least that’s how UFC heavyweight contender Augusto Sakai looks at it. Originally paired up against Shamil Abdurakhimov for a bout on May 1, the Brazilian had his match delayed one month after the Russian was forced to pull out due to injury. Because of that, Sakai ended up booked against Jairzinho Rozenstruik for a headliner on June 5.

Currently the ninth heavyweight in the official rankings, Sakai explained to Tatame how the shift was a much welcome one. Prior to the change, Augusto was set to face the number seven heavyweight, whereas now he is paired up against the sixth man in a headliner. Although Shamil and Rozenstruik have different fighting styles, the Brazilian feels ready to take on Jairzinho, especially after earning one additional month to prepare.

“For sure, it was a great opponent change. because Jairzinho is better ranked. It’s a main event now, I’m headlining another card, so it was very good. We were ready to fight on May 1, but we’ve just won another month to prepare and make some final adjustments. The difference between Jairzinho and the Russian is that Shamil likes to go for the takedowns, while Jairzinho has a different game.

“We had to make a small change in our gameplan, but we already had a great camp for Shamil, so we just need to keep that going.” Augusto continued. “We need to focus on those little changes and develop the right gameplan to win. I’m getting ready to put on a great fight.”

Should he emerge victorious against Rozenstruik, Sakai hopes that the win puts him within grasp of a top 5 spot in his next outing. Despite having lost to Alistair Overeem in his last fight, Augusto believes Jairzinho is popular and well-ranked enough to turn things around for himself with just one win.

“Jairzinho is pretty well-known in the heavyweight division. He’s up there in the rankings. I believe a win against him can catapult me to the top of the division. After a win against him, I’ll be right next to the top 5. I’m totally focused on winning in order to keep on climbing the ladder.”

In his last outing, Sakai (15-2-1) got TKO’d by Alistair Overeem, back in September 2020. The loss snapped a six-fight winning streak for the 29-year-old, during which he scored wins over Andrei Arlovski, Blagoy Ivanov and Marcin Tybura, among others.

Now, Sakai is expected to take on Rozenstruik at UFC Fight Night 189’s main event, on June 5, in Las Vegas, Nevada