Can ‘Bagata’ Stir Up the Stagnant Heavyweight Division?

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Two top 15 Heavyweights will slug it out in the co-main event of UFC Woodley vs Burns. The organization makes its debut at the UFC Apex, Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Bulgarian, Blagoy Ivanov aka “Bagata”, will welcome the challenge from Augusto Sakai, as they both try to get a top-10 ranking. The fascinating matchup has many dimensions, some of which we will discuss in this article.

Blagoy “Bagata” Ivanov (18-3, 2-2 in the UFC)

Blagoy Ivanov Bagata UFC
The Bulgarian MMA star has trained in the US ever since he signed with the UFC.

An MMA Career for the History Books

Blagoy Ivanov has one of the most amazing careers in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts!

Ivanov was born in Bulgaria, a country with long traditions in wrestling (69 Olympic medals in wrestling). He started training Sambo and Judo, became a black belt in the latter, and an International Master of Sport in Sambo. This is a class he shares with none other than Khabib Nurmagomedov. Then, he notoriously beat Fedor Emelianenko and became the 2008 World Sambo Champion.

He came back from being stabbed in the heart and lung in a bar, had a 21-month layoff, including a two-month-long medically induced coma, which was needed because a second surgery was made to save his life. After all that, Ivanov came away with the W on his return.

He then competed in the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, only to reach the finals and lose to another current UFC contender, Alexander Volkov. After that, he became the WSOF Champion, then a PFL Champion.

Bagata in the UFC

Unsurprisingly, he was taken into deep water from the get-go in the UFC. He debuted in a main event against JDS. The lights were a little “too bright” that night, and we didn’t really get to see what Blagoy is all about.

Motivated by his loss to Junior Dos Santos, Blagoy bounced back with two wins against Ben Rothwell and Tai Tuivasa. The two UD victories secured him a spot against former UFC title contender, heavy-hitter and a man seen below explaining that his “balls was hot”, Derrick Lewis.

Derrick Lewis hot balls joe rogan ufc

Ivanov vs Lewis was an awesome fight! Blagoy sent all of Derrick Lewis’s 260 and then some pounds flying with a Judo throw early in the fight. Then, he had him in all kinds of trouble, almost securing an Americana submission, until Lewis exploded with 100% power and 0% technique to get Blagoy off of him. To be honest, I believe if the Americana was attempted from Half Guard and not Side Control, it would have been successful.

The next few rounds were a stand-up battle where Derrick got the better of the exchanges, not without Blagoy landing some big shots too. One thing became evident in the fight though, Bagata has a chin made of Graphene. The Black Beast landed cleanly on multiple occasions sending the commentary panel in disbelief. No one takes Derrick’s best shots and keeps going, except for Bagata.

Augusto Sakai (14-1, 3-0 in the UFC)

Augusto Sakai vs Andrei Arlovski UFC
Sakai (blue gloves) lands a heavy left hand on Andrei Arlovski to win one of the few decisions in his career.

Augusto Sakai started out in BJJ, but he is a very dynamic striker, knockout artist and the proud owner of 11 KOs finishes. He made his presence known to the UFC fanbase through Dana White’s Contender Series. Since then, he is on a 3-fight winning streak in the UFC and is definitely looking to impress with a win over Ivanov.

Sakai is happy to take one to give one. He bets his will hurt his opponent more. Whether it is going forward, backwards or throwing knees in the clinch, it doesn’t seem to matter to him. He is one of the truly big heavyweights, really pushing the limit of 260 lbs.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a significant size difference on fight night between the two. Nevertheless, Augusto carries that weight pretty well and his cardio has held up thus far.

Fight Preview

It’s a tough matchup for both men. Sakai likes to stay in kickboxing distance, unleashing all kinds of shots on his opponent. His stand-up is very diverse and a bit unorthodox. Even though it is not the traditional striker vs grappler matchup, I believe Blagoy would benefit from fighting on the ground, while Sakai would prefer to keep it standing.

Both Men Possess Strength and Technique, Providing All Goods for an Eventful Match

Ivanov has shown he can hip toss a building if he needs to, therefore I believe if his game plan is to get a takedown, he will manage to do so. Sakai’s BJJ is not to be underestimated and it will be fascinating to see how he defends against Blagoy’s top game.

Sakai really likes to land heavy leg kicks, to cripple his opponents. However, he might consider kicking less if he wants to keep it standing. How will Sakai adjust his game to an opponent with the characteristics of Blagoy Ivanov? He is a tough puzzle to solve. One can’t knock him out apparently, try and take him down and one might find your a** on the floor. A hard-earned, gritty decision seems like the only way to beat him.

Will Blagoy take him down or has he something else planned? Does Sakai gets on his bike and stay on the outside, trying to outstrike Blagoy?

Importance of the Fight in the Heavyweight Division

Whatever happens, this is a really important fight in the Heavyweight division. No.12 vs. No.13. The top 10 of the heavyweight division will have a new member next Monday morning. Who will it be? Well, that is the beauty of this sport and the UFC especially. We will just have to wait and see!


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