This Saturday (Oct. 26, 2013) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to England for UFC Fight Night (UFN) 30 from Phones4u Arena in Manchester, England.
The second main card bout will feature longtime UFC Middleweight Alessio Sakara, who welcomes newcomer Nicholas Musoke to the Octagon. Musoke is a late replacement for both Tom Watson and Magnus Cedenblad, who pulled out of the bout due to injuries.
Musoke figures to be a decided underdog against "Legionarius," who transitioned his boxing background into mixed martial arts (MMA). Currently on a three-fight losing streak, Sakara is in dire need of a win at UFN 30. He had Patrick Cote in bad shape at UFC 154, but was ultimately disqualified for punches to the back of the head.
Musoke lacks the UFC experience that Sakara has, but he brings the momentum of a six-fight unbeaten streak into UFN 30. The Swedish combatant only has two losses on his MMA record and a win over Sakara would instantly gain him name recognition as an up-and-coming prospect. It's no secret that Sakara is coming to stand and bang so it's up to Musoke to combat his opponent's power striking.
Let's take a look a the keys to victory for Alessio Sakara vs. Nicholas Musoke:
Record: 19-10 (1) overall, 6-7 (1) UFC
Key Losses: Chris Weidman (UFC on VERSUS 3), Brian Stann (UFC on FUEL TV 2), Patrick Cote (UFC 154)
Keys to Victory: Sakara is a talented striker who has gone through tumultuous times recently. His UFC record isn't all that impressive, but he stays employed because he puts on exciting fights. "Legionarius" comes to the Octagon looking for a knockout each time. This strategy has both helped and hurt him throughout his career.
With 12 knockout victories in 19 total wins, there's no denying that Sakara has the power to put virtually any opponent to sleep. He's also fought a ton of top-level UFC opposition in the past, but he's lost to those big names. At UFN 30, Sakara receives a noted step down in competition, but that doesn't mean he should look past Musoke.
To win at UFN 30, Sakara needs a clear focus and gameplan. He's shown a tendency to make mental lapses in the past, namely, his disqualification against Cote and his No Contest against Ron Faircloth in his UFC debut. Just because Musoke is a relatively unknown fighter doesn't mean he can't pull off the upset.
Sakara will come out of the gate guns blazing, looking for a headhunting knockout.
And there's a very good chance that he can achieve this goal in Manchester. He also has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Musoke has been submitted once before. But Sakara rarely turns to his ground game, so it's unlikely that he will this weekend.
On paper, this is Sakara's fight to lose. He has a massive experience advantage over his green opponent. "Legionarius" will need to show up on point so he doesn't defeat himself.
Record: 10-2-1 (1) overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: None
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Musoke is a fighter that's kind of coming out of nowhere for UFN 30. We'll see if he's truly ready for the Octagon, because he may have been rushed along after two injuries led to him getting booked for this bout.
Musoke has racked up a good 10-2-1 (1) record fighting mainly in his home of Sweden, where MMA is a rapidly developing sport. He's put away three of his last six opponents, including two choke submissions. Musoke is talented on his feet as well with four knockout finishes on his record.
But he hasn't been facing opponents with the massive striking ability that Sakara has.
Playing it safe won't get him anywhere with the UFC brass, but Musoke should still look to avoid standing and trading with Sakara. Barring an unforeseen upset, Sakara could easily make it a short night for the debuting Musoke.
Sakara has been submitted only twice, so he's not exactly an easy mark on the ground. Regardless, Musoke should look to take this fight to the ground and attempt some submissions. At the very least, "Nico" can neutralize Sakara's explosive boxing by smothering him on the ground. If he can gain some advantageous positions on the mat, an upset win via decision may be ripe for the taking.
Sakara isn't exactly a world-beater, but he's definitely a tough bout for any debuting fighter. The cards are stacked against Musoke here and it's on him to show the world that he can hang with tough competition inside the Octagon.
Bottom Line from Manchester: The bottom line for this fight may come down to experience. It's an incredible mismatch on paper as Sakara has tussled with some of the best UFC middleweights over the years, while Musoke hasn't even fought in UFC.
That could lead to a severe case of the Octagon jitters for Musoke, but he also has a chance at a golden opportunity. If he loses, it'll be chalked up as the expected outcome; if he wins, it'll provide a huge boost to the career of this obscure fighter.
On the other hand, Sakara actually has a ton of pressure on his shoulders heading into UFN 30. A fourth straight loss will likely see him released from UFC. It's possible that he'll be kept on just for the instant excitement factor that he brings to the table, but he'll be largely irrelevant with a 6-8 (1) record in the promotion.
"Legionarius" caught a bad break when Watson and Cedenblad couldn't fight. They were much bigger name opponents that could have boosted Sakara's standing significantly. Now he's forced to win this fight as a loss would be absolutely devastating for him.
It's no secret that Sakara's striking is the most glaring skill set in this bout. Musoke should look to turn this fight into a grinding wrestling match. He may get submitted for his efforts, but it's worth taking that chance. The alternative of hoping to win a stand-up war against Sakara is a daunting prospect for "Nico's" first UFC bout. It's probably supposed to be an easy knockout for Sakara in Manchester, but we've seen better fighters than him upset in dramatic fashion.
Alessio Sakara will be looking for his first UFC win in over three years when he welcomes Nicholas Musoke to the Octagon at UFN 30. Will it be another "Legionarius" knockout, or can "Nico" announce his presence with the upset?