At UFC on Versus 3, which is scheduled to take place this Thursday night (March 3, 2011) from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky., former Italian professional boxer Alessio Sakara will take on the highly-touted Matt Serra protege, Chris Weidman, in a middleweight clash.
Weidman, who will be put to the test in his Octagon debut, will be more than ready for the step up in competition. Not only has he been schooled by Serra -- an experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt and former UFC welterweight champion -- but he also happens to be a two-time Division 1 All-American wrestler.
As for Sakara, he's found new life at 185 pounds, dropping down from light heavyweight and finishing two of his last three opponents via (technical) knockout.
Will Weidman prove the hype that Serra has heaped upon him is real and upset the American Top Team veteran? Or will Sakara punch his way toward a fourth consecutive win and send "The All American" back to Baldwin, N.Y., with his first professional loss?
We'll find out soon enough (9:00 p.m. ET to be precise). In the meantime, here is a quick preview of the middleweight contest between Sakara and Weidman.
Check it out:
Key Wins: Uriah Hall (ROC 31), Valdir Arraujo (ROC 33)
Key Losses: Zip, zero, zilch
How he got here: Weidman's been working his way up the middleweight ranks under the Ring of Combat banner, capturing the promotion's vacant middleweight title in just his third professional MMA contest. He trains with the Serra-Longo Fight Team alongside the loud-mouthed "Terror," who has touted the blue chip prospect as the next big thing. Weidman earned All-American honors twice as a wrestler at Hofstra University in Long Island, N.Y., and is widely regarded as one of the top 185-pound up-and-coming prospects in the sport today, finishing three of his four opponents in the first round.
How he gets it done: It will be no secret that Weidman will likely attempt to bring this fight to the canvas early and often. Weidman's amateur wrestling background should be more than enough to put Sakara on his back at will. Most of Weidman's opponents, however, haven't been high caliber. He's also on the world's biggest MMA stage taking on a hard-hitting, 10-fight UFC veteran. So it is tough to say if he'll be able to get the finish on the ground against someone the likes of Sakara, but if he can avoid getting punished on his way in for takedowns, he could certainly grind out a decision.
Record: 15-7 overall, 6-4 in the UFC
Key Wins: Thales Leites (UFC 101), James Irvin (UFC on Versus 1), Elvis Sinosic (UFC 57)
Key Losses: Chris Leben (UFC 82), Houston Alexander (UFC 75), Dean Lister (UFC 60)
How he got here: Sakara is currently riding a three-fight win streak inside the Octagon. However, he's been licking his wounds on the sidelines for nearly a year. In fact, Sakara hasn't seen any action since registering a technical knockout over James Irvin on the first UFC on Versus card back in March 2010. Before the win over Irvin, "Legionarius" earned a split decision victory over former number one division contender, Thales Leites, at UFC 101. And who could forget his highlight-reel head kick "Knockout of the Night" over Joe Vedepo back in late 2008.
How he gets it done: The Italian fighter should have a distinct advantage on the feet and will need to stay off the mat with the former All-American wrestler. Sakara has finished nine of his 15 opponents via some form of knockout, meaning it's hard to imagine Sakara going for anything else at this point ... especially against a ground specialist like Weidman.
Fight "X Factor:" The UFC jitters are real and could very well be the downfall of Weidman. This will be the first time Weidman has the spotlight on him against a dangerous striker like Sakara. He'll also have to do it infront of a national television audience on Versus. All the pressure, therefore, will be on Weidman to perform well, and Sakara -- who is entering his eleventh bout with the promotion -- will get to watch him squirm.
Bottom Line: Weidman has a huge task in front of him because Sakara is experienced and dangerous. Sakara isn't a world beater by any means, but he has been tested against several of the toughest fighters in the sport. Nonetheless, I think Weidman will be able to get his first UFC win, but he'll have an ugly time doing it. The UFC jitters will play a factor in this fight, but I think Weidman will score enough takedowns to earn himself a huge life-changing unanimous decision victory.
Who will get the big win at UFC on Versus 3? You Decide!