This Saturday night (February 15, 2014) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Erick Silva and Takenori Sato will square off on the main card of UFC Fight Night 36, airing live on FOX Sports 1 from Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.
Sato will make his Octagon debut as a late replacement for Silva's original opponent Nate Loughran. He'll face a tough challenge in former Jungle Fight champion Silva, a formerly fast-rising mixed martial arts (MMA) talent who experienced a shocking UFC Fight Night 29 knockout loss at the hands of Dong Hyun Kim.
Sato is a former welterweight King of Pancrase, defending his belt six times. He was last seen submitting Islam Galayev under the Dream banner. Sato is on an impressive 10-fight unbeaten streak, but he's set for a huge spike up in competition in UFC.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for Silva vs. Sato:
Record: 15-4(1) overall, 3-3 UFC
Key Wins: Charlie Brenneman (UFC on FX 3), Jason High (UFC on Fuel TV 10)
Key Losses: Dong Hyun Kim (UFC Fight Night 29), Jon Fitch (UFC 153)
Record: 17-8-7 overall, 0-0 UFC
Key Wins: Keiichiro Yamamiya (Pancrase-Progress Tour 10)
Key Losses: Yuki Kondo (Pancrase-Passion Tour 1)
After blasting through his first three UFC opponents (although his win over Carlo Prater was ruled a disqualification for illegal strikes), Silva was largely thought to be the future of the UFC welterweight division. He's since cooled down with losses to Kim and Jon Fitch, but there's no denying Silva still brings a scary blend of athleticism and skill to the cage.
To win this fight, "Indio" should look to use his explosive Muay Thai skills to finish talented grappler Sato. Silva has an excellent Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree of his own, but Sato has never been submitted. He has been knocked out five times, however, so this is where Silva will exercise a decided advantage.
Sato, on the other hand, is probably going to look to take this fight to the mat. A student of Japanese MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba, Sato has excellent Catch wrestling that he's used to submit six of his opponents. Sato shouldn't be scared to test the ground skills of Silva. If Sato can neutralize his opponent's striking edge, he could have a chance to make this fight ugly and score a huge upset.
It's just highly unlikely.
Silva is a massive favorite in this bout, and for good reason. It's hard to bet on a debuting fighter, especially one matched up against a monster like Silva. Sato will need to avoid the very real Octagon jitters and beat the toughest opponent of his career in Silva's home country, all at the same time.
That's far from an easy task. On paper, this fight looks like a match-up to help Silva get back some of the confidence he built up during his early UFC run. There's no doubt Sato has a very dangerous submission game, but will he even get the chance to use it on Saturday night? It could be a short night for him if he doesn't.