Alessio Sakara (19-10-1 DQ-1 NC) vs. Nicholas Musoke (10-2-1-1 NC) Welterweight
When we last left our heroes...It's amazing to think that as far back as UFC 57, was Sakara considered some kind of blue chip prospect because he beat up Elvis Sinosic for three rounds. My how the times when we conclude what kind of accomplishment justifies hype have changed (!).
Not to be down on Sakara. The Legionnaire (or whatever) has the type of crisp boxing we wish was more typical in MMA. But while he's managed to stay relevant in the UFC, he hasn't turned into what many fans hoped.
To be fair, while he's 3-0, his losses are to Brian Stann, Chris Weidman, and a silly DQ loss to Patrick Cote (silly because it was completely unnecessary). Not bad fighters by any stretch, and the lesser fighter of the three was lost on a technicality.
Regardless, Sakara is fighting to avoid his pink slip. Especially with the "roster being too full" per Dana White. There's no room for error on Sakara's part, which will prove to be difficult since his career is littered with them (not trying to be funny; the guy has taken part in many a bizarre affair).
As for Musoke, the man they call ‘Nico' hails from Sweden, and hasn't lost since 2011. As for what we know about him, read on to find out.
What both men can do: Sakara's strength is no secret. The man loves to box. He throws some of the cleanest combinations in the division with an impeccable one-two. This description will be copy and pasted into his next fight five years into the future because this is pretty much how we'd describe him from five years back.
His game hasn't changed much (save for the odd takedowns to prove Joe Rogan is justified in calling him "well rounded" on air), and that's fine. He's a specialist and that's what he should be doing. His grappling isn't terrible though. He hasn't been submitted since 2006 to ADCC vet Dean Lister, and he's been in the cage with some tough hombres, like Chris Weidman and Thales Leites.
Musoke is more of question mark. There's very little footage of him that doesn't have to do with random Swedish grappling tournaments. Nonetheless, we can saw a few things about the guy. For one, he's agile. Which yes, is so broad as to be useless, but in MMA where you really need to scramble, and position yourself for offense in unique and varied ways, it means plenty.
While Musoke is comfortable and fluid on his feet, he's at his best in top control raining down ground and pound. He does a real good job of arching his back to put some serious mustard on his punches. He doesn't have the violent finesse of a Russian born with a pacifier in one hand, and a baby in a gi being thrown over his hip in the other....
But it's significant enough to be a factor. He's a transition threat with an eye for top control. Sakara would be wise to take him seriously.
What both men can't do: Musoke is still a relative novice on the feet. It's not that he's bad. It's that he doesn't throw with emphasis. Setup strikes can either be a blessing or a curse. As in, if you don't sit down on the punches you're setting up your opponent up for something else, your opponent won't respect you.
Still, I feel like this is Sakara's fight. If he's improved anywhere it's been with his takedown defense, and overall grappling. Nothing extraordinary, but it should be enough to keep Musoke in his feet where he'll be peppered all night.
Random observation that may prove to be relevant: Sakara fights have a tendency to end in odd ways. Either the Cote fight, his debut against Ron Faircloth, etc. If someone's not breaking the rules in a Sakara fight, then it isn't a Sakara fight.
Some of this is obviously tied to Sakara himself. Since the subject of eye pokes has been a hot topic lately, can we also get on board with strikes to the back of the head? There's a reason so many knockout blows can be associated with strikes that inadvertently land behind the ear, and that's because it's an especially vulnerable spot.
Sakara often lands to the back of the head and I hope he's made an example of if that happens. It's getting ridiculous how easily the rules are discarded in favor of in-cage fight discretion. Yes, taking a point away dramatically affects a three round fight using the ten point must system. Guess what? So does an illegal strike that incapacitates an opponent.
Prediction: Alessio Sakara by Decision.