A very busy week in MMA kicks off on Thursday night with UFC Live: “Sanchez vs. Kampmann” on the Versus channel, and the main card features a rejuvenated Diego Sanchez taking on the always-durable Martin Kampmann, TUF 7 second-placer CB Dolloway against wrestler Mark Munoz, and former WEC champ Brian Bowles re-matching Damacio Page because Page just loves getting guillotined. Anyway, there’s also the walking Italian oil painting Alessio Sakara squaring off against Octagon newcomer Chris Weidman. Who? Chris friggin’ Weidman, dude. A ROC champ who’s been kicking serious ass in the Northeast, a wrestler who throws pinpoint accurate hands and one of the best middleweight prospects in the entire country – any of that ring a bell? No? Well, then you’re hopeless. But here are some more facts:
- Weidman was a Division I All-American wrestler when he began training jiu-jitsu under Matt Serra, and within a year he qualified for and competed in the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling Championships.
- The man is quite obviously a beast on the ground, with his top game particularly hellacious. But what enables him to win fights more than anything is his boxing. Weidman has a great sense of range and timing, and when he lands, he lands hard.
- Although he’s fought only four times, his first three bouts didn’t make it out of Round 1. His last bout, against a deceptively badass Brazilian named Valdir Araujo, went the distance, though, and after out-slugging and out-positioning his opponent, Weidman came away with the unanimous decision. The fight was Weidman’s toughest test to date.
- Weidman won his ROC belt when he took on champ Uriah Hall. Hall is considered one of the most dangerous 185-pound strikers on the East Coast, so it was assumed that the Serra/Longo rep was going to take the fight to the ground. He didn’t. Instead, he stalked Hall around the cage and stunned him with an extremely precise dose of leather to the chin.
- Strikeforce (wisely) wanted Weidman on their recent “Fedor vs. Silva” card in New Jersey, but Weidman had to decline because of a rib cartilage injury he’d sustained in training. Will that play a factor in his bout with Sakara on Thursday? Doubtful. Standing and banging is a lot easier on the ribs than being stuck on the bottom of someone with superior wrestling – and there’s no way in hell Sakara’s got superior wrestling. This one is going to be a live re-enactment of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, with Sakara playing the role of the light blue plastic robot with his head detached from his shoulders.