On Monday, Jorge Rivera spoke on “The MMA Hour” and broke the news his fight with Alessio Sakara at UFC 133 in Philadelphia on August 6 had been called off after Sakara tore his ACL during training.
It was the third time the fight between the two strikers had been cancelled, after Rivera pulled out due to injury before UFC 118 and Sakara came up with a stomach illness the day of their bout last winter in Germany at UFC 122.
It was an unheralded fight to be sure, and some say it didn’t deserve to be on the main card, but it was also a shrewd piece of matchmaking by Joe Silva. Both Rivera and Sakara have been in the UFC for years, and both have aggressive, all-out fighting styles. They always look to take each other’s heads off, and it would have made for an exciting fight.
The first and second time the fight was scheduled, Rivera and Sakara were both on three-fight win streaks, so the clash had definite implications in the middleweight division. While Sakara sat after the mishap in Germany, Rivera moved up the ladder and took on Michael Bisping, ultimately succumbing to the Brit’s illegal knee and follow-up beating.
When Sakara returned, he fought Chris Weidman in March and lost a one-sided decision to the young wrestler fighting out of Matt Serra’s school. It was a very unimpressive performance by “Legionarious.” With both fighters coming off losses, it made sense to match them up again. But of course, that’s out the window now.
Rivera said he expected the UFC to replace Sakara with undercard fighter Constantinos Philippou, which they did, and then gave Philipou’s original opponent, Rafael Natal, UFC debutee Paul Bradley. Rivera claims Philippou will bring the fight to him, but let’s face it, Sakara was the ideal clash, at least with respect to styles.
A card like UFC 133 didn’t need this to happen. Already, up-and-coming star Phil Davis had to pull out from his main event fight with Rashad Evans, and then Vladimir Matyushenko and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria pulled out, too. With no worthy opponent left to fight, Rich Franklin politely excused himself from the mess.
Will the fight between Rivera and Sakara ever happen? It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but right now it doesn’t look likely. Even if he doesn’t get cut for this latest debacle, Sakara will surely be out for a while recovering and by the time he returns there is no telling where Rivera will sit in the middleweight division’s pecking order, if he’s still in the UFC at all.
The fight is cursed and needn’t be booked again. But hey, at least it looked good on paper, just like UFC 133 did at one point.