Any MMA fan worth his or her salt has been wondering one question for a long time. Who will be next in line to join the ranks of Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as the third UFC fighter to win title belts in multiple weight classes?

Most recently, it seemed that longtime UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar would be the next person to reach this coveted achievement. However, after five rounds with featherweight champ Jose Aldo in February 2013, that possibility became a distant memory. And, of course, Urijah Faber had a chance to win two different titles under the Zuffa banner, as the former WEC featherweight champ took on UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz once, followed by Renan Barao twice in a year, but he came up short on all three occasions.

Well, this Saturday night, at one of the most anticipated fight cards of the year, UFC 175 showcases a huge middleweight match-up that pits incumbent champ “All-American” Chris Weidman against former UFC light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida, live from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

At UFC 98, just over five years ago, Machida shocked the world with a wicked second-round knockout of then-champion Rashad Evans to capture his first UFC title. After one controversial, albeit successful, defense against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Machida turned around and lost the belt to the same man. After that loss, Machida went a disturbing 3-3 at the highest levels of the light heavyweight division, as he dropped one legitimately to Jon Jones for the belt and lost controversial decisions to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Phil Davis. After this tough run in the 205-pound division, he dropped to 185, where he has been running the table.

Last October, Machida knocked out his new training partner, Mark Munoz, with a first-round head kick and followed up with a five-round runaway decision over Gegard Mousasi in February. After a series of rescheduled fights, Machida will now face Weidman for the middleweight strap at UFC 175 .

Weidman is currently 11-0 and has been the champ for exactly one year, since he knocked out Anderson Silva in the second round of their UFC 162 match-up. As Silva was playing his usual games, the American shocked fans around the world with a shot that put the Brazilian champ to sleep. In December, during their “immediate” rematch, Weidman defended his belt. He also snapped Silva’s tibia and fibula bones by checking a simple leg kick. For his second title defense, Weidman gets a shot at a former longtime Silva training partner.

UFC 175 is a stacked card, and Las Vegas will be hopping as people from around the world converge to celebrate Independence Day weekend. Saturday night’s main event is sure to bring some serious action to the cage as two of the best middleweights in the world clash for the UFC title.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up, and as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Weidman – 9, Machida – 10

To give credit where credit is due, Weidman is a really good striker, as displayed in his back-to-back knockouts of Silva, who was considered one of the best strikers in the world for a very long time. However, as he got older and held the belt longer, Silva started to believe what he was hearing, and that came around to bite him. Weidman’s elbow-led TKO of Munoz was spectacular as well, but that was a once-in-a-lifetime strike. None of what he has done in his last three fights will work against a striker like Machida, who happens to have a third dan black belt in Shotokan karate.

Machida has eight knockouts over some legends of the sport, including Stephan Bonnar, Rich Franklin, Couture, Munoz and Evans. He has won pretty much all of his decisions by outpointing his opponents on his feet. He is elusive, powerful and calculating, with counter strikes that have the ability to put away just about anybody—just ask Ryan Bader. Weidman has never faced anyone close to Machida as far as styles go, and the Brazilian is not one to do stupid stuff like Silva did in his last two fights. Weidman’s forward-pressing action is nowhere near as talented as Shogun’s, which is a big problem for the American.

On the feet, Weidman can box well and block kicks effectively, but Machida, the stone-cold assassin, is not going to stand in the pocket and attempt to trade. The challenger definitely has the upper hand in the striking department.

Submission Grappling: Weidman – 10, Machida – 10

Machida holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Walter Broca, whereas Weidman holds a brown belt under Matt Serra. While the former may seem more impressive from a credential standpoint, this is a pretty even match-up in terms of submission grappling in a MMA setting.

Weidman may not have as high a BJJ belt ranking as Machida, but he has shown some impressive skills in the cage. Most wrestlers rely on the rear-naked and guillotine chokes, but the champ has exhibited that he has a much more well-rounded submission arsenal, including a kimura armbar and d’Arce choke, in addition to his standing guillotine win over Jesse Bongfeldt. Machida has displayed his grappling skills only twice in his career, but he has been submitted only once—by Jones in their title fight.

Neither of these guys really holds the upper hand on the mat, but if it does come down to a grappling game, both of them have the ability to emerge victorious.

Wrestling: Weidman – 10, Machida – 10

Weidman is an NCAA Division I All-American, and he has really never been taken down. However, Machida is no easy takedown either. In his 17-fight UFC career, the Brazilian has defended over 80 percent of his opponents’ takedown attempts, and his elusiveness on the feet makes him very difficult to shoot in on, even for a high-level wrestler like Weidman. Even if Weidman gets Machida to the ground, it will be very difficult to keep him there.

Wrestling may come in handy in the clinch for Weidman—it certainly did for Jon Jones against Machida—but the reigning champion does not have Jones’ length, so that standing guillotine will be a lot tougher on a guy like Machida. If Weidman plans on doing any damage in the clinch, he will definitely want to focus on the striking aspect.

A lot of people would probably disagree with this assessment on credentials alone, but Machida’s stats speak for themselves. He is one of the most underrated MMA-centric wrestlers in the UFC, and he trains with some high-level guys, such as Munoz. This department is another toss-up.

Speed: Weidman – 9, Machida – 10

Weidman packs power, but he’s not exactly the speediest guy, both in attacks and reactions. Machida’s quickness is a direct result of his karate background, a modality that stresses the importance of speed. All of Machida’s striking points and most of his knockouts are a direct result of his speed. Speed did not cause the Silva leg break, nor did it cause Weidman’s knockout of Munoz. These were simple train wrecks of power.

Machida carries speed in his attacks, such as his front-kick knockout of Couture, and he carries unpredictable speed in his counters, such as his knockout of Bader. Accuracy and elusiveness are great attributes, but Machida’s speed is the straw that stirs the drink, and in this match-up, it could spell demise for Weidman.

Aggressiveness: Weidman – 10, Machida – 9

Machida’s elusiveness is a good thing most of the time, but when he faces an aggressive opponent like Shogun, it leaves him open for a peppered attack. Weidman is an aggressive, forward-pressing striker and will not hesitate to shoot in for the takedown, which was the key to Shogun’s victory over Machida.

With Machida’s style being the way it is, Weidman holds the upper hand in the aggressiveness department.

X-factor

The x-factor in this fight is Machida’s aforementioned style of fighting. In his last two fights, Weidman faced a headcase in Silva. The first Silva he faced was cocky, and the second one was desperate. Machida is not desperate for this victory. No matter who his opponents have been, he has always come in calm, cool, collected and ready to fight his fight. Machida will not concede to Weidman’s style, nor will he see anything he has not seen before. Even with all of the knowledge in the world, Weidman’s camp will not be able to replicate the exact Machida attack, because his style is to keep people guessing. Nobody knows what he’s going to do, because the world has yet to see everything this guy is capable of. This will be a big problem for the champ as he attempts his third title defense.

Total: Weidman – 48, Machida – 49

Verdict: To face the facts, the champ is the champ. But, unlike Jon Jones when he won the strap at a young age, Weidman has still been largely untested. He’s only been to decision a few times, and he has only faced a handful of guys at the top of the sport. Although his actual title has no asterisks next to it, his last two fights were not against the best Anderson Silva. Machida may have trained with the former champ for a long time, but he is a very different fighter than anyone Weidman has ever faced.

Machida has the best chance of anyone in a long time to capture that coveted third spot as a champ in two different UFC weight classes. He will be difficult to get to, he won’t play Weidman’s game, and he knows exactly what to do to frustrate the champ. Weidman has yet to face a counter-striker of this capacity, and it will take more than a checked kick to stop the Brazilian.

Machida will come out elusive, with spurts of aggressiveness. He will be expecting many takedown attempts, and he will be prepared to keep the fight standing to outpoint the American on his way to ripping the title from the American’s grasp.

Machida by unanimous decision.