It was less than five years ago and yet it seems like a lifetime.
The last time we saw Karo Parisyan in the Octagon, he was getting knocked out (technically) by Dennis Hallman and screaming like a man who had lost everything. He showed up looking out of shape, which could be construed as a slap in the face to the UFC because it gave him a second chance after claiming "The Heat" would never fight for the organization again.
Diego Sanchez, meanwhile, is fresher on our minds after yet another "Fight of the Night"-winning performance at UFC on Versus 3 this past Thursday, March 3. His face was a mangled mess, bloody and cut to the point of being almost unrecognizable, but yet he managed to pull out the victory.
Whether or not the decision was marred by judges' incompetence betrays the fact that a lesser man would have quit. The fight was a testament to Sanchez's heart. Unfortunately, Kampmann is not one of the 170-pound elite and "The Dream's" gutsy, but technically destitute performance, further solidified he's likely to remain in that category, too.
When "The Heat" and the then "Nightmare" met at UFC Fight Night 6 at the young ages of 23 and 24, respectively, everyone watching was certain a future welterweight champion would emerge ... perhaps even two. But the tolls of mental illness, camp switching and the cruelest mistress of all, Father Time, have weighed heavily on both of these athletes shoulders since then.
Coming off the stellar main event at UFC on Versus 3, let's take a look at one of the first post-Ultimate Fighter classic fights when "The Nightmare" Diego Sanchez battled "The Heat" Karo Parisyan in a three round war.
Karo Parisyan was a 16 year-old judo wunderkind when he made his MMA debut and was 9-2 when he made his UFC debut five years later. He had successfully adapted his judo training for MMA and amazed crowds with throws and trips they had never seen before.
By the time he signed on to fight The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season one middleweight winner, he had a UFC record of 5-1 with wins over the likes of Matt Serra, Nick Diaz, and Chris Lytle with the lone loss coming at the hands of some guy named Georges St. Pierre.
"The Heat" was part of the new breed of MMA fighters. He wasn't a collegiate wrestler with no other combat sports outlet nor was he a wife beater-wearing karate black belt. He was a young, talented kid who cross-trained.
He was the future.
Diego Sanchez entered the first Ultimate Fighter house as the King of the Cage welterweight champion. He had 11 wins under his belt with 10 of them coming by way of finish. He was a bit odd and goofy and he would cut promos on other fighters like he was a 1980s pro wrestler but once he got in the cage, he was a beast.
He won four fights during his stint on TUF, a feat often overshadowed by the history-making Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight at the Finale. Once he got out of the TUF house, he ran through Brian Gassaway, had an epic battle with Nick Diaz, and decisioned the always-tough John Alessio.
Sanchez seemed like the epitome of what The Ultimate Fighter was supposed to be about: find the best guys on the regional circuit, showcase them on national TV, and give them a shot at the big leagues to see if they sink or swim. From choking out Alex Karalexis to outlasting Alessio, the New Mexico fighter was looking like Michael Phelps.
"The Nightmare" and "The Heat" headlined the TUF season one-heavy UFC Fight Night 6 card with a rumored shot at the welterweight title up for grabs. The Armenian judoka was already supposed to challenge Matt Hughes for the title at UFC 56 but suffered an injury. He came back three numbered events later and beat Nick Thompson into submission so the lost title shot seemed like a guarantee should he defeat the Jackson's Submission Fighting product.
The fight starts off and Sanchez lands a stiff jab that snaps back the judoka's head. They clinch up and "The Nightmare" nails Parisyan with an uppercut before slamming him down onto the mat. From there, you can see "The Heat" grimacing from the blow that has busted his cheek open.
The pain may be too much for Parisyan right now and Sanchez is easily able to get mount and then back mount as Parisyan rolls around to avoid more damage. Sanchez alternates between punches and rear naked choke attempts until "The Heat" is able to stand up and slide the New Mexico native off his back.
In the fight's first instance of judo flair, Parisyan trips Sanchez and slams him down, landing in his guard. "The Heat" is able to land some good ground and pound but the Jackson's fighter, not one to be outdone, lands a couple of upkicks of his own.
Sanchez is able to slide out from guard and pops onto Parisyan's back. The crowd cheers and this old MMA fan appreciates the love this grappling clinic is receiving. They separate and exchange some punches before clinching up against the cage.
Remember how much the crowd cheered Sanchez's reversal from a minute ago? Well, they absolutely love the hip throw Parisyan lands next. "The Nightmare" is slammed onto the mat but you can barely hear the impact over the audience's roar.
The New Mexico native is quick to get back on his feet but eats a couple of hooks on the way up. Parisyan holds his hands out and motions Sanchez to 'come on.' Another hip toss attempt is partially blocked by Sanchez who lands flat on his head, Ganso Bomb-style. Adding insult to injury, "The Heat" lands in his guard and begins to waylay him with punches.
"The Nightmare" creates some distance and scrambles back to his feet and the first round ends with both fighters exchanging punches. Read that again: the FIRST round. We still have 10 minutes of this.
The second round starts off exactly how the first ended with both fighters teeing off on each other. "The Heat" shoots a headkick at Sanchez's skull that has ill intentions but the New Mexican is able to block it. Neither fighter is getting the advantage on the feet. For every hook Sanchez lands, Parisyan lands a jab.
Parisyan finally lands a hook that staggers Sanchez back and follows it up with a jab that snaps "The Nightmare's" head against the cage before scooping him up and slamming him down for a takedown. This is mixed martial arts.
The judoka works in Sanchez's guard but is flipped over and nearly swept before he's able to pin Sanchez up against the cage. "The Nightmare" once again creates the distance needed to get back to his feet and the fighters return to a neutral standing position.
Parisyan goes for yet another throw but Sanchez is able to block the judoka's attempt and ends up in his guard, landing ground and pound. "The Heat" stands back up and another hip toss attempt is again partially blocked as both fighters end up on the ground. Parisyan now has cuts under each of his eyes. The second horn sounds while the two are grappling for position.
The two spend the first minute of the last stanza boxing each other before clinching up and employing some Randy Couture-style dirty boxing. One uppercut from Sanchez pops Parisyan's head up and back. "The Heat" drives "The Nightmare" into the cage and slams him down for another takedown.
With three minutes left in the fight, Sanchez is able to reverse position on Parisyan and ends up on top of the Armenian. Parisyan gives up his back and nearly gets finished with a choke before the submission is broke up. Sanchez, though, maintains the mount position and begins to blast away with vicious ground and pound that no man who has been fighting for 12 minutes should have enough strength to throw.
Elbows and punches rain down on Parisyan but he refuses to wilt. He gives up his back again and is able to slide Sanchez off. They return to their feet and "The Heat" looks like his fire is just about out. He is heavy footed and his punches have absolutely no snap to them.
Sanchez, however, knows the fight can be won in the last 90 seconds and presses on the gas. He lands a nice 1-2 combination and follows up with a counter hook. "The Nightmare" grabs onto a plum clinch and lands uppercut after uppercut on the exhausted Armenian. He lands one, two, three body shots before body-locking Parisyan and landing a knee that sends one of "The Heat's" pearly whites flying through the air.
Parisyan would later claim it was just a veneer and not an actual tooth that was flew out of his mouth as if that makes the strike less impressive. The last time I checked, those things are glued on so getting one knocked out, or off as it were, would still be pretty damn hard to do.
"The Heat" attempts a last-ditch hip toss but doesn't have the strength to create the leverage he needs and Sanchez ends up on top, landing elbows and punches until the end of the round.
Sanchez wins the unanimous decision victory in a fight that was largely considered the "Fight of the Year" in 2006.
The no time limit, drawn out affairs that littered the early UFCs still manage to warp peoples' opinions of grappling. Once it gets to the ground, it gets boring a lot of people think. This fight, along with Sanchez's fight against Nick Diaz and Kazushi Sakuraba's clinic against Carlos Newton are a few fights I love to show those people.
You think ground fighting is boring? Check this out then. It's not too long before they start using words like "awesome" and "amazing."
After this classic, Sanchez ran into a 170-pound wall, which turned out to be the front door of the American Kickboxing Academy. He dropped consecutive decisions to top contenders Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch before dropping to lightweight and finding success there. Of course, that came to and end when he ran into another wall, this one named B.J. Penn.
Parisyan's story is more tragic. The injury he suffered while training for his title fight against Hughes was never properly taken care of or rehabbed and Parisyan, not wanting to take time off, developed an addiction to painkillers. He was popped for the banned substance after his win at UFC 94, a bout that was later overturned to a no contest.
He also suffers from anxiety attacks, a crippling mental illness that can destroy any ordinary Joe's life; so just imagine what it does to a person fighting in front of thousands of people.
After he pulled out of his fight against Dustin Hazelett at UFC 106 at the last minute, the second time he had done so, Dana White told anyone who would listen that "The Heat" was no longer welcome in the UFC. Almost two years later, he did end up making his return and broke every fan's heart by showing up in the condition he did and losing in the way he did -- sloppy and a shell of his former self.
But to paraphrase Bogie: We'll always have UFC Fight Night 6.