Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) just conducted its first ever full fight card on FUEL TV as UFC on FUEL TV 1: "Sanchez vs. Ellenberger" sought to entertain the fans in attendance at Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska, on Feb. 15, 2012.
The main event featured a very tough match up between welterweight top contenders Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger. Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans and pundits expected the winner to catapult himself into "the mix," and possibly place themselves next in line for a title shot (after Carlos Condit, of course).
The main event rendered a bloody, all-out war that will go down as one of the better fights of the year. Both men emerged with what appeared to be broken noses, but not broken spirits.
In victory, Ellenberger not only proved his toughness, but also that he is ready to fight for the belt. It may not happen immediately, but the opportunity is coming.
Follow me after the jump and we'll discuss the big winners and lowliest of losers from UFC on FUEL TV 1:
Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger -- I know Ellenberger won, but I have trouble separating these two and calling either of them a loser. Call it a cop out. That's fine, but I'm not gonna do it. This was a fantastic fight. For two rounds, Ellenberger poured it on in dominating fashion. He dealt Sanchez a gruesome broken nose and all kinds of added punishment, to boot. But in the third round, Sanchez proved his heart by mounting a comeback effort that very nearly won him the fight. Ellenberger will go on to get a high profile fight and is now inches away from the title picture. I'm just saying that Sanchez should be right behind him.
Stefan Struve -- You can tell a lot about a fighter by how they overcome adversity. In the first round of his fight against Dave Herman, Struve looked overwhelmed. He was getting outstruck badly. He wasn't using his length. He was playing right into Herman's hands. In the second round, Struve came out like a totally new man. He scored a takedown early on that set the tone for the way the rest of the fight would go. Though "Pee Wee" was able to escape the first submission attempt, Struve poured it on, eventually getting a stoppage when Herman failed to respond under a barrage of punches.
Stipe Miocic -- Wow. After looking to be hurt early on, Miocic (aka: "Cro Cop Part II") responded with a furious flurry of punches that sent Philip De Fries to the canvas and caused the fight to be stopped at just 0:43 of the very first round. It almost as if De Fries' punches made him angry. He punished him for it and looked like an absolute monster in victory. I'm excited to keep seeing what this Croatian sensation is really capable of.
Jonathan Brookins -- After winning season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Brookins has been fairly inactive due to some injury problems. Last night, Brookins fought a very game opponent in Vagner Rocha who is capable of finishing a foe at any moment. It was Rocha's first fight at featherweight, and supposedly, he'd found his true and natural weight class. Early on, the two exchanged and Brookins looked very comfortable. Then it happened. Brookins clipped Rocha and pounced on him instantly. Rocha resorted to his jiu-jitsu roots and desperately went for a heel hook. As he did, he left his chin exposed. It was all Brookins needed, as he took advantage of the moment, landed several very hard punches from short distance and knocked out Rocha to notch a big win and get things back on track. Brookins is just a good dude; one of the nicer guys in MMA. Congrats.
Ivan Menjivar -- What a tough guy! After being very nearly finished by John Albert, Menjivar took the abuse, was patient, and used his experience to grab the submission victory. The win was the third in a row for "The Pride of El Salvador." He looks great at 135 pounds and it looks like the move to bantamweight was really the right one. Who says Jackson-trained fighters don't finish fights? Afterwards, he posed a question that is sure to be seen on t-shirts and internet memes all over when he asked: "What would Sakuraba do?" Good question, Ivan.
Ronny Markes -- After looking like he was in trouble in the first round, Markes did a great job of coming back, using leg kicks and an overall weight and strength advantage to control the fight. The move to middleweight looks like a good one, at least for now. It will be intriguing to see if the move lasts and what kind of impact the Nova Uniao will be able to make at 185 pounds.
T.J. Dillashaw -- Sometimes, you'll see fighters who lose on TUF, go home, start over, absorb the lessons they've learned during their time on the show and rebound as much better fighters upon their return. Thus appears to be the case for Dillashaw, the Alpha Male product and training partner of everyone's favorite "California Kid," Urijah Faber. Dillashaw's fight versus Walel Watson was an ambush. He bum rushed Watson from the opening horn and never backed off. Though he wasn't able to finish him, he did a tremendous job of pressing the pace and inflicting damage at every turn against a very good and seasoned fighter in Watson. In the third round, when Dillashaw got away from the success of his wrestling, Watson got vey close to putting him in a bad spot, maybe even finishing him. Kudos to Dillashaw for fighting through it and keeping his composure, on his way to earning a well earned decision victory.
Big Braveheart fan in the crowd -- At one point during the T.J. Dillashaw vs Walel Watson fight, a passionate fan (who had, no doubt, enjoyed his fair share of "beverage") screamed out "freedom!" Maybe I'm easily amused, but that cracked me up. We hear dumb "USA" chants at almost every event. People boo. people yell things about fighters mothers. But clutch movie quotes? That's a new one on me and I'm tipping my cap to you, random fan.
Dave Herman -- I was really excited when the UFC signed this guy. Every fight I've ever seen him in was a slugfest. Though it didn't totally live to the hype, his win over Jon Olav Einemo was a nice way to enter the Octagon. He looked to build on that against Stefan Struve, and for a round, it looked like he was going to. Unfortunately, he did exactly what his corner told him not to. He stood right in front of Struve and was not making good use of lateral movement. After getting caught with a massive uppercut and plummeting to the canvas, he had no answer at all for Struve who jumped all over him. I like Herman. He's a fun fighter and has body hair that rivals that of Andrei Arlovski. I just don't think he'll ever be a guy who makes a serious run at the title.
Vagner Rocha -- They say potential gets coaches fired. It also gets fighters cut sometimes. Though it's unlikely Rocha's loss to Jonathan Brookins will be worthy of him losing his job, it puts him on wobbly footing. Whenever you see a guy who can't quite pick a weight class, it makes you nervous. Is he a lightweight or a featherweight? Not sure. But if he's a featherweight, he's got a long way to go. His jiu-jitsu is famous. But MMA is more than that. You have to be well rounded, and so far, he hasn't looked that way.
Aaron Simpson -- I hate calling a loser here, because for a round and a half, I thought he looked fantastic. He was striking well and really controlling the fight. Things just took a turn for the worse for "A-train" halfway through the second round. Simpson couldn't get the fight to the ground and he looked flustered by that. In fact, it was Markes who actually did the better job of getting takedowns and using ground control. Overall, it just wasn't a strong showing for Simpson.
FUEL TV pre-fight show -- After watching the Facebook prelims, I flipped back over to FUEL TV to watch the pre-fight programming with Jay Glazer. Right when I switched over, I was treated to 10-plus solid seconds of a close-up camera shot of the fence, accompanying audio of Glazer waxing eloquently. As they transitioned back to their shot of the fellas in the booth, I was shocked to see that a cameraman or some type of assistant was cleaning the lens off with a cloth. You could see him. Right on camera. They didn't go to break. They didn't use a different camera. They just kept shooting as homeboy cleaned off the camera lens with a bright green cloth. It was one of the most amateur things I've ever seen. FUEL TV has really got to figure this out. I know they were a virtual throw-in with the FOX deal, but the FUEL TV aspect of things can't keep being this bush league. You never saw garbage like this with Spike TV.
For complete UFC on FUEL TV 1: "Sanchez vs. Ellenberger" results, including blow-by-blow details of all the action, click here.