It was a main event with a multitude of high expectations last night (February 15, 2012) at UFC on Fuel TV 1 between top welterweights Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez, and it somehow managed to meet or surpass every one of them.
For three straight rounds, both men battled, threatened to finish and bloodied each other up.
Unfortunately it was only for three rounds, but UFC President Dana White stated he won't be making that same mistake again moving forward.
Ellenberger dominated early, but how did Sanchez almost rally late? Also, what's next for both welterweight warriors?
Follow me after the jump for our Jake Ellenberger vs. Diego Sanchez UFC on Fuel TV 1 post-fight review and analysis:
Early on, it was all Ellenberger, as he was fueled by a very receptive home crowd and a distinct technique and power advantage. He was able to get the better of every striking exchange utilizing solid movement and excellent timing.
Sanchez tried to make up for his lack of technique with aggression, often bullrushing forwards with wild flurries and combinations but "The Juggernaut" did a terrific job of sidestepping most of them and landing counter punches and knees, even dropping Sanchez briefly with a beautiful straight left counter.
At the end of the first round, the Nebraska native hit Sanchez with one of the hardest right hands I've ever seen and somehow "The Dream" walked right through it, practically unfazed. That had to be demoralizing for someone as powerful as Ellenberger.
Round two was more of the same except this time, on top of looking to counter, Ellenberger also mixed in takedowns when Sanchez charged in wildly. He was able to bust up the Greg Jackson-trained fighter's face pretty badly and at the end of the round, he let loose with a violent display of ground and pound with some powerful elbows and punches which could have potentially ended the fight if he had more time.
In the third and final round, Ellenberger was one again in control, but he wasn't quite as energetic as before. This came to bear in the final 90 seconds when he slipped while getting up from the ground and Sanchez seized the initiative, taking top position and hammering away with ground and pound from both mount and back mount.
"The Juggernaut" seemed quite vulnerable here, but survived the last minute surge and got back to his feet just in time for a fun exchange of big strikes at the final horn. His domination of the first two rounds was plenty enough to earn him a unanimous decision victory with a 29-28 score on all three judges' cards.
For Diego Sanchez, he simply didn't have enough time. While his skill-set and overall technique were trailing Ellenberger, he still almost came back and won the fight. That's just the type of competitor he is. He has the biggest heart, a great chin and cardio for days and that would suit him much better for five round fights. Unfortunately, this was a three round affair. With the way he finished the third, he might have been able to pull off the upset in the fourth had there been one. "The Dream" proved that you can never count him out of a fight.
Sanchez hinted at a possible return to lightweight at the post-fight press conference so there's plenty of options for him at either weight class depending on where he goes next. If he stays at welterweight, a fight with Rick Story or Mike Pierce would be very interesting. If he drops to lightweight, perhaps a fight with the upcoming loser of Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis could be made. Either way, this isn't the last we've seen of Diego Sanchez.
For Jake Ellenberger, he looked nearly unstoppable for about 13 minutes last night. His striking technique continues to improve, his power is as dangerous as ever and he did a great job of both countering and mixing in takedowns to keep Sanchez guessing. The big cause for concern is the final minute and a half of the fight. He looked tired, which doesn't bode well for a potential five round title fight. He also had some serious issues with his defenses while on his back. Sanchez was having his way with him at the end of that bout and that's something he can't afford to do against the top 170-pounders in the division.
Regardless, he's still a major force at welterweight. If he came out healthy, I'd love to see him get a crack at interim champion Carlos Condit in a rematch as their first fight was a "Fight of the Year" candidate. Other options include the upcoming winner of Martin Kampmann vs. Thiago Alves if they don't think he's ready for his shot.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did the final 90 seconds sour you on Ellenberger at all? Do you feel he deserves an interim title shot or would you rather see Condit wait for GSP?
For complete UFC on Fuel TV 1 results, including blow-by-blow, fight-by-fight coverage of the entire event as well as immediate post-fight reaction click here, here and here.