Bellator 218: “Sanchez vs. Karakhanyan 2” takes place at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla., tomorrow night (Fri., March 22, 2019) featuring a main event between former Featherweight No. 1 title contender, Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4,) taking on a familiar foe in Georgi Karakhanyan (28-8-1, 1 NC).
Facing someone more experienced is nothing new for “El Matador.” His last fight in Tel Aviv, Israel, was a close (but unanimous) decision loss against reigning 145-pound champion “Pitbull” Patricio Freire. This will be his first fight back since taking the “L” in Israel. Karakhanyan, meanwhile, returns to Bellator MMA after a hard-fought decision loss against Henry Corrales in Jan. 2018. He’s taken two fights in Absolute Championship Akhmat since then, however; and although originally he won both bouts, he was ultimately disqualified in the latter for strikes after the bell (watch the chaotic scene unfold right here).
Sanchez recently spoke with MMAmania.com about looking to re-establish his divisional dominance against the durable Karakhanyan and if he would have done anything differently against “Pitbull.”
“Knocked him out, man! Not hold back, I guess, you know? I think just more confidence in myself when I dropped him in the first round. I thought it would be a lot harder. I was like, ‘Oh my God! I got him in the first, I’m gonna finish this dude right now.’ Letting him off the hook and not really imposing my will and continuing my onslaught let him back in the fight (and) let him recover.”
Similar sentiments have been echoed by Daniel Weichel in the past, but opponents find it notoriously hard to beat Freire in a rematch. Even Daniel Straus only pulled it off once.
“Also for being like the baddest dude in the world in the division, I thought he’d hit a lot harder, too! Knowing that I can take his blows and just impose my will and dish out my blows, just never hesitate, just continue to keep going (is key). People might not realize this, but I try to be too perfect, I try to be pretty. My coaches are on me (about it) all the time.”
Long before he’ll have the chance to impose his will on Freire in a rematch, he’ll have to do the same with Karakhanyan. Sanchez talked about how this fight came together.
“Yeah, literally like just the other week I’m leaving practice and my coach Duke Roufus says, ‘Hey — Grimshaw’s out. We’re working on someone else, don’t worry — maybe Georgi.’ And I’m like, ‘Ah shit.’ Just the fact that he was out. But, then when he said Georgi I’m lik,e ‘Oh! Good. Alright, hell yeah. Whoever can step up. If it’s him great, awesome, if it’s not I know they’ll find somebody.’”
Sanchez also gave us a little insight into what goes through the mind of a fighter when his fight changes two weeks before he’s scheduled for the main event of a card.
“It just sucks when you hear that someone pulled out because then you start to think the worst of like, if they’re going to find you an opponent, if you’re going to get moved they switch you cards and everything — especially when you’re cutting weight. I’m getting ready to fight and you know you’re just like, ‘Damn it’ (because) you’re hungry to fight and you don’t want to wait to fight.”
As such, Sanchez is very appreciative that Karakhanyan stepped up to take this fight on short notice ... especially given the decision didn’t go Georgi’s way the first time.
“I’m glad that Georgi stepped up and yeah, it’s great. I couldn’t ask for a better fight, you know what I mean? There’s history, and I’ve got some business to take care of you know what I mean? Ain’t nobody want to win a close decision. I want to go out there and silence the critics, silence him, and put him away — get the job done and put him away.”
The only major thing to criticize about their last fight was the second round, but if criticism made Sanchez better so be it — it was the start of a four-fight win streak for “El Matador.” Could a second win have similar benefits?
“You better believe it! Now we can actually talk about it. Before no one could say a word, but now they’re mentioning a grand prix — it’s been done for the Heavyweights and the Welterweights that they’re doing right now. This is really good because NOW unless he can make his way through the grand prix there will be a trilogy or whatever, but there will be no need for it because I’m gonna go out there and I’m gonna STOP HIM this time.”
It may also be that Sanchez has Karakhanyan figured out based on prior experience.
“Prior to me fighting him I had a former teammate who already fought him. So my coaches already (had) — I wouldn’t say a game plan but a layout, a format, you know what I mean? We know how to face him. For example — Charles Oliveira. My teammates Anthony Pettis AND Paul Felder both faced him so we knew exactly what to expect. If anyone else faces him again we know what to do. It’s kind of the same thing here. Since we have already faced him before, we already knew how strong and dangerous he was everywhere. I don’t even even want to say style or game plan but the right... the right assault to go and put on him.”
No matter what a rematch with Karakhanyan leads to for Emmanuel Sanchez, the thrill of getting to compete in the Bellator cage is reward enough for him.
“Yeah I’m excited! That’s what gets me up, you know? That makes me work hard, kills me in training (and) makes me suffer. Alright let’s do it man. (It’s) a battle of wills. Who’s going to break first? I’ve never been broken so let’s see what he’s got.”
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Sanchez vs. Karakhanyan 2” resides here at MMA Mania all week long.
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