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Over the past week or so, the sports world has come down with a serious case of LINsanity. Though it was the general consensus that this mind altering sickness originated with the uncanny rise of New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, last night’s inaugural UFC on FUEL event opened our collective eyes to the virus’ true host: Diego fucking Sanchez.
Yes, it seems that ever since Diego suffered his first professional losses, which came in back-to-back fashion at the hands of Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch at UFC 69 and 76, the man has become consumed by a mixture of evangelical optimism and bipolar rage to the point of parody. As he made his way to the octagon for his main event clash with top contender Jake Ellenberger last night, it quickly became apparent that it was Sanchez who was in need of an exorcism, which made the Gregorian monk feel of his entrance appear all the more ironic.
And for the first two and a half rounds, it looked like Sanchez’s mental state was really starting to have an adverse effect on his physical abilities. As in his fights with Martin Kampmann, B.J. Penn, and John Hathaway, Sanchez seemed content to charge head first into the quicker, more accurate punches of “Ingleburger,” getting rocked on more than one occasion as a result. Perhaps that is how sociopaths set up their takedowns, or perhaps he simply didn’t give a shit, because despite getting significantly outgunned on both the feet and the ground, Sanchez all but refused to alter his gameplan in the slightest. Due to the fact that Sanchez’s striking has not evolved to the level of his counterparts, we can expect to see a lot more of this in his future. No one will ever doubt “The Dream’s” chin, because that is the only thing about Sanchez that seems stable at this point in his career. However, when Sanchez managed to get Ellenberger’s back late in the third, we were treated to some vintage “Nightmare” ground-and-pound. This is, and has always been where the former lightweight title challenger thrives, and when he gets ANYONE on their back, they best prepare for a hellstorm of punches that can only be described as suffocating. If only he would do it more often.
The one thing I came away with from the Sanchez/Ellenberger scrap is that the UFC needs to decide on whether main event fights will be scheduled for three or five rounds, rather than catering this criteria to each event. If there had been two more rounds last night, Sanchez’s cardio could have very easily changed the outcome of the fight, as it was evident that Ellenberger was beginning to fade. It’s time to make the five round main event a standard, Dana, because if Munoz/Leben warranted it, how in the hell didn’t this fight?
As for Ellenberger, it seems that he is destined for either a rematch with Carlos Condit, depending on how long GSP will be out, or a possible match with the Koscheck/Hendricks winner to determine the true number one contender of the welterweight division. Our vote is for the former. His loss to Condit was both hotly contested and his only UFC loss to date, and after taking down two former title challengers in a row (granted, in different weight classes) he has clearly set himself apart from the rest of the pack, and deserves another crack at “The Natural Born Killer.”
In the night’s co-main event, Stefan Struve managed to utilize his superior ground game to finish off Dave Herman with strikes from the mount after dropping him in the second round. While undoubtedly a big win for Struve, the fight showed that his striking game, like Sanchez’s, is still a work in progress. The man stands at 6’11”, and despite this, has shown time and time again that he cannot keep his shorter opponents at bay. If GSP can use a jab to pick apart whoever he damn well pleases, then no one should be able to get within swinging distance of a “Skyscraper” like Struve, yet men as short as Roy Nelson have managed to find his off button as a result of his inability to maintain distance. If he ever wants to fight top of the division guys, he better learn to stick that jab, or suffer the consequences. Herman, on the other hand, might want to start buying into this whole “Jiu-Jitsu” thing, because his mount defense, which could only be described as “unorthodox” by announcer Kenny Florian, appeared to have been taught to him by Art Jimmerson.
Join us for part two this afternoon, in which we break down the rest of UFC on FUEL’s main card and a couple fights from the undercard as well.