Stevenson Meets Slimmer, Trimmer Sanchez
Preview by Brady Crytzer
On Saturday, February 21st the UFC returns to London where it presents UFC 95: Sanchez vs. Stevenson. In this crossroads bout, TUF winners collide in an attempt to gain new life in the lightweight division. While Joe “Daddy” Stevenson has been a 155 pound mainstay, he faces a new kind of challenge as Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez makes his lightweight debut.
Can the former title challenger Stevenson successfully contend with the size and strength of a revamped Sanchez? Fightnews takes a look at the intangibles that make this fight one of the most interesting of 2009.
To say that either fighter is a stand up stand out is a stretch. But, for the purposes of analysis, Sanchez does have a 2006 KO over Joe Riggs to his credit. The fairest way to judge the striking of these men is to compare their natural ability to ground n’ pound their opponents into oblivion. The edge in damaging blows from the top position falls to Sanchez. In almost all of his UFC victories, from his debut against Brian Gassaway to his recent TKO over Luigi Fioravanti, it has been the heavy hands of Sanchez that have been the most telling in relation to his stellar grappling attack.
Although Stevenson has busted up the competition in the past, as seen in his 2006 bloodbath victory over Yves Edwards, he won’t be able to land on Sanchez that easily. “The Nightmare” is dropping down in weight for this bout and his physical strength advantage will allow him to control Stevenson long enough to drop heavy bombs.
Edge: Sanchez will enjoy a size and strength advantage that will manifest itself in his hard punches from the top position.
This sport is all about styles and the secret to his one is in the matchmaking. Both fighters have given us some of the best grappling wars in recent memory and that’s a testament to their natural abilities.
As far as pure grappling goes, Joe Stevenson has recently reached a major milestone when he received his jiu jitsu black belt from Robert Drysdale in Las Vegas. Sanchez is a former state champion wrestler in his own right, but lacks the fundamentals of his opponent on February 21st. The real distinguishing characteristic in this bout is in the application. Stevenson tends to be a bit of a purist in his fights and is less willing to go for broke with a big shot once in a dominant position.
Sanchez however mixes basic fundamentals of position with an innate affinity to inflict damage that has proven to be a winning combination. Nevertheless, there is a distinct grappling edge in favor of the former title challenger Stevenson.
Edge: Stevenson’s pedigree and wrestling background overshadows Sanchez’s well-rounded attack.
Although Stevenson did make a run at the lightweight title in the past, Sanchez has been in the spotlight for most of his career. Both of these fighters have had the benefits of winning The Ultimate Fighter, so attention and expectations are nothing new here. This fight comes down to momentum. Joe Stevenson is coming off of an loss in November where he was dominated and submitted by Kenny Florian. Sanchez however hasn’t lost a fight since August of 2007. While Stevenson has fought at 170 before, he has looked smaller than ever in his last two bouts. This is not a good thing when your opponent is a reasonably large welterweight transitioning to a huge lightweight.
This will be seen as Stevenson’s fight to lose despite the fact that Sanchez enjoys many advantages on paper. Sanchez has had three round grappling wars with Karo Parysian and Nick Diaz in the past, so this one will certainly hit the floor. Watch for Diego’s size and strength to pose serious problems for Stevenson.
This fight appears to be a decision win for Albuquerque’s “Nightmare,” but a strong commitment to landing punches from the top will result in a late TKO.