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Sanchez a force to be reckoned with at 155

Report by Anthony Springer Jr
Photos courtesty of Josh Hodges, UFC

The UFC’s stacked lightweight division officially has a new contender.

After making his debut at middleweight an achieving success as a welterweight, Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez decided to make another drop to the 155 pound division.

His first official test—aside from the weight cut and a new diet—came in the form of Ultimate Fighter two winner Joe “Daddy” Stevenson.

Sanchez passed with flying colors, winning an impressive unanimous decision victory in UFC 95’s main event.

While dropping a weight class can cause fighters to slow in their initial bout at the new weight, Sanchez seemed to look better than ever. He was lighter on his feet and showed the same strength that made him a monster at 170.

Sanchez dominated from the opening bell, out striking the shorter Stevenson and stuffing the Victorville, California wrestler’s takedown attempts. Though Sanchez was unable to rock his opponent, he scored with crisp strikes that consistently kept Stevenson off balance.

Even Joe “Daddy’s” patented choke was of little use in the fight. A second round tie up against the cage saw Stevenson attempt a guillotine—a move he has finished half of his UFC victories with—but Sanchez showed courage under fire. “Nightmare” refused to buckle and powered out of the maneuver by slamming Sanchez to the mat.

In the final round, Stevenson began to show signs of life, but would need to finish a fighter that has never been finished to pull out the W. While neither fighter landed many definitive shots in the round, Stevenson got the better of the bulk of the exchanges, catching Sanchez with a nice right hand midway through the bout and a left hook as time expired.

The judges scored the bout 29-28 (twice) and 30-27 for Sanchez who is now 22-2. Stevenson drops to 34-10 and has lost three of his last four.

Kelly Grinds Out Decision

Liverpool’s Paul Kelly got back to his winning ways in the night’s opening bout, scoring a unanimous decision victory over Troy Mandaloniz.

The UK crowd was firmly behind Kelly from the beginning who dominated all three rounds. Aside from connecting with a right hand, Mandaloniz offered virtually no offense in the first, while Kelly had his way with the “Rude Boy.” The English fighter frequently found his mark with combos and elbows—sending a clear message to Mandaloniz that he was in for a long night.

A cut up Mandaloniz turned it on in the second round, landing two right hands at the outset and showing more offense on the mat later in the round. Though clearly losing the battle on the feet, Mandaloniz attempted to finish the fight with an arm bar. The unsuccessful attempt cost Mandaloniz, who was smashed with an elbow for his efforts. A late round rear naked choke and arm bar attempt were also unsuccessful and Kelly appeared to have done enough in the first two to carry the fight.

The final round saw Kelly dominate more than ever, punishing Mandaloniz from the top position with elbows and punches. To put it bluntly, Kelly was never in serious jeopardy of losing the fight.

Judges scored the bout 30-27 (twice) and 30-28 for Kelly, who is now 9-1.

Ciesnolevicz Leg Locks His Way to Win

Mike Ciesnolevicz defeated Mike Grove by submission at 1:04 in the opening round.

Both men’s UFC debuts were short lived, but “Mike C” came out on top in the heavyweight preliminary showdown. Grove found himself on the wrong end of an ankle lock after taking the top position following a stuffed takedown. After a brief resistance, Grove was forced to tap to avoid further damage.

Heavy Handed Dunham Throttles Ecklund

Home field advantage doesn’t always pay dividends in MMA. Thousands of miles away from his fighting home of Las Vegas; Evan Dunham proved why Sean Tompkins is one of the best striking coaches in MMA, earning a TKO victory over Per Ecklund at 2:13 in the first round.

Ecklund was immediately rocked by a Dunham right hand but was able to recover and put up a brief fight. However, Dunham proved to be ambidextrous, rocking Ecklund again—this time with a left hook that sent the Swedish fighter barreling to the canvas. Dunham instinctively pounced and continued punching until the referee halted the bout.

With the win, Dunham remains undefeated at 8-0, while Ecklund drops to 15-4-1

Dos Santos Blows Up the “Skyscraper”

Junior Dos Santos needed just 54 seconds to ruin the UFC debut of Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve, defeating the 6”11 fighter by TKO.

The highly touted prospect was rocked early with a flurry of rights and lefts that immediately sent him staggering into the cage. A Dos Santos right hand sent Struve to the mat, but the 6’11 fighter bounced back up only to be floored again by another right. When Struve failed to get up, referee Dan Miragliotta decided he’d seen enough and stepped in to save Struve from further damage.

Etim Impressive Over Cobb

Terry Etim used crisp, fluid striking to frustrate, and eventually defeat Brian Cobb on the night’s final undercard bout.

Utilizing his long legs against a much shorter opponent, Etim landed leg kick after leg kick in the opening round. Cobb showed small signs of being in the fight, taking his lankier adversary down twice. However, Etim was able to hold Cobb’s arm in place, stalling long enough to force a standup each time the fight hit the mat.

Round two was all Etim, all the time as he landed a high kick that caught Cobb flush in the face sending him to the mat. Two precise punches later and the referee was calling for the cut men.

The fight was officially called at ten seconds in the second round.

Thiago Stuns Koscheck

Ultimate Fighter alum Josh Koscheck ended 2008 on a high note with a devastating knockout victory over Yoshida. However, “Kos’” momentum was temporarily halted last night as he ran into the undefeated Paulo Thiago who scored a TKO victory at 3:29 in the opening round.

A newcomer to the UFC, Thiago showed poise under Koscheck’s increasing pressure. After a brief feeling out period, Koscheck began to connect with his patented overhand right. At one point, Thiago seemed to be on the ropes, but recovered and connected with a vicious right uppercut-left hook combination that sent Koscheck to the canvas, prompting the referee to step in.

Both the crowd and Koscheck protested the stoppage. With the win, Thiago improves to 11-0 in his professional career, while Koscheck drops to 13-4.

Maia Puts on Jiu-Jitsu Clinic, Taps Sonnen

Demian Maia took another step towards a middle weight title shot with a first round submission victory over former WEC standout Chael Sonnen.

The Team Quest standout utilized his reach advantage early on, leading with a right jab, but was unable to faze the patient Brazilian fighter. Sonnen was unable to nullify Maia on the ground and allowing the unbeaten fighter to stand up proved to be the beginning of the end.

An unusually aggressive Maia charged Sonnen—who backed himself into the side of the cage—quickly securing a takedown while simultaneously pulling a triangle choke from the top position. After a brief skirmish, Sonnen was forced to tap at 2:37.

Demian Maia remains undefeated with an 11-0 record.

Marquardt Stops Gouveia

Nate “The Great” Marquardt proved that in MMA, late is better than never as he stopped Wilson Gouveia with strikes at 3:10 in the third and final round.

The high stakes middleweight fight had title implications written all over it. Former number one contender Marquardt looked to take another step up the ladder towards a rematch with Anderson “The Spider” Silva, while Gouveia believed that Marquardt’s time to shine ended that evening.

From the outset, both fighters were cautious and respectful of each other’s abilities. Marquardt led early with leg kicks which seemed to keep Gouveia off balance. Gouveia responded with spurts of aggression. Several shots found their mark on Marquardt’s face, but Gouveia found himself unable to capitalize and Marquardt was able to recover each time.

The turning point in the fight seemed to come late in the second round when “The Great” stunned Gouveia with a big right hand. Though unable to finish, the late round flurry sent Gouveia limping into the third.

When the final bell sounded, it was clear that Marquardt—who won the first two rounds—would cruise to a victory as long as he didn’t get caught. However, there was blood in the water when Gouveia appeared to gas in the minutes following the bell. Seizing the opportunity, Marquardt unleashed a video game worthy attack that consisted of a flying knee, two high kicks, and a spinning back fist—in flawless succession. The blows sent Gouveia slumping to the mat bleeding like a leaky faucet and the referee scrambling to his defense.

The seven time King of Pancrase is now 31-8-2. Gouveia is 12-6.

Hardy KO’s Markham

An over aggressive Rory Markham found out the hard way that Dan Hardy has one punch knockout power, as the crowd favorite blasts his way to a KO victory at 1:09 in the first round.

The American came out stalking early, but suffered a bloody nose during one of the first exchanges of the night. Despite constant pressure from Markham, Hardy was not flustered and landed a brutal counter left hook that turned out the lights on his Militech trained opponent. Two unanswered punches later and the referee had seen enough, halting the bout.

The victory is Hardy’s second in the Octagon. He is now 21-6-1.


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