Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is set to make its UFC on FUEL TV debut, beginning with its “Sanchez vs. Ellenberger” fight card emanating from the Omaha Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Nebraska.
And it all goes down tomorrow night (Feb. 15, 2012) at 8 p.m. ET.
Don’t forget that UFC on FUEL TV is part of the network’s free preview, so there’s no excuse to miss out on what should be an exciting night of fights.
The abortion at UFC 69 notwithstanding, when was the last time you saw Diego Sanchez in a boring fight?
Add his lunacy to the brain-scrambling power of Jake Ellenberger and we have what could be the fight of the night — or at least an ending violent enough to satisfy the savages in Omaha.
First, let’s take a look at the main card match-ups, then we can argue about who’s going to win.
170 lbs.: Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger
Nostradumbass predicts: Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have a short term memory and it helps when you fight the way Diego Sanchez does. In fact, his entire walkout, followed by his celestial bench-press, gives you the feeling that this dude’s crazy enough to win any fight.
Not this time.
“The Dream” was running roughshod over most of the welterweight division back when he was fighting guys like Joe Riggs, David Bielkheden and Luigi Fioravanti. All of whom, not coincidentally, are no longer employed by ZUFFA. Consecutive losses to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch sent him down to the lightweight division and a five round ass-kicking by B.J. Penn brought him back.
His return fight? A lopsided unanimous decision loss to division upstart John Hathaway.
True, Paulo Thiago was unprepared for the kind of tenacity Sanchez brings to the cage, but he was positively lit up by Martin Kampmann when they fought back in March 2011. After they sewed his face back together, he somehow convinced the judges he was the better man and moved on to bigger and better things.
When you strip away the theatrics and his tornado attack, you have a surprisingly mediocre fighter. He’s got decent hands and good jiu-jitsu, but he’s essentially a one-trick pony who hasn’t finished a fighter in nearly four years.
He’s successful because he can pressure guys and unleash hell while simultaneously absorbing whatever offense they put forth in the process. The problem is he’s not going to absorb anything from Jake Ellenberger without going ass over tin cups.
“The Juggernaut” is 9-1 over his last ten fights with six violent finishes and that one defeat? A razor thin split decision loss to current Interim Champion Carlos Condit — in a fight he took on eight days notice.
The reason I’m taking Ellenberger for the win is because he’s on an upward trajectory and has shown consistent improvement as he’s climbed his way up the welterweight ladder. Sanchez, while entertaining, has shown nothing but the same old dog and pony show he’s always had.
In tomorrow night’s main event, it won’t be nearly enough.
Prediction: Ellenberger def. Sanchez via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman
Nostradumbass predicts: I think we all know the Stefan Struve formula by now: String together a handful of wins over lower-tier competition, then get KTFO by an established veteran. If you can beat the scrubs but can’t beat the elite, that makes you a bona fide gatekeeper.
Historically, he’s gotten a pass for coming up empty in the big spot because of his age, but I think as the clock ticks on, it’s getting harder and harder to say, “Wait until this kid evolves!” We’re going on seven years and 28 fights — I think we have a pretty good idea of what we’re gonna get.
A loss to Dave Herman would be catastrophic for his position in this division, because he was able to get back into the thick of things with his submission win over fan favorite Pat Barry. But can he pull another rabbit out of his hat if he gets in trouble against “Pee Wee?”
He may not need to.
In a comparison of skill sets, I’ve got to favor Herman. He’s finished 20 of 21 wins and while he’s not exactly been sampling the top shelf, he’s far more consistent in his performances and he doesn’t find himself in trouble as much as Struve does.
“Skyscraper” has a tendency to come from behind while Herman usually never lets himself get behind.
The Dutchman wins this bout, however, because Herman will run out of gas after a commanding first round. So commanding, in fact, that he’ll have nothing left to give in rounds two and three and get picked apart by Struve’s lanky limbs and stinging jab.
Prediction: Struve def. Herman via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Nostradumbass predicts: Remember when Aaron Simpson was the next big thing at middleweight? He was 7-0 with six finishes until he got his cranium cracked by Chris Leben. That, followed by his unanimous decision loss to Mark Munoz and “A-Train” all but fell off the map.
Since then, he’s quietly assembled a three-fight winning streak to go 3-0 in 2011. The reason nobody’s jumping for joy is because they were all unanimous decisions and his opponents were all middle-of-the-pack’ers. That’s not to suggest he’s any less dangerous than he was in 2010, but what’s missing is his killer instinct.
Markes is a terrific talent and has a great balance of finishes between knockouts and submissions, but outside of Karlos Vemola, who was making his 185-pound debut, there isn’t a name on his record that makes me nervous heading into “The Big O.”
Please, for your own sake, don’t say Paulo Filho.
Simpson is no spring chicken but like a lot of fighters on this card, he’s got some serious mat cred from his days as a college wrestler, being named All American on two separate occasions to go along with his four high school state championships.
In short, this guy knows how to wrestle.
If he can remember how to finish, this fight belongs to him. Markes will provide his toughest test since Mark Munoz, but I think Simpson powers through it and gets the judges to see things his way.
Prediction: Simpson def. Markes via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Philip De Fries vs. Stipe Miocic
Nostradumbass predicts: If you could create a fantasy MMA fighter, you would likely take a guy with great wrestling who can also knock your block off. Ladies and Germs, meet Stipe Miocic. Not only was he a NCAA Division I wrestler, he was also a Golden Gloves Champion prior to his UFC exploits.
That’s bad news for Philip De Fries.
Like his opponent, the Brit is also undefeated and has made a mockery of most guys on the mat and there’s no question his biggest asset is the ground game. But how do you get a collegiate wrestling standout to the ground and keep him there?
That’s the problem he must solve — and he must solve it before Miocic can take his head off with one of his brutal kicks or head-snapping hooks. I’m not sure how possible it is and it has me leaning towards an unhappy ending for De Fries.
If he does keep himself out of the red zone, cardio could play a major role in this fight.
Neither fighter is entirely familiar with the third round, each having been there just one time in previous bouts. Ultimately, I don’t think it will get that far, as Miocic keeps himself upright, initiates his striking attack and ends it with punches midway through the second.
Prediction: Miocic def. De Fries via technical knockout
135 lbs.: T.J. Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson
Nostradumbass predicts: Dillashaw was criticized for playing it safe on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), but his gameplanning earned him a trip to the finals opposite John Dodson. Unfortunately, he failed to respect the heavy hands of the “Magician” and his six-figure contract promptly disappeared.
I know there’s been a lot of boo-hooing about their fight getting stopped too early, but the way I see it, if you don’t end up in a heap on the canvas, you’ll never have to worry about the ref waving off your opponent prematurely.
Having said that, this is a fight designed to get him back into the bantamweight picture because Walel Watson, despite his pair of knockout wins, is more of a ground fighter and is likely training jits to prepare for Dillashaw’s wrestling.
I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that a strong wrestler with suffocating top control can likely stay out of most submissions, even from the most experienced grappler. After all, there was a reason Chris Weidman was such a heavy favorite over Demian Maia at UFC on FOX 2.
To that end, we have to look at accomplishments.
Following a successful high school wrestling campaign that ended with a 170-33 record, Dillashaw was an NCAA Division I standout and at one point was ranked as high as tenth in the nation in his weight class. He also trains at Team Alpha Male with a couple of guys you may have heard of named Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.
As for Watson?
Well, uh, he played football in junior college and started training MMA in 2008. Oh, and he was also Baja Cage Fight and Ultimate Warrior Challenge Mexico bantamweight champion.
I’m not anti-”Gazelle” because he’s already proven to be a talented fighter and he has one thing Dillashaw doesn’t: A win inside the Octagon. Still, there’s no denying that Dilly is taking this thing south and keeping it there and I just don’t see any way that Watson overcomes it.
Prediction: Dillashaw def. Watson via unanimous decision
That’s a wrap, folks.
For previews and predictions on the preliminary card fights click here and here. To see all the odds and betting lines for UFC on FUEL TV click here and remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of “Sanchez vs. Ellenberger.”
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