UFC 95: Sanchez vs. Stevenson review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on September 20, 2009, 3:45 PM
UFC 95: Sanchez vs. Stevenson
-This was another of the ‘numbered’ UFC shows aired for free on Spike TV, as the European PPVs don’t tend to do great numbers anyway and this one had a particularly weak-ish main event – don’t get me wrong, I was mad hyped for Sanchez-Stevenson as I’m about the biggest Diego fanboy you’ll find, but it was hardly a title fight or anything and even Penn-Stevenson and the like hadn’t drawn huge on PPV. Still, there were a number of top-ten level contenders on the card (Sanchez, Stevenson, Hardy, Marquardt, Maia, Sonnen, Koscheck) so it was pretty solid for a free-TV show.
Kelly had actually planned to drop to 155lbs for this show but ended up taking one last fight at 170lbs first, and as Joe Rogan points out, it’s pretty obvious that his body’s more suited to LW. Mandaloniz hadn’t seen action since December ’07 and to me it looks like he could probably make 155lbs too.
Round One and they trade WILDLY right away, with Rude Boy dropping Kelly with a punch! Kelly pops right back up though, looked possibly more of a slip, but Troy clinches and trips him down to half-guard. Scramble from Kelly and they come back up in the clinch quickly. Insane pace to begin. Kelly now trips Mandaloniz down, but Troy reverses and they come back up in the clinch before Troy breaks and lands a combo. Kelly clinches again and they muscle along the fence, before the ref calls the break. Troy swings right back into the clinch and forces Kelly into the fence, but Kelly begins to take over inside the clinch with some heavy uppercuts and hooks. Nice combo breaks for Kelly and he shoots on a double leg, but Troy sprawls to avoid. Good combo from Kelly ends with a left hook to the liver, and it looks to have Rude Boy hurt as he backs up wincing. Another shot to the body lands for Kelly as Mandaloniz tries to answer back, but another liver shot really buckles Troy and he looks to be in trouble. Kelly follows up with a flurry and then trips Rude Boy down from the clinch, into full guard. BRUTAL ELBOWS land for Kelly inside the guard, slicing a vicious cut open somewhere on Troy’s head. Looks like it’s over the left eye. Troy goes for an armbar but Kelly easily avoids and continues to punish him with elbows. Round ends with Kelly in top position. Awesome first round that goes to Paul Kelly on my scorecard, 10-9. Rude Boy’s face is a mess.
2nd round and Troy wades in with a left hook and a jab. Takedown from Kelly puts him on his back in full guard again though and Kelly’s ground-and-pound is vicious as he opens up a cut on the right eye now with the elbows. Action slows up a little so the ref calls the stand-up, and Kelly lands another combo ending with the body punch. They exchange some punches and now Mandaloniz shoots and gets a takedown of his own, passing into half-guard and then full mount! Kelly gives his back and Troy has both hooks in, but Kelly manages to turn into him, mainly because Troy had his back to the cage. Punches to the body and head again now land from the top position for Kelly, and good lord is Mandaloniz bloody now. Suddenly though he rolls for an armbar, and it looks like he might have it locked in, but Kelly escapes to a big pop from the crowd and winds up back in the guard. And from there it’s more of the same as Kelly continues the assault with punches and elbows until the buzzer sounds. Well, without the mount and back-mount that’s a 10-8 round on sheer damage alone, but as Troy stayed in the fight and had some offense, 10-9 Kelly.
We’re into Round Three and they exchange some shots before Troy blocks a takedown attempt. Kelly’s combos are looking really good here actually. Troy is staying in there though and so far this round’s largely been even as we get halfway through it. Takedown attempt by Kelly, but Mandaloniz blocks and gets a trip takedown of his own, and during a scramble he takes the back again! Troy tries to float off for an armbar, but Kelly slips free and now the Scouser is on top in the guard again which isn’t good for Rude Boy. Action slows up as Kelly tries some short ground-and-pound, and the ref calls the stand-up. Mandaloniz gets desperate, swinging forward and then he manages a takedown, but Kelly ties him up in full guard and there’s less than thirty seconds to go. Ref calls a stand-up as Mandaloniz is stuck in the guard, but as they move the buzzer sounds.
I have this 30-27 for Paul Kelly, although even 30-26 wouldn’t surprise me. Judges give the unanimous decision to Kelly, 30-27, 30-27 and 30-28.
First round of this one was super-exciting but after that Mandaloniz looked too beaten down to really provide that much offense and it meant the fight slowed down in the later rounds. Still, a fun opener overall and this was probably Kelly’s most impressive showing to date. Another solid young fighter out of the UK.
Giant South African Grove had made his name in Cage Rage after KOing James Thompson in a matter of seconds, while Mike C (as if I’m going to type that surname!) had fought a ton in the IFL for Pat Miletich’s crew, although he’d lost to the only opponents that had also made it into the UFC (Andre Gusmao, Reese Andy). Massive size difference as Mike C normally fights at LHW.
Round One begins with a touch of gloves. Mike C shoots on a single leg right away and ends up pulling half-guard, looking for a sweep as Grove tries to maintain a base. Mike switches off for a leglock and Grove decides to try one of his own to counter, but he can’t get a straight ankle lock in and Mike C goes to an inverted heel hook, cranking it on for the tapout.
Post-fight Grove looks to be in agony and it looks like he blew his knee out; replays actually show his knee moving at an unnatural angle as Ciesnolevicz cranked on the hold. Heel hooks are nasty, dude. Quick and easy win for the Miletich student in his Octagon debut.
Oregon native Dunham ended up taking this on short notice after someone I forget (David Bielkheden?) dropped out with injury. Ah, Wikipedia says it was David Baron. Don’t know all that much about Dunham but he’s a young guy who was unbeaten at 7-0 here. Eklund had won his last fight in the Octagon in October and was looking to build on that.
We begin and Dunham comes forward in a southpaw stance and cracks Eklund with an early straight left. The Swede looks rocked and shoots in on a single leg, but Dunham goes for a guillotine and gets full guard. Eklund manages to work his head free and they exchange a few hammer fists before Dunham tries to explode to his feet. Eklund tackles him back down and then looks to take the back, but Dunham works to his feet and then Eklund drops to his back in an attempt to jump to guard. Dunham obliges and goes into the guard, and Eklund immediately rolls for an armbar, but Dunham slips free and stands. Right high kick from Eklund clips the newcomer but he looks okay. Striking exchange follows and it turns out to be a big mistake for Eklund, as a BIG LEFT STRAIGHT knocks him stiff and Dunham follows up for the stoppage.
Really exciting little fight and Dunham’s striking looked very powerful indeed. Eklund’s standing defense showed some major holes, but man, Dunham just caught him cold and knocked him silly. Definitely a guy to watch out for when you consider he’s training with Randy Couture’s camp too.
Bit of an odd fight for the Brazilian as you’d have expected Zuffa to want to showcase Junior after he smashed Fabricio Werdum last time out, but no dice. Struve is basically a Semmy Schilt clone, a 6’11” lanky dude out of Holland and he’d won his previous five fights, including wins over UFC veterans Colin Robinson and Mario Neto. Despite Dos Santos’s last victory, this was really a toss-up as so little was known about both guys.
We get underway and Dos Santos comes forward right away, showing no fear of the reach and presses Struve into the cage. They break quickly and Struve looks to keep his distance, before Dos Santos closes in and lands a right to the body. Suddenly a BIG LEFT-RIGHT COMBO lands for the Brazilian, rocking Struve’s world, and he covers up as Dos Santos UNLOADS on him. MASSIVE right hand folds Struve up and it looks like referee Dan Miragliotta’s about to step in, but he lets Struve up and Dos Santos is just swarming on him. Another big right sends Struve crashing down and that’s that. Good lord.
Post-fight Struve complains about the stoppage but there’s no way it was early, Struve was done. Well, we still don’t know much more about Dos Santos than we did after the Werdum fight – the guy hits like a truck and that’s literally everything we have on him. Perhaps tonight’s fight with Cro Cop might change that. Or maybe not if he kills Mirko dead, who knows? This was a seriously violent showing from him, at any rate.
Lanky Scouser Etim was originally set to face Justin Buchholz here, but an injury to the Alaskan brought in Palace Fighting Championships’ LW champion Brian Cobb on short notice. Sadly Cobb’s got rid of the wispy mullet that his UFC.com profile picture has him sporting. As a big fan of Etim’s I was hoping for another impressive showing from him to follow his win over Sam Stout.
First round starts and Etim opens with a nice leg kick. Cobb catches a second attempt and looks for a takedown but Etim stuffs it. Massive chant for ‘TERRY’ as Etim blocks another takedown. Vicious leg kick from Etim. Cobb manages to catch one and gets a takedown to guard, but Etim instantly ties him up and then rolls for an armbar. Cobb manages to slip free and goes back into Etim’s guard, but again finds himself tied up. Cobb works the midsection but can’t do any damage and the ref calls the stand-up. Couple more chopping leg kicks land for the Scouser. Right hand and two more leg kicks look to have Cobb hurt, and now he’s leaning in for takedowns which is a big error. High kick and superman punch from Etim and now Joe Rogan compares him to a 155lbs Anderson Silva, which is sort-of apt as this is just like a Silva-style gameplan. Cobb shoots again and Etim tries to jump into a guillotine, but can’t lock it up and pulls guard instead, tying Cobb up like earlier. Crowd get restless instantly, wanting the stand-up, and the ref obliges. Etim continues to press forward and lands a pair of leg kicks that spin Cobb around, and he looks badly hurt now. Body kick from Etim and now he trips Cobb down, with the American managing to get guard. Etim stands over him looking to pass, but the round comes to an end before he can do it. 10-9 Etim as he was all over Cobb with his striking game.
2nd round and Etim opens with a leg kick and then DECKS Cobb with a big left head kick! Cobb looks done and Etim pounces with some punches for the stoppage!
Beautiful technique from Etim; kick the legs and then when they lean down to stop it, go to the head. Textbook stuff. This was an awesome showing for the young Brit, and really using this gameplan (use his pinpoint striking on the feet and tie the opponent up on the bottom if you get taken down) he’ll probably be able to take out most low-to-mid-level guys in the division. I still think he needs to work on his wrestling deficiencies if he wants to break through to the upper echelon, but hey, he has the time to do it. This was his best UFC showing to date.
Incredibly this was Koscheck’s third fight in five months, as he’d bounced back from the loss to Thiago Alves by practically murdering Yoshiyuki Yoshida in one of the sickest knockouts of 2008. Thiago – a BJJ black belt out of Wallid Ismael’s camp – was largely unknown despite holding a 10-0 record, and was expected by many (myself included) to be fodder for Koscheck.
First round gets underway and Koscheck stalks him early, looking to land his big overhand right. Leg kick from Thiago but he looks a little stiff on his feet as Koscheck paws with a left hook. Big overhand right from Kos snaps the Brazilian’s head back but a follow-up head kick just misses. Thiago comes back with a leg kick, but takes the overhand right again and this time he looks hurt, and Koscheck continues to push the action and lands a looping left hook. He’s fighting like Chuck Liddell here! Nice leg kick from Koscheck. Overhand right narrowly misses and Thiago manages to deflect a high kick. Koscheck continues to walk him down and wing punches, but suddenly he gets countered with an uppercut and a BIG LEFT HOOK that drops him! It looks like he’s lucid, but as Thiago looks to follow up the ref steps in! WOW.
Huge, huge upset. Post-fight Koscheck complains of an early stoppage and in this case I’d agree with him – I don’t think he looked properly out and Thiago wasn’t given a chance to pounce on him, but I guess the referees are taught to err on the side of caution so hey. Thiago’s striking looked very rudimentary, but then in a sport like MMA with the small gloves, anyone can get caught at any time. I said Koscheck was fighting like Chuck Liddell here, and in terms of the strikes he threw he was, but the thing with Liddell was that A) he was always a counterpuncher while Koscheck is mad aggressive and leaves himself open because of it, and B) Liddell had the granite chin to recover from being clocked whereas you’ve got to question whether Koscheck has that same chin. I like Koscheck and it’s very commendable that he’s worked to become a more exciting fighter, but when you have such good ground skills, it’d probably be smart to use them, you know? Still, considering Thiago was an absolute unknown coming in, this was perhaps the biggest upset of 2009 in the Octagon.
Pretty major fight here as Sonnen was the (uncrowned) champion of WEC’s Middleweight division before it was dissolved, while Maia had been on a tear, submitting all four of his previous UFC opponents. Despite Sonnen’s larger profile due to his win over Paulo Filho, really his submission defense is far more porous than say, Nate Quarry or Jason Macdonald’s, and so I figured Maia would tap him early on.
We’re underway and Sonnen catches a kick and trips Maia down, but he avoids going into the guard. Smart tactic. They continue to trade some feeler strikes and neither man looks to have the advantage. Maia shoots on a double and pulls guard as Sonnen stuffs it, and Sonnen manages to pull out. Chael then decides to go to the ground with Maia – WHY? – and Maia manages to get full guard. Sonnen manages to pull out and stands, at least showing more brains than he did in the first Filho fight. Maia swings his way through a wild trade and gets a clinch against the fence, and from there he hits a SICK belly-to-belly trip right into full mount! Sonnen is TOAST and sure enough Maia locks up a triangle from the top and rolls over onto his back to close it out for the tapout. AWESOME.
Wow, Sonnen got CLOWNED there, and really unlike some of the other times Chael’s been subbed it wasn’t due to his own idiocy, as Maia actually took him down with a beautiful move and went right into the submission from there. Easily the best grappler pound-for-pound in MMA right now. I mean, what more can you say? That was masterful stuff. The best thing about Maia is that he makes no bones about what kind of fighter he is – he doesn’t come out and try to “bang” in order to show his striking is improving – he comes right out, looks for the submission and most of the time he gets it. How can you not like watching this guy?
This one was billed as the co-main event of the night, as Marquardt had looked fantastic in his previous fight – a vicious TKO win over Martin Kampmann – and forgetting the shady loss to Thales Leites, looked like he might be on his way to a potential rematch with the champion, Anderson Silva. Gouveia meanwhile had reeled off two wins since dropping to 185lbs, over Ryan Jensen and Jason MacDonald. Conventional wisdom though suggested Marquardt had the advantage in all areas over the Brazilian.
We get started and immediately the amazing thing is how huge Marquardt is for 185lbs – I mean, Gouveia was coming down from 205lbs recently and Nate is far bigger than him. Both men look pretty tentative early, trading with a few leg kicks in the first couple of minutes. Superman punch from Nate puts Gouveia on his back foot. He’s actually outlanding Gouveia on leg kicks too which is interesting. Combo from Gouveia puts Marquardt on the retreat for a moment but he looks fine. Good leg kick to answer from Nate. Gouveia presses forward with another combo and then follows with a good low kick. Front kick to the gut from Nate and another good leg kick too. Single leg from Nate but he lands in an arm-in guillotine, and it looks pretty tight. Marquardt stays calm though – it’s hard to tap a guy who’s that good on the ground – and he pops his head free. Nate lands some short elbows from inside the guard, and then stacks up to deliver some heavy ground-and-pound on the buzzer. Close round but it has to go to Marquardt, 10-9.
Round Two and Nate opens with a leg kick. Nice leg kick to answer from Gouveia, stepping into it like his teammate Thiago Alves. Good right hand stepping in from Gouveia, but Marquardt fires right back with a combo that has the Brazilian covering up. Right hand, knee from the clinch, and right to the body land for Nate before Gouveia manages to clinch and slow him up. They break and Gouveia knocks him off balance badly with a lunging right hand, but as he tries to follow up he leans in too much and Nate switches off the cage and takes his back! Both hooks are in for Marquardt but Gouveia scrambles and turns into half-guard. Full guard now for Wilson and he does a good job of avoiding any damage from Marquardt. Nate breaks free though and lands with some vicious elbows, unlucky in fact not to open any cuts. They come back to their feet and Marquardt grabs a standing guillotine, but he can’t finish it off and ends up breaking with a knee. Gouveia comes forward throwing strikes, but he looks slowed down now and Marquardt lands with a nice right and a pair of knees. Good leg kick from Marquardt and he follows with a right and a flurry of knees and punches! Gouveia manages to survive and tries to fire back, but he looks wobbly and takes some more abuse from close range to end the round. 10-9 Marquardt and I don’t see this going the distance.
Third and final round and Marquardt throws a couple of odd side kicks to begin. Nice combo from Gouveia puts Marquardt on the retreat, but Gouveia is tired and keeps coming straight forward, leaving himself open for counters. Nice low kick and right hand from Nate and Gouveia gives his back standing. Nate lands with some knees to the legs and he looks to drag Gouveia down, but the Brazilian does a good job of remaining vertical. Nate switches to a single leg but still can’t get him down, so he decides to break off. Gouveia keeps stalking forward, but walks into a BEAUTIFUL FLYING KNEE and Marquardt follows with an UNBELIEVABLE COMBINATION that STARCHES the Brazilian!~!
Seriously – I’m furious that I can’t find a gif of this one as it needs to be seen to be believed. Literally like something out of Mortal Kombat. Marquardt lands the flying knee and then follows with two left high kicks, a right high kick into a spinning backfist, into a pair of right hands, into a pair of knees to finish Gouveia off. I mean, that’s just ridiculous, come on. You’re not supposed to land stuff like that in a real fight! Hugely impressive showing for Marquardt who just looks better and better every time he steps into the Octagon. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but when you take a loss to the best, like Nate did to Anderson Silva, you can either accept that you’re just not that good and settle into a shitty mid-level rhythm for the rest of your career, or you can work twice as hard so that next time you get to that level, you can take that next step. And Nate Marquardt is the prime example of someone doing the latter. This was perhaps his best showing yet, especially to finish with a combo like that.
This was an explosive fight on paper between two guys renowned for their striking, and the general consensus was that there was zero chance of it going the distance. Miletich trained Markham had debuted in the UFC with a violent head kick knockout of Brodie Farber back in July, while England’s own Hardy had taken a close decision over Akihiro Gono in one of the most impressive debuts of 2008. Massive pop for Hardy, naturally, as without Bisping on this card he was probably the biggest homegrown star.
We’re underway and they circle, with Markham seemingly the aggressor. They exchange some early strikes and Rory looks to have a bloody nose within the first few seconds. Markham keeps pressing, but in an exchange he gets DROPPED with a beautiful counter left hook, and Hardy POUNCES for the TKO!
Post-fight the cameras appear to catch Markham telling Pat Miletich “fuck me, he hit hard”. Ha. Guy got knocked silly. In his interview Hardy riffs on the Miletich camp who suggested prior to the fight that he didn’t have knockout power, and shows a TON of charisma, similar to Michael Bisping in fact. If this guy can continue to win in impressive fashion he could be a huge star I think, perhaps even moreso than Bisping. I fear for him a little for when he runs into some of the larger guys at 170lbs, but so far he’s stepped up to the plate impressively and I’m proud to call myself a fan. This was pure highlight-reel stuff for the Outlaw.
Well, back in 2005 when he won the original TUF series as a Middleweight, who would ever have expected to see Diego Sanchez at 155lbs just a few years later? Crazy stuff really. Diego had of course planned to fight Thiago Alves at 170lbs in October, but then got injured and forced off that card, and due to him being outsized in his two losses (Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck) he decided to make the move to Lightweight. Stevenson – the TUF 2 winner – was an intriguing first opponent as he’s not a small 155lbs himself, and while he’d lost two of his previous three, those losses came to BJ Penn and Kenny Florian – arguably the best two guys in the division anyway. Outside of those fights Joe Daddy had always looked pretty great, and so if Diego could get past him in his 155lbs debut, it’d definitely send a message to the other top contenders in the division.
Entrances for this fight are tremendous. Well, not Stevenson’s as he just does a regular entrance, but Diego comes out looking like a MAN POSSESSED, pumping his fist and yelling “YES!~!” over and over. Awesome stuff. There is nobody more intense in the world of MMA than Diego Sanchez, and I love him for it.
Ignore the ‘WTF’ ish – I didn’t make the gif!
Opening round begins and they circle off. Diego with a quick combo and an attempt at a single leg, but Stevenson stuffs it immediately. Pair of right hands land for Joe Daddy but don’t faze Diego. Jumping knee misses for Sanchez but he lands a body shot and an uppercut. Flurry from Joe coming forward but Diego backs up to avoid. Nice knee and a right hand from Diego, but Stevenson keeps pushing forward. Nice right hand lands for Sanchez and he follows with a flurry, but Joe grins at him. BIG UPPERCUT wipes the smile right off his face though and he looks stunned! Diego follows with an attempted high kick, and stuffs a takedown, but Joe looks recovered now. Good right hand from him. This is pretty even so far but I’d have Diego ahead by a hair. Exchange continues for the rest of the round. 10-9 Sanchez.
Into the 2nd now and after a quick exchange Diego rocks him with a right hand and follows with a beautiful jumping left knee! Stevenson looks to be in trouble and tries to fire back as Diego looks to follow up, and then as Joe drops for a takedown Diego grabs a guillotine and then spins to take Stevenson’s back! Joe scrambles to escape and goes for a double leg, and now it looks like he’s going to slam Diego, but Diego uses some SICK BALANCE to somehow slide out to his feet. That was insane. Left high kick from Diego is blocked. Diego’s combos are looking far sharper than Joe’s here and that’s making the difference. They clinch up and Joe looks like he’s going for his infamous guillotine, but Diego lifts him up and slams him to escape. Joe ends up taking him down off it though, and looks to pass, but Diego immediately sweeps him and winds up on top with an over/under on the back. They come back to their feet in the clinch and Joe pushes off. Nice straight right from Joe pushing forward, but Diego counters and he’s still catching Stevenson with the better shots. Exchange continues and it remains to the advantage of Sanchez. Round ends with a left high kick from Diego. 10-9 Sanchez again there.
Third and final round and I think Stevenson needs a finish to win this one now. However, they pick up right where they left off in the standing exchange, and this just isn’t going to win Joe the fight as he can’t seem to catch Diego cleanly. Diego’s striking is looking much improved here from say, the Koscheck fight, but he’s still got some way to go with it as while he’s putting together some nice combinations he’s using the same ones over and over. Takedown attempt from Diego but Stevenson stuffs it and follows with a flurry, popping the crowd. Diego, in the southpaw stance, is dropping his right hand now to fire the jab which is interesting. Stevenson is doing better in this round but doing better isn’t enough to win him the fight. Takedown from Diego but Joe switches and takes the back standing, landing a couple of knees to the body, but Diego keeps a hand on the ground to prevent knees to the head and then breaks off as Joe lands a punch. Seconds to go and Stevenson really starts pressing, and we end the fight with a wild trade that gets the crowd going.
I have this 30-27 for Diego Sanchez and I can’t really see how you could score it any other way. Judges have it 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 for Sanchez. And one of the judges is Howard Hughes apparently! Word!
Post-fight Diego says Stevenson is a warrior and he didn’t expect him to have that much, and then says he hurt his hand in the first round but he fought through it. He says 155lbs is a permanent move for now as he didn’t struggle with the weight cut, and then he says he’ll fight whoever the UFC wants him to, whether it’s Penn, Florian or Sherk.
Fight was solid and definitely fun in parts, although I thought it got frustrating after a while to see a pair of great grapplers putting on a kickboxing match like that. Still, huge credit to Diego particularly as his striking has improved immeasurably since his early UFC fights, and it probably looked the best that it’s ever looked in this fight. For his first foray into the division this was a very impressive performance and definitely moves him into the realm of genuine contender at 155lbs. As for Stevenson it would appear that he’s settling into the role of gatekeeper at Lightweight as while he’s always game, he can’t seem to get past the very top guys. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. Good fight overall if not a classic like some of Diego’s older stuff.
-And we roll the highlight reel.
Give this show a proper title fight as the main event – no offense to Diego or Joe Daddy who did an excellent job and put on a very exciting fight – and it’d probably go down as an all-time classic show. As it is, it’s still really good, packed from start to finish with highlight-reel level stuff, from Dos Santos and Etim’s knockouts to Maia’s sick triangle, Marquardt’s Mortal Kombat impression and Hardy’s one-shot finish. There’s nothing on the level of a Fight of the Year Candidate here and the lack of a genuine marquee main event holds it back a little (even if I’d pay for any Diego Sanchez fight) but UFC 95 is still worth a huge thumbs up, and fires right back at the idiots who slammed it as a weak card coming in. Highly recommended.
Best Fight: Marquardt-Gouveia
Worst Fight: Grove-Ciesnolevicz
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 96-103, Fight Nights 18 & 19, TUF IX Finale.
King of the Cage: Various shows