Click below for the UFC on FUEL main card report
OMAHA, February 15 - It would be hard to put together a bout between two tougher, more well-rounded welterweights, but UFC matchmaker Joe Silva managed to do just that in Wednesday's UFC on FUEL TV </a>main event at the Omaha Civic Auditorium by pairing cardio machine Diego Sanchez against knockout king Jake Ellenberger. The roaring hometown crowd desperately wanted one of Ellenberger’s knockout fists to somehow break through Sanchez’ granite chin, and although that didn’t happen, the local was consistent enough to score the unanimous decision win. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
After a classic Sanchez staredown, the two went right at each other, with Ellenberger swinging for the fences that he saw hidden in Sanchez’ chin. Sanchez kept his distance early, and his every kick and jab was met by Ellenberger’s power punches. Both men’s takedown attempts were neutralized by the other, but they did connect with solid knees and hooks on the exits. As Sanchez surged forward, a left hook from Ellenberger knocked him backward and to the ground. Ellenberger pounced, but Sanchez bounced up with the durability of a man who withstood four-plus rounds of BJ Penn at his best.
Round two was mildly more subdued, with Diego having less luck making contact with his striking and Ellenberger’s footwork keeping him fairly safe. After landing one blow that sent a resounding cracking sound through the arena, Ellenberger shook out his right hand, threw a close-quarters elbow and immediately took Sanchez down. Sanchez did his best to stifle him from the bottom, but Ellenberger worked tirelessly to break free and eventually was able to score, doing the most damage with a massive elbow that left Diego with his traditional bloodied face by round’s end.
Both men meted out their punches in round three, with a left hook knocking Sanchez off balance. Ellenberger increasingly relied on his left jab in this round, plus takedown attempts that – although he didn’t get them – he followed up with solid knees. With time running down, Sanchez’ reckless side came out, chasing Ellenberger with strikes until Ellenberger got his arms around his opponent for a solid double-leg takedown. Sanchez struggled up, then took Ellenberger’s back with just over a minute left, throwing nonstop hooks from back mount as he tried to snake an arm under Ellenberger’s neck for a choke.
Judges’ scores were 29-28 across the board for Ellenberger, who received a thunderous ovation from his hometown crowd. Sanchez falls to 25-5, Ellenberger improves to 27-5, with both men praising the other as the toughest opponent they’d ever faced. Watch Ellenberger's emotional post-fight interview
Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman
Two fascinating and well-rounded heavyweights, Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve and Dave Herman, promised to be one of the most unpredictable matchups in memory. And after a slow start for the 23-year-old Struve, he showed the full power that his 83-inch reach can wield when precision meets potential, TKOing Herman in two. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Round one was as much a staring contest as an MMA match. The two stood face-to-face with Herman – who had allegedly dyed his body hair to seem more dramatic – showing more movement as he tried to back Struve against the cage. He launched an uppercut-right combo there, but Struve slunk away. After that, the two traded occasional kicks and strikes – including a few more of Herman’s uppercut-right combos – with nothing of any real effect landing from either man.
Perhaps sensing that he’d experienced the best Herman had to offer, Struve found his range and his rhythm in round two. Striking his way to the clinch, Struve easily tripped Herman backward and took mount, threatening with a rear-naked choke as Herman spun away. Struve’s long limbs provided a sizable back door through which Herman escaped, and Struve reluctantly got back to his feet. But he became more aggressive, landing a few solid kicks and blows, and by mid-round, it was Struve standing in the center of the cage, controlling the fight as Herman retreated.
An inside leg kick from the Skyscraper took Herman off balance, and Struve worked with physics to deliver a perfectly-placed uppercut that dropped the smaller man. Pouncing on his prey, Struve stayed in mount this time, using the full weight of his 6-11 frame to paralyze Herman as he swung down lefts and rights. Herman curled with his hands over his face and tried to spin away to no avail, forcing Josh Rosenthal to intervene.
The official win came at 3:52 of the second round and bumps Struve’s record to 27-5, including seven wins in the UFC. Herman slips to 21-3. Hear what Struve had to say after the fight
Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Brazilian finisher Ronny Markes’ first challenge at a new weight class of 185 was a test against the always tough, wrestling-based Aaron Simpson, but he managed to pull off the victory by split decision. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Squared off in orthodox stances, Simpson threw one punch, only to be chased around the Octagon by a wild flurry of punches from the Brazilian. Markes got Simpson to the wall but couldn’t take him down, so the ref moved the action to the center of the cage again. This time, it was leg kicks followed by strong combinations from both men, until a perfect right uppercut from Simpson dropped Markes. Simpson followed him to the mat and though the ground and pound was plentiful, Markes survived, and eventually returned to his feet. He again played the aggressor, chasing Simpson around the Octagon while swinging, until the two wound up in a clinch on the cage as the round ended.
Simpson circled his opponent in the second until grabbing hold and, unable to get the trip, pushed him against the cage. Back in the center, Markes responded with a leg kick, and Simpson came in with more frantic combinations before going for a double-leg that – you guessed it – ended with him pushing Markes against the cage. And then it happened again, with the two struggling primarily for outside control. Eventually it was Markes who got the trip and wound up on top of Simpson, where he used his one free elbow to punish as Simpson worked to control from below. As Simpson curled away, Markes was able to get in a few more punches, before ending the round back on the wall.
Simpson came out with a massive right, which ended in a clinch and Markes again defending a takedown. Markes then pushed Simpson into the cage, where he used some footstomps and quad kicks to try to further weaken his opponent until the ref returned them to the center. Both men threw combos that didn’t connect until Markes pushed the action, such as it was, back to the fence, prompting the ref to move them yet again to the center and instruct “let’s fight!” This time, both complied – if briefly – with powerful strikes before returning to the safe embrace of the crowd-displeasing clinch. But then Simpson went down to the mat and Markes followed him to the ground with some hammerfists, controlling Simpson from behind as they rose before dumping him double-legged back on the mat.
The war of attrition – scored 29-28, 29-28 and 28-29 - improves Markes’ record to 13-1, while Simpson hits 10-3. Hear what Markes had to say during his post-fight interview
Stipe Miocic vs. Philip De Fries
No one expected the battle of undefeated heavyweight finishers to go to decision, and Stipe Miocic didn’t disappoint, scoring a signature KO finish inside a minute. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
It was grappler Philip De Fries who came out swinging, and his windmilling punches kept Miocic on his heels. But Miocic watched and then countered with a straight right that connected and wobbled his foe. It was then the Ohio-born Miocic who moved forward, connecting again with a right that dropped De Fries against the cage. Powerful follow-up strikes from the top were all it took for the ref to wave things off after just 43 seconds.
In the battle of perfect records, Miocic keeps his at 8-0, as the Brit De Fries tastes his first defeat and moves to 8-1. Watch Miocic's post-fight interview
TJ Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson
After being upset in the TUF 14 Finale by John Dodson’s lethal hook last December, bantamweight TJ Dillashaw came to Nebraska with a vengeance to win. Though Walel Watson possesses impressive-looking striking skills and submission wins, his long limbs were no match for the Urijah Faber-trained wrestling of Dillashaw, who dominated throughout and got the decision win.
The 5’11” bantamweight Watson was able to use his length to avoid being finished in the first round, but that was about all that could be said for his output in the opening stanza. Wrestler Dillashaw opened with a wild superman punch to move Watson backward, then struggled against the cage for a takedown. Thirty seconds in, he slammed Watson to the ground, and though Watson bounced up, 10 seconds later he was slammed again. The rest of the round took place on the ground. With Dillashaw postured up on top, Watson tried to roll away, allowing Dillashaw to sink in a rear-naked choke. Watson was consistently able to pry off one of Dillashaw’s hands and roll out far enough to escape the choke – and his length did give him the leverage to do so - but Dillashaw would follow with another choke.
In round two, Dillashaw’s poison was ground and pound, but the pattern was the same. Dillashaw came out with strikes that were met with Watson’s signature kicks before Dillashaw got his takedown. He worked his way through wild upkicks, finally smothering his way into top position, where he spent the rest of the round elbowing and punching Watson in the head – at one point midway through the round, the in-arena stats showed Dillashaw with 110 strikes to Watson’s 2. Though Watson again used his length to stay alive – pushing away time after time – it only served to give Dillashaw different perches from which to issue punishment.
Down but not out, Watson came out with his dramatic high kicks in the third, and the two had several crowd-pleasing exchanges on the feet. This time when Dillashaw went for his single leg, Watson caught him in a guillotine, but Dillashaw muscled his way out on the ground again and the two rose to the cheers of the crowd. Again Dillashaw worked for a single-leg, and Watson pulled him down in a triangle, which turned into an armbar and then a kneebar as the Team Alpha Male product worked to disentangle himself. Out of danger and back in Watson’s guard, Dillashaw transitioned into yet another RNC attempt to finish the round in back mount, then full mount.
The scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26 win brought Dillashaw’s record to 6-1, Watson is now 9-4. Get Dillashaw's reaction to the fight
Ivan Menjivar vs. John Albert
UFC veteran Ivan Menjivar has fought at weights ranging from 135 to 170 against opponents including Georges St-Pierre, Urijah Faber and Joe Lauzon – all outside Zuffa organizations – but Wednesday night it was his skill at bantamweight that netted him his third UFC win in a row. He and his opponent, TUF 14’s John “Prince” Albert put on a wild show that saw Albert nearly score a TKO, not to mention a half dozen limb-locks (all inside a single round), but it was Menjivar who came out with the submission win. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
Both men exchanged early and often with kicks and frantic combinations. In the clinch, Albert threw two knees and a body shot that made Menjivar visibly wince. But he rebounded immediately with a spinning backfist that took Albert off-balance. After a struggle for a takedown, Menjivar wound up on top, brutalizing Albert’s body with elbows as Albert controlled his hands. But the lankier Albert went for a triangle, then an armbar as the crowd roared.
Menjivar’s experience showed as he used his knee to get leverage over his opponent and hammerfisted his opponent with his free hand until he was out of danger. But the wily Albert again went for a kneebar as Menjivar simultaneously tried for a heel hook, then spun out and kicked his downed opponent for good measure.
Back on the feet, Albert got Menjivar against the fence and unleashed a torrent of blows that buckled the shorter man, who seemed to be near defeat as he huddled against the fence and took more punishment – including several knees. As he struggled to his feet, Albert jumped for a standing front guillotine, which took both men to the ground. Although Albert was still working for an armbar, Menjivar took the back of Albert, where he softened him up with elbows to the ribs. He expertly sunk in one hook, then another, flattened out the taller man, and locked in a rear-naked choke that drew a tap 3:45 minutes in.
“The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar returns to his training base in Montreal with a record of 24-8; Albert now stands at 7-2. Find out what was going through Menjivar's mind during the fight