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Main Card Report: Shields, Sanchez, Hamill, and Schaub Win

The highly-anticipated UFC debut of Jake Shields was a victorious one, but his three round split decision win over Martin Kampmann in the UFC 121 co-main event Saturday night at Honda Center wasn’t exactly the showcase many expected, as a mix of fatigue and Kampmann’s defense kept the longtime welterweight and middleweight star from making the statement he wanted to.

ANAHEIM, October 23 – The highly-anticipated UFC debut of Jake Shields was a victorious one, but his three round split decision win over Martin Kampmann in the UFC 121 co-main event Saturday night at Honda Center wasn’t exactly the showcase many expected, as a mix of fatigue and Kampmann’s defense kept the longtime welterweight and middleweight star from making the statement he wanted to.

Shields vs. Kampmann
Scores were 30-27, 29-28, and 28-29 for Shields, who improves to 26-4-1; Kampmann falls to 17-4.

Shields was able to get the match to the mat quickly, but Kampmann’s mat defense was solid as he kept his foe from improving position for very long. With two minutes gone, Kampmann got back to his feet, with Shields still keeping a tight grip on him. After a stalemate against the fence, the two broke, Shields scoring with a couple kicks before getting turned back on two late takedown attempts. Post-fight interview

In the second, Kampmann’s takedown defense continued to be solid, and he even added a knee and a guillotine choke attempt to the equation before Shields got loose with a little over three minutes left. Kampmann didn’t stay down for long though, and with Shields visibly tired and his nose bloodied, ‘The Hitman’ had the perfect opportunity to take control. Shields kept battling, searching for a submission from the top position while tossing in the occasional strike, but again, Kampmann made it to his feet, and he pinned his opponent against the fence in the hopes of wearing him down.

Kampmann was in complete control as the third round started, and he made that clear as he stuffed four straight takedown attempts from Shields. After the fourth, Kampmann looked for the choke twice, but came up short. Shields had nothing left in his gas tank though, and the only question left was whether he would be able to make it to the final horn. Amazingly, Shields was able to take Kampmann’s back in the final moments of the bout, but he was unable to take his foe out before the final bell.

Sanchez vs. Thiago
After a lackluster loss to John Hathaway in May, many wondered whether Diego Sanchez’ move back to 170 pounds was a wise one. But in one of his best performances to date, the former lightweight title challenger silenced any doubters with an action-packed three round unanimous decision win over Paulo Thiago. Post-fight interview

Scores were 30-26, and 29-28 twice for Sanchez, who broke a two fight losing streak in his first fight back with longtime trainer Greg Jackson.

Sanchez came out winging overhand rights at Thiago, who cooly deflected any incoming fire. Sanchez adjusted and looked for a takedown, and though it was rebuffed by the Brazilian, he was able to get off some close range strikes after the two locked up. After breaking, Sanchez’ attack was more measured, allowing Thiago to take him to the mat midway through. While on the canvas, Thiago almost locked in a choke, but Sanchez fought loose, got back to his feet, and was able to score with some hard shots before Thiago answered with the same before the end of the round.

The fast pace continued in round two, with the battle shifting from the feet to the mat. Here, Sanchez was able to score with his strikes from the top position while Thiago tried to lock up his arm. After some dangerous moments, Sanchez pulled free and following a wild scramble he lifted Thiago over his head and slammed him down to the mat as the crowd went wild, chanting “Diego, Diego.” Sanchez wasn’t done yet, as he pounded away with strikes while taking his opponent’s back.

Thiago shot for a takedown to open the final round, but Sanchez turned it in his favor and got in the top position on the mat. Again, Thiago worked to get Sanchez’ arm, but the ‘Nightmare’ pounded his way free and took the Brazilian’s back while looking for a choke. Thiago’s submission defense was solid, but Sanchez’ strikes were breaking through with regularity. Eventually, Thiago, his face bloody and battered, got free, but Sanchez wouldn’t let him enjoy freedom for long, as he pounced on him once again, ending the bout with a furious flurry of ground strikes.

With the win, Sanchez ups his record to 24-4; Thiago falls to 13-3.

Ortiz vs. Hamill

It was teacher versus student, but the student, Matt Hamill, took the drama out of the showdown with his Ultimate Fighter 3 coach Tito Ortiz by the second round, using a steady ground and pound attack and effective standup striking to earn a three round unanimous decision victory. Post-fight interview

Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 twice for Hamill, who improves to 11-2; Ortiz, who is winless since beating Ken Shamrock in October of 2006, falls to 16-8-1.

Ortiz went on the attack from the start, scoring well with his strikes until Hamill caught a kick and took the fight to the mat. Ortiz got up almost immediately, but he emerged with a cut on the side of the head and a mouse under his right eye. The crowd alternated with chants for each fighter as Ortiz went back to his strategy of attacking Hamill’s legs with kicks while adding in the occasional flurry upstairs.

The fight’s pattern stayed consistent in round two, with neither Ortiz or Hamill trying to take matters to the mat. Ortiz was beginning to show signs of fatigue, by Hamill wasn’t being busy enough to make matters worse. That changed midway through the frame, when Hamill took Ortiz to the canvas and began working his strikes from the top position. Ortiz stayed busy from the bottom, even trying to lock in a triangle choke, but Hamill’s inside game was effective, and he eventually got into side control, where he ended the round in complete control.

Confident not only in his standup, but in the idea that Ortiz didn’t have enough gas in the tank to hurt him, Hamill potshotted Ortiz in round three, piling up the points in the process. Ortiz gamely trudged forward, but had nothing left, even falling short on his lone takedown attempt. Hamill was more fortunate, taking Ortiz to the mat in emphatic fashion with 90 seconds left. It was there that the fight stayed until the final bell, with Hamill leaving a lasting impression with his ground assault.

Schaub vs. Gonzaga
Rising heavyweight star Brendan Schaub added a sizeable notch to his belt in the main card opener as he defeated longtime contender Gabriel Gonzaga via three round unanimous decision. Post-fight interview

“Gabe’s one of the best heavyweights in the world and a big step up for me,” said Schaub. “I’m glad to get out with the victory.”

Scores were 30-27 across the board for the Ultimate Fighter season ten finalist.

Schaub’s speed and movement kept Gonzaga at bay throughout the first half of the opening round, and when he added quick combinations to the mix, it was clear that ‘Napao’ was going to have his work cut out for him, especially after his first takedown attempt was stuffed. With 20 seconds left, Schaub rocked Gonzaga with a right hand, and moments later a second right put him down to the mat, but the bell intervened before ‘The Hybrid’ could finish.

His head cleared by the minute’s rest between rounds. Gonzaga began attacking Schaub’s legs with kicks, but the Colorado native kept pressing forward, trying to use his jab to set up another big right hand. With two minutes left, Schaub fired off a flurry of strikes as the crowd roared, but again Gonzaga – his nose bloodied - withstood the attack and made it out of the round.

Surprisingly, Schaub shot for a takedown early in the third round, and while Gonzaga tossed the attempt aside, it was surprising that he didn’t want to try his luck out on the mat. While standing, Gonzaga pressed his foe, but paid for it by eating quick shots on the way in from Schaub. And while the pace understandably slowed in the final stages, when the bout ended, there was no question that Schaub had pulled off the victory.

With the win, Schaub improves to 8-1; Gonzaga falls to 11-6.