TUF 9 Notebook: Sanchez Rattles Saber

By Brian Knapp Jun 21, 2009
Before he moves on to a challenge of far greater significance -- perhaps a crack at B.J. Penn or Kenny Florian for the UFC lightweight championship -- Diego Sanchez paused to credit one of the few men who can match his relentlessness in the cage.

Sanchez was quick to credit Clay Guida after he eked out a split decision against the former Strikeforce titleholder in “The Ultimate Fighter 9” Finale main event on Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

“Guy’s got two hearts in there,” Sanchez said. “He’s a little Tasmanian Devil.”

Sanchez nearly finished Guida twice in the first round, as he battered him against the cage with uppercuts, short punches and flying knees and later landed a brutal head kick that dropped the hyper, hairy Chicagoan where he stood. Guida, however, did no go away, much to Sanchez’s astonishment.

“I’ve just got tremendous respect after tonight for Clay,” he said. “I haven’t been in a blood barnburner like that since Nick Diaz. I hit him with some knees, some kicks, some uppercuts that were right on the button, and he just kept on coming.”

Two of the three cage-side judges sided with Sanchez by 29-27 and 29-28 scores. A third gave Guida, a bloody mess by the time the fight ended, a 29-28 nod. A high-energy wrestler feared for his suffocating top game, Guida kept Sanchez on his back for much of the second round. In response, the eccentric New Mexican -- who now trains under Brazilian jiu-jitsu aces Saulo and Alexandre Ribeiro -- stayed active and drew blood with sharp elbows from the bottom. He used the top of Guida’s head for target practice.

“I learned that technique by watching Kenny Florian in the Joe Lauzon fight [at UFC Fight Night 13],” Sanchez said. “They let it go in that fight, so I’m, like, ‘Hey, man, Kenny can do it. I can do it, too.’ Guida, in all his fights, he lays down on top of guys like that, so I’m, like, ‘Hey, you’re going to lay down on top of me like that. I’m going to throw those hard elbows at his face.’”

Sanchez, who turns 28 in December, has reeled off four consecutive wins and put himself in contention for the 155-pound crown. His drop from welterweight to lightweight has gone smoothly, with back-to-back victories against Guida and Joe Stevenson. He has made no secret about his desire to fight for the title. “I do feel like I’m the number one contender,” Sanchez said.

Let the saber rattling begin.

Jim Page/Sherdog.com

Pearson improved his odds.
Wilks, Pearson Improve Odds

James Wilks and Ross Pearson breathed collective sighs of relief after they improved their odds of holding down jobs in the world’s top mixed martial arts promotions.

The two Englishmen completed their reality television runs by winning their respective finals at “The Ultimate Fighter 9” Finale. The 11 other men -- not including Season 4 retread winners Travis Lutter and Matt Serra -- who have done so remain employed with the UFC, and two of them, Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans, have become champions.

Wilks thrashed Damarques Johnson in the welterweight final, as he submitted the Jeremy Horn protégé with a rear-naked choke late in the first round.

“That’s what I strive for in every fight,” Wilks said. “I’m always looking to finish. Obviously, you want to win, but it’s much better to win by submission or knockout. I try to finish it as soon as I can.”

Unlike Wilks, Pearson left his fate in the hands of the judges, as he posted a unanimous decision victory against former FX3 champion Andre Winner in the lightweight final. The two Team UK stablemates spent much of their battle in the clinch, though Pearson got the better of the stand-up exchanges when they did separate.

“I don’t like to leave it in the judges’ hands, but I definitely feel that I won that fight,” said Pearson, who has won eight of his last nine bouts. “I think it was an exciting fight for people who know about fighting. I didn’t think it was a boring fight. Everybody’s got their own opinion.”

This & That

Nearly half of Guida’s nine UFC appearances have ended in split decisions. He has lost to Tyson Griffin and Sanchez by split verdicts, and he has beaten Nate Diaz and Marcus AurelioJason Dent has won each of his last four fights by submission. He coaxed a tapout from Cameron Dollar with an anaconda choke and secured his first victory in three UFC appearances … If the UFC has plans for Polish expansion, Tomasz Drwal could serve as the point man. The brutish light heavyweight has finished two opponents in a row -- International Fight League veteran Mike Ciesnolevicz succumbed to his strikes at “The Ultimate Fighter 9” Finale -- since he made a failed promotional debut against Thiago Silva at UFC 75 two years ago. The 27-year-old Pole has delivered 10 of his 16 wins by knockout or technical knockout, four more by submission … Chris Lytle has dropped 15 of his 20 fights that have gone the distance, though he bucked that trend with a unanimous decision victory against Kevin Burns … Once considered one of Europe’s top prospects, Winner has now gone one year, six months and 27 days between wins … Past history does not favor Johnson or Winner. The 11 runners-up from previous seasons on the Spike TV reality series -- Season 4 participants not included -- have combined for a mediocre 25-19 record inside the Octagon following their appearances in respective finales. Six of the 11 are no longer under contract with the UFC … UFC officials awarded $200,000 in post-fight bonuses. Six $25,000 “Fight of the Night” bonuses went to Lytle and Burns, Stevenson and Diaz and Sanchez and Guida. Drwal pocketed a $25,000 “Knockout of the Night” prize, and Dent banked a $25,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus.
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