Daniel Weichel’s career has featured far more ups than downs, but the aging 52-fight veteran now more than ever finds himself in desperate need of a victory.
The former M-1 Global champion and two-time Bellator MMA title challenger will face the undefeated Keoni Diggs in a Bellator 261 featherweight feature on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Weichel, 36, has lost three times over his past four appearances, putting him at risk of drifting toward irrelevance. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with a proven track record, he sports 27 finishes among his 40 career wins, 22 of them by submission.
As Weichel prepares for his three-round battle with Diggs, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his 19-year career:
Weichel was 15-2 when he challenged Daley for the welterweight championship in the FX3 Fight Night 4 main event on March 10, 2007 in Reading, England. The showdown between two of Europe’s most prized prospects—Daley was 24 at the time, Weichel just 22—did not last long. Daley lived up to his “Semtex” moniker and knocked out the Team MMA Spirit rep with a knee strike 2:55 into the first round to retain his title. Weichel was never far from danger. Daley sprawled out of multiple takedowns and answered a few lunging right hands from the German by throwing his hips into a few powerful body kicks. He knocked down Weichel with a left hand, allowed him to stand and flattened him with a perfectly timed knee from the clinch.
Khamanaev captured the M-1 Global lightweight championship, as he submitted Weichel with a heel hook in the first round of their June 21, 2012 pairing at the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Chechen brought it to a close 1:48 into Round 1. Khamanaev followed an overhand right into a takedown inside the first 30 seconds. After referee Keith Peterson repositioned the two men away from the ropes, the challenger went to work in full guard. Weichel swept into top position under threat of an omoplata and briefly advanced to the back before his adversary escaped to his feet. Khamanev hovered over him, connected with a punishing standing-to-ground right and settled in guard once more. He then isolated the left leg and wrenched on the foot, Weichel crying out in agony before conceding defeat. He did not fight again for more than a year.
Playing second fiddle to Kevin Ferguson and Ken Shamrock, “Pitbull” retained the undisputed Bellator MMA featherweight crown when he knocked out Weichel in the second round of their Bellator 138 co-main event on June 19, 2015 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Freire drew the curtain 32 seconds into Round 2. Weichel took his best hacks, and it nearly paid off for him. The Team MMA Spirit rep had Freire reeling near the end of the first round, where he sent a sizzling straight right crashing into his face and followed it with a knee. The bell sounded and prevented further punishment, and despite suffering significant damage to his left eye, “Pitbull” managed to recover between rounds. In his haste to finish what he had started moments before, an overzealous Weichel marched toward the Brazilian dynamo and walked into a devastating left hook. The concussive impact sent him to the canvas and brought an immediate end to their encounter. They rematched a little more than three years later and Freire once again walked away victorious, this time by split decision.
Weichel improved to 6-1 under the Bellator MMA flag with a split decision over Sanchez in their Bellator 159 featherweight showcase on July 22, 2016 at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Judges John McCarthy and Jeff Malott sided with “Drake” by 30-27 and 29-28 scores, while Mark Smith saw it 30-27 for Sanchez. Though he threw fewer of them, Weichel made his strikes count. The former M-1 Global champion fed Sanchez a steady diet of lead right hands paired with occasional jabs, all while upping the pressure with tactical clinches and takedown attempts. Sanchez leaned on punch-kick combinations throughout but proved far less efficient than his more experienced counterpart. The Roufusport export stayed active with kicks to the head, body and legs but failed to exact enough of a toll to gain favor with two of the three cageside judges. Sanchez exacted a measure of revenge in their rematch a little more than four years later, as the Duke Roufus disciple laid claim to a unanimous decision over Weichel in the quarterfinals of the Bellator featherweight grand prix.
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