Sanchez Nips Guida by Split Decision

By Brian Knapp Jun 21, 2009
Clay Guida made Diego Sanchez earn his lightweight stripes.

In what was easily one of the year’s most competitive fights, Sanchez notched a split decision against the shaggy Chicagoan in the featured bout at “The Ultimate Fighter 9” Finale on Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Two of the three judges sided with Sanchez by 29-27 and 29-28 scores; a third scored it 29-28 for Guida.

Believed to be on a short list of potential contenders for the UFC lightweight crown, Sanchez (21-2) roared out of the gates. He wobbled Guida with wicked, compact uppercuts against the cage and quickly established a foothold in the bout. Later, Sanchez dropped Guida with a head kick that would have left lesser men unconscious. Guida, however, refused to go away.

“You can’t hurt this guy,” Guida said. “I come for days.”

The manic Guida bounced off the stool for round two and employed a strategy that was far more effective. He took down Sanchez early and worked ground-and-pound from the top. Guida ate some elbows to the top of his head for his troubles, but he kept Sanchez pinned to the mat for much of the round.

Round three was almost too close to call. They traded briefly before Guida ended up in top position after a scramble. Sanchez worked for a kimura and an armbar from the bottom, but the blood flowing from Guida’s nose, mouth and head made it virtually impossible to secure anything of consequence against the former Strikeforce lightweight champion. They finished in a stalemate.

“The weight cut was a little tough on me,” Sanchez said following his second UFC appearance at 155 pounds. “The guy has a tremendous chin. There’s a reason he’s never been knocked out. He’s an animal. That’s what the UFC is all about, bringing battles like this to the Octagon.”

Sanchez has put together an impressive string of four consecutive wins since his split decision loss to welterweight stalwart Jon Fitch at UFC 76. Guida (25-10), meanwhile, saw his three-fight winning streak come to an end.

“He’s a stud,” said Guida, his trademark locks drenched in blood. “I took him down. He cut me up. I think it was a really close fight.”

James Wilks stands alone on the reality television pedestal.

The Englishman served Damarques Johnson a well-rounded platter of punishment in “The Ultimate Fighter 9” welterweight final before downing the Jeremy Horn protégé with a rear-naked choke in the final seconds of round one. The end came 4:54 into the first period.

Wilks (6-2) welcomed the energetic Johnson to the Octagon with a stiff left-right cross combination and never looked back. He showed off an advanced skill set, as he worked from the clinch, battered Johnson standing and short-circuited his efforts on the ground.

File Photo

James Wilks stopped
Damarques Johnson in style.
After threatening with heel hooks and an omaplata, Wilks scored a takedown from behind, sank his hooks and went to work on the choke. Johnson (9-7) defended well to start, but Wilks trapped his arm with one of his legs -- ala B.J. Penn -- and cinched the choke. The tapout followed almost immediately.

“This is the best moment of my life, for sure,” said Wilks, who used his appearance on “The Ultimate Fighter” as a springboard to opening his own MMA training facility in Laguna Hills, Calif.

Welterweight masochist Chris Lytle turned away Kevin Burns in an entertaining war of attrition, as he survived a grueling battle that turned bloody late and notched a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 29-28.

Rocked by a right uppercut in the first round, Lytle -- who has never been knocked out in 49 professional bouts -- withstood the charge from Burns. He wobbled into his corner, cleared the cobwebs and came out with a renewed sense of urgency.

“I didn’t see [the punch],” Lytle said. “He caught me with my head down, but I’m an experienced fighter and I just tried to weather the storm.”

Lytle (27-17-5) invested heavily in body shots, and his winging punches began to pay dividends in the second round. The pace from Burns slowed noticeably and his hands sank lower and lower as time wore on. Lytle opened a nasty gash near the former Victory Fighting Championship welterweight titleholder’s eye with the first punch of round three. To his credit, Burns (7-3) stayed in the fight, even as blood poured down his face and onto his chest. The two gladiators embraced once they finished their violent encounter in the Octagon.

“That’s exactly why I wanted that fight,” Lytle said. “I knew he was going to try and take me out.”

Add Ross Pearson to “The Ultimate Fighter” pantheon.

The 24-year-old Englishman edged one-time FX3 champion Andre Winner by unanimous decision in “The Ultimate Fighter 9” lightweight tournament final. All three judges scored it 29-28 in Pearson’s favor.

The two Team UK stablemates spent much of their time in the cage in the clinch. Effective from distance, Pearson (9-3) had trouble keeping Winner at arm’s length but fought well in the trenches nonetheless. All square after two rounds, Pearson maintained a frenetic pace and slowly wore down Winner with well-timed punches, takedown attempts and strikes against the cage. He finished strong, as he landed a knee and elbow in tight that opened a cut under Winner’s left eye and had the Team Rough House product on one knee at the end of round three.

The 24-year-old Pearson has posted eight wins in nine fights. Winner (9-3-1), reality television’s resident thumbsucker and a training partner of UFC welterweight contender Dan Hardy, has not tasted victory since November 2007.

“He’s a tough fighter,” Pearson said, blood trickling from a small cut on his forehead. “I’ve trained with him. You could have put anyone in front of me, and I would have trained for them. It was a tough fight.”

Finally, Joe Stevenson mixed power with technique, as he snapped a two-fight losing streak with a unanimous decision victory against Nate Diaz in a showdown between former “The Ultimate Fighter” winners. Scores were 29-28 from all three judges.

Stevenson (30-10) dodged several bullets en route to his first victory in almost a year, as Diaz threatened him twice with modified guillotine chokes. The 27-year-old father of four took down Diaz in every round, pressed him against the cage and peppered his body and legs with knees. He set the tone early in round one, as he stifled Diaz with a backside crucifix and irritating but effective ground-and pound. Having famed mixed martial arts trainer, strategist and motivator Greg Jackson by his side made a difference for Stevenson.

“It’s like having Chuck Norris in your corner,” he said. “It’s a little unfair.”

Faced with the second three-fight losing streak of his career, Stevenson persevered and solidified his position in the UFC. A Cesar Gracie protégé, the volatile Diaz (10-4) has dropped back-to-back bouts for the first time as a professional.
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