Here we are in the second full week of February with yet another stacked free card on a Fox network. Fuel TV hosts its first-ever UFC fight and it promises to provide another night of great mixed martial arts bouts.
The card features some interesting matchups and many of the weight classes featured in the UFC. The main event between Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger promises to be one heck of a barn-burner, as does the co-event, the heavyweight clash between Dave "Pee Wee" Herman and Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve.
On top of those two terrific matchups, there are also four more bouts on the main card tonight for a total of six. That is a pretty awesome number considering this is the inaugural card on Fuel TV. In addition, the UFC is airing a pre-fight and post-fight show on Fuel as well.
Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger
Jake Ellenberger is a native of Omaha, Neb. and will be making this his homecoming fight. In certain situations that can be a good thing, and in others it can be not so good depending on how a person chooses to deal with the emotional high of that situation.
Ellenberger is a young warrior who is one of the up-and-coming guys in the UFC welterweight division. He exploded onto the UFC scene in 2009 losing a close split decision to now-interim champion Carlos Condit. In that fight, Jake repeatedly tagged Condit, wobbled him and really pushed the champion to his limits.
Since that setback Jake Ellenberger has been on an absolute tear in which he has won his last five bouts in a row. The win streak culminated with a vicious first-round knockout of Jake Shields last September in New Orleans.
The Nebraska native has shown time and again that he possess a well-rounded game that can hang with the best, and possibly beat them en route to becoming a UFC champion.
Sanchez has been in the UFC a long time now. He is the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 at middleweight and since his victory in 2005 he has been a contender in the UFC. After a failed attempt to wrest the lightweight belt from B.J. Penn in 2009, Diego has moved back to the welterweight division where he looks far more comfortable.
Diego has amassed back-to-back victories over Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. A win over Jake Ellenberger could set "The Dream" up for a No. 1 contender bout against possibly the winner of the Johny Hendricks vs. Josh Koscheck fight.
Diego's main weapon is his will. He just keeps coming and trying to beat you up over and over until one of you is beaten.
Diego's game is to take people down, ground-and-pound or bull rush people on the feet. Most of his MMA game centers around his ability to work his wrestling. Kampmann isn't known for his wrestling, yet Sanchez couldn't get him down.
Jake Ellenberger is an excellent wrestler, so if Diego cannot get him to the ground then he must constantly pressure Jake with strikes and work for advantageous positions.
The problem for Sanchez is that Ellenberger also has very good cardio and boxing. Not only does Ellenberger have good boxing, but he has power in his strikes, something that is lacking for Sanchez.
Ellenberger will use his cardio and durability to survive the early flurries and rushes of Sanchez and he will look to counter.
Seeing that both of these men are tough and hard to finish, I see Ellenberger winning a tough decision by surviving the early onslaught and rocking Sanchez with heavy punches and kicks late. I just don't see Sanchez being knocked out.
Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman
Stefan Struve is never in a boring fight. Let's just start with that. In his nine bouts inside the Octagon, he has gone to the judges' scorecards only once.
The real question with Struve is if he will ever learn to properly utilize his 83-inch reach. This advantage could be used to fight in a style similar to Jon Jones. Seeing that Stefan has a Dutch kickboxing background, this is possible.
Dave Herman, a native of Indiana, enters UFC on Fuel TV looking for his second victory in the Octagon. In his UFC debut, a thriller TKO win over Jon Olav Einemo, Herman countered the grappling veteran on the ground and then outstruck him on the feet.
Herman has a wild and wide-open style that leaves him very susceptible to counters. This is a lesson that Struve knows all too well after getting knocked out by a Superman punch (courtesy of Travis Browne at UFC 130) while trying to throw a flying knee from long range.
Struve has another strength though. He has very long limbs and uses them to set up some very slick submissions. If Herman takes this fight to the ground he needs to watch out for the triangle choke and other submission holds.
Herman is a madman and can never resist to go for broke. That is a very exciting style, however, it will be his undoing here.
Struve will use his reach to keep Herman honest and will secure a submission late for the victory.
Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Aaron Simpson and Ronny Markes have straightforward styles. Aaron Simpson wants to land solid shots and then take you down. Markes wants to take you down and deliver some ground-and-pound.
Two factors weight the heaviest on my mind about this bout. The first is that Simpson has shown better striking lately. The second is that Markes is moving down in weight.
Both of these factors make me lean towards Simpson. I see Simpson winning another decision to bring it to four in a row for former Arizona State wrestler. Simpson is suddenly in the proverbial mix at middleweight.
Stipe Miocic vs. Philip De Fries
The first heavyweight bout of the main card features two undefeated heavyweight prospects in Miocic and De Fries. The fact that two undefeated heavyweights are fighting each other in the UFC automatically makes this fight relevant. When you add this to the fact that they are each fighting in the UFC for the second time you can understand how this is a rare affair.
Miocic and De Fries were both unimpressive in their debuts winning lackluster decisions. Each man will be looking to improve tonight in Nebraska.
Miocic is the eventual winner here. De Fries' striking is nonexistent and Stipe will use this advantage to keep the fight standing. Miocic will finish with a TKO in Round 2.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Walei Watson
Dillashaw is probably better than we saw on TUF and his cardio is very good, like all other fighters from Team Alpha Male. He uses his wrestling to win his bouts.
Watson is a striking ace who is coming off of a close split decision loss. Watson enters this fight on little rest, this being his third bout in five months.
Watson will use his reach to keep himself standing for most of Round 1, but Dillashaw will score takedowns and ground-and-pound late and get the nod.