UFC on FUEL TV: Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger, What's at Stake?
Diego Sanchez/ MMAWeekly.com
Tomorrow night, budding welterweight contenders Diego Sanchez and Jake Ellenberger will take center stage, as the duo are set to headline the organization's first full-fledged event on FUEL TV.
Both men have been on impressive runs as of late, most notably Ellenberger, who recently earned the biggest win of his career when he knocked out former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields in less than one minute.
Hoping to build on the momentum of their recent successes, both Sanchez and Ellenberger are anteing up a lot at stake in an effort to make their way to the top of the division.
Diego Sanchez/ MMAWeekly.com
Diego Sanchez Becomes Top Contender
Diego Sanchez/ Jeff Cain for MMAWeekly.com
After dropping consecutive bouts to then-champion BJ Penn and prospect John Hathaway upon his return to the welterweight class, the future for Diego Sanchez looked bleak, to say the least.
Once "The Dream" was pitted against former contender Paulo Thiago in October of 2010, many believed that the Brazilian would be too much for the Greg Jackson product.
Sanchez proved his naysayers wrong. After surviving a shaky first round, Sanchez came storming back in the waning moments of the bout, utilizing his superior conditioning to tough it out—outworking and out-hustling Thiago on the mat.
In the end, Sanchez earned the decision win and quickly reasserted himself at 170 pounds.
The Fight of the Night performance was followed by a rousing battle with Martin Kampmann last March, where the two engaged in a memorable affair at UFC on Versus 3.
In a back-and-forth rollicking battle, Kampmann bludgeoned the face of Sanchez with copious amount of strikes, with the New Mexico fighter's face running crimson with blood.
After getting off to a slow start, Sanchez began to come alive in later rounds, taking Kampmann down in the waning moments of the fight while rocking "The Hitman" against the cage with a bevy of hooks.
In the end, Sanchez earned the contentious decision win in what was a Fight of the Year candidate.
After going 0-2 in consecutive bouts, Sanchez quickly became a contender once again with victories over the aforementioned notable opposition. Ellenberger stands to be a true test for Sanchez, arguably the toughest of his UFC career.
Should Sanchez get past the daunting task at hand, he would have moved himself back into the upper echelon of the division, where more big fights await The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 winner.
Jake Ellenberger Earns Title Shot
Jake Ellenberger/ Ken Pishna for MMAWeekly.com
It wouldn't have been unreasonable to believe that after his decisive victory over Jake Shields, that Ellenberger would deserve the next crack at the 170-pound belt.
However, the division was thrown into disarray after Nick Diaz defeated BJ Penn last October, making him the most candid choice to cinch welterweight gold.
Soon after, champion Georges St-Pierre was sidelined due to injury once again, throwing more confusion into a division that had yet to garner this much attention in a long, long time.
Now that the welterweights call two people champion, both St-Pierre and now Carlos Condit, the interim titleholder, the possibilities are endless.
For Ellenberger, a decisive or impressive victory over Sanchez will mean that he would earn the next crack at the belt. Undefeated in his last five fights, "The Juggernaut" has proven that he is a top-10-caliber opponent.
Sanchez represents the last hurdle that the California transplant has to endure before making his towards the top of the heap.
A loss at this point of his career would be detrimental.