The UFC made its debut on Fuel TV earlier this year when the channel played host to the preliminary fights prior to UFC on FOX, but Wednesday night was the first time when Fuel TV got its own full fight card.
The event headlined by welterweights Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez lived up to the quality of a typical UFC event as there were numerous impressive finishes and exciting bouts.
In the end it was Jake Ellenberger who was the big winner of the night, earning a victory in the main event and further cementing himself as one of the top welterweight contenders in the sport.
He wasn’t the only winner, though, and a few of the biggest winners and losers didn’t even compete on the February 15 fight card. Let’s take a closer look at who the real winners and losers were from UFC on Fuel TV.
Just hours before his UFC debut, 29-year-old middleweight Sean Loeffler’s dreams of stepping into the Octagon met a brick wall.
In his pre-fight warm-ups, the Californian rolled his ankle and ended up needing to be pulled from the card, thus costing himself and his opponent Buddy Roberts what was to be the most important fights of their careers thus far.
UFC President Dana tweeted a photo of Loeffler’s swollen ankle while announcing that the bout would be scrapped.
While both fighters will almost assuredly get another fight in the UFC, it’s unfortunate that they’ll have to wait to do so.
Former The Ultimate Fighter winner Jonathan Brookins has been fairly quiet since winning the show, having fought just once in 2011 after defeating Michael Johnson on the finals in December 2010.
His most recent loss to Erik Koch at UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger didn’t have him on the right path and he really needed a big win against another top prospect in Vagner Rocha on Wednesday night.
The knockout victory Brookins got was just what the doctor ordered and 2012 could really be his year as he looked better than ever in the win.
“It could’ve been either of us, but we’re both going to come back,” a humble Brookins told the fans in attendance during the telecast.
Coming off of an impressive submission victory over fellow jiu-jitsu expert Cody McKenzie in his most recent fight, Vagner Rocha opted to replace the injured Rani Yahya in his fight against Jonathan Brookins on Fuel TV. The fight also marked Rocha’s debut at 145 pounds after making a name for himself at 155.
Rocha knew he was at a disadvantage if the fight stayed on its feet so he quickly looked for a takedown and a heel hook on the former The Ultimate Fighter winner, but was tagged repeatedly with punches as he went for the submission and was unable to stay awake.
The loss was not a very warm welcoming to the featherweight division, but Jonathan Brookins is no slouch. Rocha should be able to bounce back.
Journeyman Ivan Menjivar has traveled the world fighting the best of the best, but now finds himself looking to make a name for himself in the UFC toward the tail end of his career.
Menjivar carried a two-fight win streak into his UFC on Fuel TV bout against John Albert, having defeated Charlie Valencia and Nick Pace in back-to-back fights in 2011. He made it three straight on Wednesday night as he submitted John Albert.
Menjivar took some huge damage early in the fight and escaped some dangerous-looking submissions early, but he was eventually was able to take take Albert’s back and apply a rear-naked choke to get to his third win in a row.
Experience definitely played a factor in John Albert not walking out of the cage with a victory tonight as Ivan Menjivar escaped numerous near-finishes from the 25-year-old in the first round.
Albert did get submitted by a rear-naked choke, but has to be confident that he was able to get his opponent so close to being finished on a few occasions from more than one position. Now he just needs to go back to the drawing board and figure out where he erred, correct those mistakes and make sure he’s able to finish those fights in the future.
It's for that reason that tonight, despite a loss on his record, he should be looked at as at least somewhat of a winner.
If there was ever a fight that proved that wrestling is superior to jiu-jitsu in today’s world of MMA, it was Wednesday night’s bantamweight clash between TJ Dillashaw and Walel Watson.
Dillashaw, a member of Team Alpha Male with the likes of Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes, used his superior wrestling to not only takedown and control “The Gazelle,” but also setup some big strikes when the fight was on its feet.
Although he came close to finishing the fight on a number of occasions, Dillashaw had to eventually settle for an extremely lopsided decision win, earning the unanimous decision by final judges scores of 30-25, 30-25 and 30-26.
Team Alpha Male continues to pump out great fighters and the Ultimate Fighter runner up is just the most recent in a line that will surely continue to grow.
Walel Watson never looked comfortable on Wednesday night as his typically unpredictable striking was completely stifled by the wrestling of TJ Dillashaw.
Even when the fight was on its feet where Watson would normally be able to take advantage of his long limbs, he was unable to do much damage as he was constantly worried about trying to avoid being taken down. This became even more evident when Dillashaw faked shooting in and instead tagged him with a big punch instead.
Watson showed some impressive takedown defense early in the fight, but that wore down as the fight went on and he became increasingly tired. By the time he was able to get in position to apply some submissions in the third round, he was so out of energy that he was just unable to cinch them in.
This isn’t the end of the road for Watson by any means, but it did show that, like many strikers, he has a very glaring weakness against high-level wrestlers.
A heavyweight clash between unbeaten fighters Stipe Miocic and Phil De Fries was one of the fights that people were looking forward to most on this card and although it didn’t last very long, it was definitely good while it lasted.
De Fries clipped Miocic early and appeared to have him in trouble, but the Ohio fighter of Croatian descent escaped and was able to stay on his feet. From there, Miocic used superior counter-striking to catch De Fries as he came in, rocking him in the process before he finished the fight with punches on the ground.
Miocic remained undefeated and will continue to climb the ranks in the UFC heavyweight division.
While UFC on Fuel TV went well for his opponent Stipe Miocic, things didn’t go as smoothly for Phil De Fries as he suffered the first loss of his professional career by way of knockout less than a minute into the first round.
The Englishman will be back after having defeated Rob Broughton in his UFC debut, but tonight simply wasn’t his night.
Stefan Struve didn’t seem to be very comfortable on his feet in the first round as the 6’11” monster was letting Dave Herman in on his massive reach. Herman caught him a few times with punches that seemed to make him hesitant to engage.
After talking to his corner, though, Struve seemed much more relaxed in the second round and started establishing himself more, utilizing his reach advantage to out-strike Herman on the feet. He even used his striking to setup a takedown that went right into mount.
Herman escaped that position, but it wasn’t long after that when Struve landed a big uppercut that stunned him again. Struve took mount again and this time had better position as he sat above Herman and rained down countless punches before referee Josh Rosenthal broke things up.
Struve convincingly won in his 10th UFC fight at just 23 years old. That ridiculous reach is a huge advantage in any fight and if he can make better use of it, he’s going to be one scary dude in coming years.
Amazing counter-striking proved to be the difference in the main event as Jake Ellenberger out-pointed Diego Sanchez on the judges’ scorecard by a unanimous decision of 29-28.
Ellenberger rocked Diego numerous times in the first round and thoroughly won that round, only to find himself in a much more competitive striking battle in the second. Utilizing his superior overall game, Ellenberger turned the tides with a big takedown in the second after getting tagged a few times where he brutalized Sanchez with some violent elbows before the round came to an end.
The third round saw Ellenberger well on his way to a victory, but Sanchez bounced back after an Ellenberger takedown, eventually taking his back. It was Diego’s fight to win at that point, but Ellenberger was able to hold on and make it to a decision.
Now on a six fight win streak in the UFC, Jake Ellenberger can really begin to make a case that he should be fighting for the title sometime in 2012. His record speaks for itself and the only loss he has sustained in the Octagon came at the hands of current welterweight interim champion Carlos Condit in his debut, in a tightly contested and controversial split decision.
Whether he’s calling himself “The Nightmare” or “The Dream,” Diego Sanchez just brings it.
Sanchez displayed an amazing chin against Jake Ellenberger, taking the best the Nebraska native could dish out and continuing to come full force at all times. Diego simply never slows down and never, ever gives up. He has only been finished once in his entire career and that came by way of a cut, not a submission or a knockout.
Unfortunately, at 170 pounds, Diego Sanchez just doesn’t appear to be as in-shape, as quick or as dominant as he was during his run at 155 pounds in 2009.
He did come very close to a finish at the end of the third round, but it appeared as if he was simply out of breath. Perhaps a move back down to 155 would be a good way for Sanchez to assure that he doesn’t have cardio issues and that he will be the physically stronger fighter against just about everyone.
Current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit had to be sitting in his couch watching the main event on Fuel TV with some serious interest.
The “Natural Born Killer” fought Ellenberger in September 2009 when he earned a controversial split decision victory in what was one of the closest fights of the year. Both fighters have since been on crazy winning streaks, with neither man having lost since.
With UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre out for some time still, Carlos Condit will need to make the tough decision—does he sit at home and wait for St-Pierre to get healthy or does he defend his interim title at the cost of possibly losing his opportunity for the big money fight against St-Pierre down the road?
The general perception is now that Ellenberger should get a title fight next and that he shouldn’t have to win another fight to get there, but it’s hard to blame Condit for not wanting to take the risk.
According to Fuel TV’s Ariel Helwani in the post-fight recap show, Condit did say that he thinks he’ll end up fighting again before he fights GSP, but that it didn’t make great business sense to do so.
An Ellenberger loss against Sanchez might have left open the opportunity for Condit to not defend the title given the lack of top contenders 170, but now that door has been opened and Ellenberger isn’t going to let it close without a fight.
If you’re like a good number of Americans, you might not even know what Fuel TV is. Well, welcome to 2012 where the channel will be the home for much of the UFC content for now and for the foreseeable future.
Not only do a lot of people not know what channel Fuel is from their television provider, but a high number of people in the states do not even have access to it. This means that even if they WANTED to watch Wednesday night’s Ellenberger vs. Sanchez card, they weren’t able to.
Those who do not have the channel missed out on an amazing, potential fight of the year candidate between two of the top welterweights in the world.
For those of you who were like me and did not have access to this channel because of a substandard cable provider, I strongly urge you to consider moving over to DirecTV. DirecTV has Fuel TV, and they have some great packages that could potentially do for you what they did for me by cutting my television bill in half while providing a better service. This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for DirecTV other than that I know that they provide the channel to everyone.
Anyway, the important thing is that Fuel TV is available just about everywhere. You just have to be willing to find it or make the necessary changes to get it at your house.
Don’t be the one who misses the next great UFC event on Fuel like you did tonight.
For more MMA news, fighter interviews and opinions, follow Nick Caron: @NicholasCaron