The UFC’s first foray into airing an event on Fuel TV proper is Wednesday night, and it seems more than a few people are going to be out of luck when it comes into finding the broadcast on their television. And that does suck, because an event headlined by the likes of seminal TUF winner Diego Sanchez and rising contender Jake Ellenberger isn’t something you can just ignore. No, it’s a regular meat-and-potatoes matchup that could satisfy the appetite of any true MMA fan. But that’s how it goes, I guess, when the UFC marries FOX and is now obligated to give FOX’s developmentally disabled nephew some love and attention at family gatherings. I mean, it’s not like the UFC can lock Fuel TV in a closet when no one’s looking and step outside to smoke a cigarette. Am I right? So! A preview of what will probably be the greatest UFC event ever (simply because I won’t be able to see anything beyond the Facebook-broadcast preliminary bouts)!
-Diego Sanchez vs. Jake Ellenberger – When the Valkyries come to take Sanchez off to that great banquet hall in the sky, and the first toast is made by the host of Valhalla in the little guy’s honor, the tribute will likely include something about how Sanchez was never quite the best but damn did he fight hard. His last two performances garnered him healthy “Fight of the Night” bonuses for their unending scrappiness, and though he was handled by BJ Penn and John Hathaway before that, he’s left it all in the cage just about every time. Ellenberger, on the other hand, has been climbing up the rankings like a man possessed (and like a man possessing fists full of dynamite, which, uh, is a somewhat accurate analogy). But other than taking on Jake Shields and losing a decision to Carlos Condit in his Octagon debut a couple years back, Ellenberger really hasn’t been given top guys. Sanchez, then, will be a great test of his mettle. Can Ellenberger sprawl out of Sanchez’s aggressive fistic- and grappling-heavy onslaught, and create enough space to blast him? Possibly, but Sanchez damn sure isn’t going to make it easy on him. Watch for the TUF 1 winner to end up a bloody, panting mess, yet emerge with a split decision and another bonus.
-Stefan Struve vs. Dave Herman – A few years ago, the UFC heavyweight division was powered by the nuclear energy generated by the likes of a seemingly unbeatable Shane Carwin, a practically indestructible Cain Velasquez, a mountainous Brock Lesnar, and a few other giants who were fearsome and frightening. Nowadays, though, we get campfire-level heat in the form of overgrown gawky teenager Struve and Dave “I gassed out hard against Jon Olav Einemo in my UFC debut” Herman. Which is… kind of disappointing. Anyway, Struve is tall and lanky and can strike dudes from great distances, and Herman is good at grabbing guys and kneeing them. I give the edge to Struve here, simply because he’s been kicking it Octagon-style for a while now, but, eh, the TKO victory could go to either one. It depends on who imposes their will the most.
-Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes – Grizzled wrestler-turned-fighter Simpson isn’t so much a finisher as he’s the kind of guy that simply fights until his opponents wither – which, though it probably means his career will last a fraction of the duration of a normal MMA career, does usually mean viewers are left with a sense of satisfaction at having someone fight their heart out. Will he’ll be able to grind Markes into putty and break the Nova Uniao rep’s spirit? Not necessarily. But if the Brazilian doesn’t get a chance to put Simpson on his back and deliver punches, it’s likely that Simpson is going to gut out another decision that forces us to say “damn” and cuts six years off his life.
-Philip De Fries vs. Stipe Miocic – Miocic really put it on the durable Joey Beltran in his UFC debut, so you have to wonder if the big Brit De Fries is in over his head. I’d say, given Miocic’s Division I wrestling background and the rich and vibrant wrestling scene in the UK, Miocic is going to have the advantage – at least in sustained intensity. Look for him TKO De Fries while the Brit is looking for a submission that never materializes.
-TJ Dillashaw vs. Walel Watson – What does a pedigree in wrestling and membership in Uriah Faber’s Team Alpha Male School for Frenetic Grappling get you? Apparently, a slot on TUF. However, it does not get you the coveted TUF Lucite, so Dillashaw can count himself among the elite “guys who came in second place on TUF” crew. Whoopee! For his part, Watson threw down pretty hard against Yves Jabouin at UFC 140, and though he lost a close decision, he proved to be competent and capable when fists are flying. That said, Dillashaw is going to take him down and work him. It will go the distance – if anything, Watson is tough – but what we’re going to see from Dillashaw will be textbook “nonstop pounding from top position”, plus a ton of pent up regret over having wasted six weeks of his life languishing in a house in Las Vegas.