Later tonight the UFC makes its “official” debut on Fuel TV with its first network-broadcast Fight Night event, UFC on Fuel: Sanchez vs Ellenberger. Yesterday I broke down the exciting four-fight preliminary card, and today I’ll be breaking down the main card. Featuring an intriguing welterweight bout between Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez, as well as a heavyweight throwdown between Stefan Struve and Dave Herman, this card promises to leave fans salivating for more violence based on the relative bloodbath they may potentially witness this evening.
Here are my picks and my breakdown of the six main card bouts…
Ivan Menjivar (23-8) vs John Albert (7-1)
The “Pride of El Salvador” looks to build on his successful UFC campaign with his third fight in less than a year. After making the move from the WEC, Menjivar walked through Charlie Valencia and went the distance with Nick Pace in 2011. A twelve-year veteran of the sport, Menjivar is in his prime, and with eight submissions and nine KO/TKOs to his credit he is more than capable of finishing a fight.
Coming off a strong performance against Dustin Pague in his UFC debut in December, Albert returns to the cage looking for his eighth victory. Having never gone the distance in any of his professional or amateur fights, Albert is no stranger to finishing foes off. He has sufficient striking and can hold his own on the ground if need be.
A majority of Menjivar’s losses come by decision, but I just don’t see him being outpointed, knocked out, or submitted in this fight. The crafty veteran will likely pierce “Prince” Albert’s defense (get it? har har) with his striking, use his superior grappling to get this to the ground, and get his pick up submission victory #9.
Winner – Ivan Menjivar defeats John Albert via Submission Round 1
T.J. Dillashaw (4-1) vs Walel Watson (9-3)
Dillashaw may have not faired too well in his UFC debut against John Dodson but he shouldn’t be dismissed. Fast and technically adept on the ground, Dillashaw is a good wrestler with a dominant top game. His ground and pound can cause problems for many, plus his stamina and constant pressure are a major asset in the bantamweight division.
Watson, who has put together a 1-1 record in his UFC campaign, is an excellent grappler in his own right. The lanky submission specialist combines his strong BJJ game with his oft-flashy striking acumen. Watson’s long limbs usually give him a reach advantage, as well as give his opponents much to be concerned with when the fight hits the ground.
While Watson is more than capable of submitting Dillashaw, I suspect T.J to take this fight to the ground as quickly and as often as possible. The Team Alpha Male fighter should be able to defend the wily submission attempts of Watson and impose his will, using top control in conjunction with ground and pound. While Watson is always dangerous, I expect Dillashaw to make this a long night for him.
Winner – T.J. Dillashaw defeats Walel Watson via Unanimous Decision
Stipe Miocic (7-0) vs Philip De Fries (8-0 1 NC)
An exciting heavyweight prospect, Miocic is looking to remain undefeated in his career and go 2-0 in the UFC. With his most recent appearance, a one-sided beating of Joey Beltran, he proved that he can dictate the pace of a fight as it goes the distance. Prior to that fight, the NAAFS heavyweight champ had scored five knockouts and one submission.
Also undefeated in his career, the Englishman De Fries went the distance in his UFC debut as well, a Unanimous Decision over Rob Broughton. The submission specialist has earned all of his other victories using his bread and butter – fantastic grappling. An exciting prospect in his own right, De Fries lacks the striking ability required to hang with the top of the division but has the BJJ chops to make anyone reluctant to hit the ground with him.
In what can best be described as a striker vs grappler match, with each having a distinct advantage over the other in their perspective areas of expertise, the difference may come down to the wrestling. While De Fries will be looking to take this fight to the ground, Miocic’s wrestling experience should allow him to keep it standing, where he will be able to punish the Englishman.
Winner – Stipe Miocic defeats Philip De Fries via TKO Round 1
Aaron Simpson (11-2) vs Ronny Markes (12-1)
At 37 years old Simpson still fights like a young man. Continually evolving as his career progresses, the wrestler-by-trade has proven himself to be a dangerous striker as well, a fact he exhibited in his last fight against Eric Schafer. Going the distance in five of his last six fights, Simpson is no stranger to going into deep waters,and more often than not the decisions go his way.
The Brazilian Markes makes his middleweight debut on the strength of a five fight winning streak, which includes decision victories over Karlos Vemola and Paulo Filho. Always dangerous, Markes is more than capable of finishing a foe with strikes, submissions, or even going the distance if need be.
Although Simpson may have to weather an early storm from Markes, the weight cut may prove to be detrimental for the Brazilian. As the fight goes on, Simpson’s stamina, wrestling prowess, and clinch game should help him in getting the nod and moving up the middleweight ladder.
Winner – Aaron Simpson defeats Ronny Markes via Unanimous Decision
Stefan Struve (22-5) vs Dave Herman (21-2)
Struve, the 6’11” European fighter, has had quite the run in his nine UFC fights. His success in the Octagon has ebbed and flowed since his debut at UFC 95 where he suffered a TKO loss to Junior Dos Santos. Since that fight he has managed to put together six wins and two losses. While Struve has shown his toughness and heart in his victories, his defeats have been violent and disappointing.
Herman, who now calls Team Quest home, made his UFC debut with a victory over the always tough Jon Olav Einemo in what would be a Fight of the Night winner. After a bout with Mike Russow scheduled for last year was scratched, Herman finally makes his way back to the Octagon for the first time since June 2011. Formerly known as “Pee Wee”, the now Sasquatch-esque Herman comes into this fight with 15 of his 21 victories coming by KO/TKO and undoubtedly will look to make it 16.
Struve has a reach advantage and continues to look more technically sound every time he steps into the cage. The only problem with Struve appears to be his suspect chin, and he seems to get hit more often then a man of his stature should. Herman, on the other hand, is known for having an excellent chin, great submission defense, and ape-like power. While many seem to have this fight as a pick ‘em, I see a clear advantage for Herman. If Herman can continue his “jiu-jitsu doesn’t work” campaign and avoid a submission, he should be able to drag Struve into a brawl and make quick work of the Dutch striker.
Winner – Dave Herman defeats Stefan Struve via Knockout Round 1
Diego Sanchez (23-4) vs Jake Ellenberger (26-5)
Finding religion, dropping drugs and alcohol, and changing your nickname. If you’ve done all of these recently, you may be Sanchez. “The Dream” comes into this bout after a controversial decision victory over Martin Kampmann nearly a year ago, a fight many believe he should have lost. The former lightweight title challenger is hoping for a big win to remain relevant in the crowded welterweight division.
While Diego is fighting to be in the mix, Ellenberger may be fighting for something more. With Georges St. Pierre out until November or December, and Nick Diaz facing a possible suspension for his positive marijuana test, “The Juggernaut” may find himself on the cusp of a title shot. With a five fight winning streak behind him, his last loss coming to current interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit, Ellenberger is aiming for a rematch against the “Natural Born Killer” with a win on Wednesday night.
With seventeen knockouts to his credit, it’s no question that Jake has the power to stop just about anyone, as he showed against Jake Shields back in September. On the other hand, Diego has never been knocked out, his one TKO loss coming via doctor stoppage. I expect this fight to stay mostly on the feet, with Sanchez likely trying to engage in his usual brawling style, which is almost certainly a bad idea. Diego has the stamina and ability to push the pace, which may show as Ellenberger slows late in the fight. If Diego can survive an early onslaught, he should be able to take this fight the full three rounds, however, I expect Ellenberger to clearly win the first two rounds, and possibly the third, en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Winner – Jake Ellenberger defeats Diego Sanchez via Unanimous Decision
Wednesday’s fight card looks to be an explosive one that will show the full gamut of what MMA offers and should be a treat to diehard and casual fans alike. The preliminary card gets underway at about 6:15 PM EST on the UFC’s Facebook page with main card match-ups starting at 8:00 PM EST on Fuel TV in the United States and Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.
Fans without Facebook access or simply wanting to brush up on some great fights can also watch Sanchez in some of his most-memorable scraps on Spike TV starting at 7:00 PM EST.
Enjoy the fights!
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC