Just when Jake Ellenberger could see himself signing a contract to fight for the UFC interim welterweight title, along came a relentless Diego Sanchez in the final minutes of what was previously a one-sided fight.
Ellenberger survived an absolute onslaught down the stretch to gain a unanimous decision victory, 29-28 on all three cards, in the main event of the UFC's first main card on Fuel TV.
Georges St-Pierre's status for the remainder for the rest of 2012 is very up in the air. The promotion looks like it wants interim champ Carlos Condit to fight at least one more time before he could possibly get GSP. Ellenberger (27-5, 6-1 UFC) is in the mix, but one has to wonder if he did enough against a guy who many feel is on the downside of his career.
[Related: Yahoo! Sports pound-for-pound MMA rankings]
At minus-350, Ellenberger entered the fight as a sizable favorite, but Sanchez wouldn't give in.
The Nebraska native was schooling Sanchez on the feet. The former "Ultimate Fighter 1" champ looked tired by the middle of the second round and was whiffing on most of his shots. All that while eating jabs and counterpunches. A hard punch in the first appeared to have broken Sanchez's nose, but he kept coming.
"Diego's known for that. He's the toughest guy I've ever fought. No matter what, he's in there every minute of the fight. It's a great test for me. It's an honor to fight him," Ellenberger told UFC announcer Jon Anik.
By the middle of the third round, Ellenberger had outstruck Sanchez 85-32. He was cruising but then mysteriously hit the wall and stopped using his right hand.
Sanchez tries to finish Ellenberger in the final minute (Getty)With just over two minutes left, Sanchez caught Ellenberger with a left body kick that forced the hunter to become the hunted. Sanchez landed a straight left that jarred Ellenberger. That's when the underdog decided it was go time.
He landed a left to the body which convinced Ellenberger to go for a takedown. He got it with 1:30 left, but Sanchez refused to stay down and got right back up where he scrambled to work hip control. Ellenberger was exhausted so Sanchez jumped on his back and got a hook in. He tried to get a choke on two occasions in between getting off 29 shots. There were still 34 seconds left and Sanchez actually flattened out Ellenberger for a few seconds. Sanchez again tried to get his arm in there for a choke, but Ellenberger had just enough presence of mind to keep his chin tucked.
"That's a tough position. I was tired, but I'm just trying to fight through. I've been there a million times. You just gotta stay in it mentally," said Ellenberger.
Sanchez, 30, explained after the fight that he battled an ankle injury three weeks before the event but didn't want to pull out of this televised fight.
"Jake's incredibly tough. I was hitting him with some hard shots. I thought he was going to go out. I thought he was going to give me the back. I was just trying to get the stoppage. but it didn't go my way this time," said Sanchez.
Sanchez (23-5, 12-5 UFC) finished the fight with a huge lump on his nose and deep vertical cut on his eyebrow. He absorbed three huge elbows in the second round that could've finished a lot of fighters in the welterweight division, but that's not what Sanchez does.
Struve's improved striking too much for Herman
Stefan Struve got off to a slow start, but once he heated up Dave Herman was in big trouble.
The tallest fighter in the UFC began putting his strikes together in the second round. A left hook, inside kick-uppercut combination dropped Herman to his back where Struve mounted him and got off 52 unanswered shots before referee Josh Rosenthal stopped things at the 3:52 mark of the second to give the 23-year-old Struve his seventh victory in the UFC.
Herman (21-3, 1-1 UFC) is either crazy or fearless. Those aren't always good qualities when you reached the highest levels of fighting. He's super athletic at 6-foot-4, 235, but Herman simply made it too easy for the 6-foot-11 to reach him on the feet.
Herman won the first round with a varied striking game and good head movement. But he got too comfortable at the end of the round. His corner told him to standing right in front of Struve (23-5, 7-3 UFC), but he didn't he listen and continued to do so in the second.
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