Diego Sanchez (Pictures) cleared a major hurdle Thursday evening towards getting a UFC welterweight title shot, winning a unanimous decision over Karo Parisyan (Pictures) at the Red Rock Casino Resort Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The hard earned victory wasn’t easy for the Albuquerque, New Mexico native, who sampled a taste of the canvas several times in the contest after being on the wrong side of Parisyan’s amazing judo throws.
It wasn’t the Ultimate Fighter’s widely respected wrestling game that propelled him to the win — it was his underrated stamina that laid the foundation for his hand being raised in the most important main event of the scrappy welterweight’s career.
Entering the third stanza (with Sherdog.com scoring the fight a round apiece) Sanchez simply out-hustled Parisyan, digging deep with a workmanlike effort to solidify his name in the UFC’s 170-pound title picture.
Starting the final period with more gas in his tank than the man across from him, the fresh Sanchez went right to work with a straight right to the chin that briefly buckled Parisyan’s legs.
Never a fighter to show any weakness, Parisyan plugged forward and scored a double-leg takedown against the cage. In the defining moment of the bout, Sanchez quickly rose to his feet and executed a brilliant trip that put him in position to hop on his opponent’s back.
After dishing out some punishment to the back of Parisyan’s head and nearly securing a rear-naked choke, the TUF veteran found himself back on his feet after a skilled reversal courtesy of “The Heat.”
Sensing his stamina advantage, Sanchez pressed forward with crisp punches and four consecutive shots to the midsection before a knee ejected a tooth from the California fighter’s mouth into the atmosphere.
After being thrown to the floor by a judo technique for the fourth time in the bout, Sanchez hustled to gain top position and pound out a decision on the judges’ scorecards.
Nelson Hamilton and Marcos Rosales called it 29-28 and the often mentioned Glenn Trowbridge absurdly scored it 30-26.
“I believe I’m the best in the world. I still haven’t got to go out there and perform at my best, but I do think when the time is right, that’s when it’s right for me,” said Sanchez when asked if he was ready for a shot at the title.
Chris Leben (Pictures) took to the cage for the first time since his brutal defeat at the hands of Anderson Silva less than two months ago, needing a win to reestablish his name in the stacked UFC middleweight division.
His opponent, American Top Team’s Jorge Santiago (Pictures), had other plans for their meeting, taking it to the popular Oregonian in the first round by landing a stiff right cross to the chin that sent Leben a step backwards. Santiago followed with a takedown into side-control on his wild-swinging foe.
Seemingly in control to begin the second period, Santiago got reckless with his strikes and, with his eyes closed, ate a heavy counter left hook. Leben pounced on Santiago, now face down and unconscious, throwing in two lefts for good measure before referee Herb Dean (Pictures) showed mercy and halted the action at 0:35 of the second round.
“I couldn’t feel better,” said a jubilant Leben after the much-needed victory. “I hate hanging around on the losing side of things, if you know what I mean. I’m going into Starbucks and the guy giving me coffee is telling me how I should have fought. You know I hate that. I’m a fighter. I deserve to be in the Octagon.”
Dean Lister (Pictures) was impressive in the early stages of his bout with PRIDE veteran Yuki Sasaki (Pictures), before coasting on an empty tank to gain a unanimous decision win.
It looked as though early in the contest Lister’s slick ground game would be too much for the Japanese journeyman, but the GRABAKA fighter patiently escaped the torrent of submissions thrown his way from the ADCC champion’s guard.
It was midway through the second phase that Lister started to shows signs of fatigue, with the San Diego native barely able to hold his hands up to defend incoming strikes.
Lister survived the next seven minutes and ultimately took home a unanimous decision nod from the judges.
Much like his TUF adversary Diego Sanchez (Pictures), Josh Koscheck (Pictures) has become a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division.
Showing a greatly improved stand-up game and revamped footwork, Koscheck was impressive in scoring a first round stoppage over Jonathan Goulet (Pictures).
Landing a crushing right hand that was set up with a crisp jab, Koscheck worked to finish the fight with a guillotine choke from top ground position, but settled on half-guard after the Canadian escaped the hold.
Still in control, the four-time NCAA wrestling All-American blasted away with elbows, then later moved to mount, forcing his opponent to turn his back.
Koscheck wasted no time there, forcing a tap at 4:10 of the first stage after landing a barrage of unanswered punches to Goulet’s head.
Joe Riggs (Pictures) outclassed Jason Von Flue (Pictures), securing a triangle choke at 2:01 of the first.
Taking a page out of Parisyan’s book, “Diesel” scored early with a beautiful judo throw that sent the TUF welterweight hard to the canvas. After briefly working in side-control, then countering a Von Flue Kimura attempt by taking the back with two hooks, Riggs lost the position and applied the finishing hold from the bottom.
Just before tapping out, the San Luis Obispo native took the opportunity to show some sportsmanship, giving Riggs the one-finger salute before crying uncle.
Martin Kampmann (Pictures) dispatched Crafton Wallace (Pictures) in the opening round of their prelim bout, locking in a rear-naked choke at 2:59 of the first.
Jake O'Brien (Pictures) dominated Kristof Midoux (Pictures) throughout their un-televised contest, forcing "Big" John McCarthy to halt the action at 0:52 of the second round due to strikes.
Cleveland Ohio’s Forrest Petz (Pictures) made the most of his UFC debut, handedly defeating TUF season two veteran Sammy Morgan. In one of the most lopsided scores in recent memory, the judges scored the duel 30-26, 30-27 and a whopping 30-23.
Anthony Torres needed less than three minutes to defeat Pat Healy (Pictures), ending the battle with a rear-naked choke 2:37 into the match.
SpikeTV will air the UFC 62 weigh-in event live on a new program block titled Live and Inside, set to debut on August 25 at 10 p.m. EST … Also on Live and Inside, the UFC will announce the “Ultimate Grudge Match,” presumably making official Tito Ortiz (Pictures)-Ken Shamrock (Pictures) III, which Sherdog.com’s Greg Savage first reported on August 8.