UFC 121: 10 Things Learned

Diego Sanchez UFC 121

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Diego?

Dana White said he didn’t think Diego Sanchez belonged in the welterweight division after John Hathaway dominated the former Ultimate Fighter winner during the summer. Reports had him dropping back down to lightweight after his bout at 121.

But after putting on a dominant performance over the final two rounds of his meeting with Paulo Thiago, it looks like the UFC has an unexpected and pleasant problem on their hands. What do you do with Diego Sanchez moving forward?

Thiago is a legit Top 10 contender and Sanchez outclassed him over the final two frames, slamming him to the mat with force a la Matt Hughes on Frank Trigg, and then proceeded to ground and pound the Brazilian for the remainder of the fight. How do you cut 15-pounds after a victory like that?

It will be interesting to see where Sanchez lands next time out. Your guess is as good as mine right now.

The Sun Has Set on Tito Ortiz

Once again, Tito Ortiz returned to the Octagon after an injury and once again, the former UFC light heavyweight champion was defeated. He hasn’t won a fight in four years, and that victory came over Ken Shamrock. Man that sounds sad.

This time, Ortiz was bested by his former charge, Matt Hamill, out-struck and unable to score any takedowns. He was effectively a live sparring partner for Hamill and that should signal something to both Ortiz and the organization.

There is only one fight that remains for Ortiz, a third bout with Chuck Liddell. Nothing else makes sense; both fighters are at the bottom of the hill, a couple years removed from coming over the crest, and they really hate each other.

If either one going to step in the cage again, it has to be against the other or else it’s a huge mistake. Ortiz is done, and if it wasn’t clear before last night, it should be clear to everyone now, Tito included.

Schaub Continues to Show Promise

In a division top-loaded with big name stars and lacking in emerging prospects, Brendan Schaub took a big step forward Saturday night by peppering Gabriel Gonzaga for fifteen minutes en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Getting the better of the gatekeeper puts Schaub on a very short list of second-tier sluggers looking to break into the upper echelon in 2011. The TUF 10 finalist has put together a three-fight winning streak, and has shown steady improvement since getting starched by Roy Nelson last December. He’ll need to keep growing too, as his future is full of high-powered competition.

Schaub now has to take another step up the competitive ladder, with his list of potential future opponents including the names Kongo and Mir, and maybe another meeting with Nelson at some point. From here on out, each new fight is the toughest of his career, and will give us a better indication of how high up the heavyweight ladder Schaub could climb.

McGee Impresses on Spike TV

After the first round of his fight with Ryan Jensen, it looked as if TUF 11 winner Court McGee was going to follow the Joe Stevenson blueprint and drop his first fight post-filming. Jensen was dominant and McGee had no answers, but the man in charge of his corner came with wise words and turned the tide.

John Hackleman told McGee that he would get the best of his opponent on the strength of his condition, and early in the second round, it was apparent that “The Pit Master” knew what he was talking about. McGee held his own as Jensen tired, earning a close round on the cards. By the time the third frame began, it was all McGee.

The bearded fan favorite worked over Jensen in the third, peppering him with punches and eventually taking him to the ground and forcing him to tap to an arm triangle choke. Hackleman was right, McGee was impressive, and Jensen punched himself out of the fight and the organization with his hyper-active first round.

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