Photo by Tracy Lee for Yahoo! Sports.
Several weeks have passed since Martin Kampmann was lost a split-decision to Diego Sanchez at UFC Live on Versus 3, and there is still zero doubt in his mind that he won the battle. In fact, he believes he did so convincingly as his takedown defense and accurate counter-striking punded Sanchez's face to a beaten pulp over the course of three rounds. When the decision was announced the ongoing debate about MMA judging reform caught fire once again. Kampmann expressed his disappointment in the post fight interview and now faces a reality that has him losing back-to-back fights in the highly competitive UFC welterweight division. Upon his return from visiting his family in Denmark I caught up with "The Hitman" and in this Bloody Elbow Exclusive interview Martin looked back on the fight and shared his thoughts on the outcome.
"I still feel I won the fight," Kampmann stated. "I can maybe see the judges seeing his aggression as a factor. Sometimes people get a lot of credit for that and coming forward swinging wildly and even though they weren't landing, sometimes the judges score that. My best assessment of this situation is that the judges did not see clearly what was landing and what wasn't. I wasn't throwing too many combinations as the fight went on, sticking rather to short combinations or single shot strikes but even with that being the case nearly all of my punches were landing. Of course not everything hit him but the majority of them landed and far cleaner than anything he threw. I think the judges gave him the nod for his aggression and moving forward and I don't disagree with the aggression part but it has to be effective aggression that is rewarded. Just running forward and throwing punches in the air is not going to hurt me. You can look at his face and then look at mine and any 5 year old down the street can tell you who got beat up in the fight."
As the fight got underway Kampmann quickly settled into sharp movement and crisp counter-striking that kept Diego Sanchez off balance. Midway through the first round Kampmann dropped "The Dream" to the canvas with a hard shot and even though Sanchez quickly recovered, he had no answer for Kampmann's striking in the opening frame.
"He was missing a lot of his punches," Kampmann explained. "He was throwing a lot of punches wild and in the air. In the first round I was better at moving in and out and in the following rounds I kind of stayed more in the pocket and got caught with my back against the fence a couple of times. I think the first round went perfectly and I was connecting with a lot of my shots where he wasn't hitting me at all. Every takedown he attempted I was able to stuff so the first round great. I connected with some hard shots and with a solid knee so I could definitely see the frustration in his eyes. I was connecting hard and I know it shook his head up a bit."
Coming into the second round Kampmann's accuracy was visible on his opponent as Sanchez's face became swollen and bloody. Kampmann attempted to get back into the groove he found in the opening round but Sanchez stepped up his aggression and was able to effectively close the distance and apply pressure as he trapped Kampmann into heavy exchanges against the fence. In the midst of a flurry Kampmann was caught by a Sanchez hook and while he's knees buckled, Kampann quickly recovered and escaped.
"I don't feel I was rocked at any time during the fight," Kampmann replied when asked about the punch that caught him in the second round. "He landed some good shots and had more power in his punches than I expected. I have seen the fight since and I lost my feet a little bit when he hit me but I definitely feel I had my head in the game the entire fight. I don't feel was out at any time. He missed nearly all of those shots and I still feel as if I won all three rounds but it is what it is and there is nothing I can do to change the outcome. It isn't my decision...it was up to the judges."
The final round saw both men coming in with signs of the battle on their faces but where Sanchez's pressure controlled the second, Kampmann was able to once again find distance. Sanchez was able to finally land his first takedown of the fight but quickly lost position as Kampmann returned to his feet. With the clock ticking Sanchez made one last bull rush but after the final bell sounded the decision was put in the hands of the judges.
"The last 10 seconds he came blazing forward, swing wild but he didn't land with any of those punches," Kampmann described. "I stepped back and hit him with a jab and a straight right and the fight came to an end of the fight. I could have went in and swung away but when you do that it's dangerous. You either score the knockout or get knocked out in the process but I felt that I had the fight and there was no need to get into that kind of exchange. I felt that I had beaten him up for three rounds so I thought I was winning. I wasn't trying to brawl so I side stepped his punches and clipped him. Unfortunately he didn't go down like he did in the first round because I would have loved to knock him out to end the fight so I'm disappointed I didn't get the KO but I still think I had a decent performance."
Kampmann continued, "My style used to be all about going forward and getting into that brawl every single fight. That makes for some good fights but you are going to eat a lot of shots when you do that. Eventually you are going to get hit with something big and it's a risky way to fight. This bout I tried to keep my spacing and really pick him apart which I did a good job at doing. There were a few times I got caught up in the firefight against the cage but actually I landed on him as well. Even with my back to the cage I was landing but he was throwing these wild punches that he eventually got rewarded for and I think was maybe just a little undeserved."
After the split-decision was awarded to Sanchez the debate began across the MMA community. Compubox statistics showed Kampmann holding a decisive edge in the striking department and while Sanchez frequently attempted to take Kampmann down, "The Dream" was only effective in landing 1 out of 15 attempts.
"Stuffing the takedown is more of a defensive maneuver but if you can turn it around into offense then that should be scored by the judges. I wasn't able to do it every time but there were a few times when I was able to stuff his takedown then turn it around into a front headlock or land a big knee to his face. He was being sneaky and trying to keep his hands on the floor so I couldn't throw that knee to his face as much as I would have liked. Stuffing a takedown shouldn't necessarily be rewarded without the offensive turnaround but in my opinion I don't feel takedown attempts should be awarded either. He landed that one takedown on me and it looked good but I don't think he should have been given too much credit because I was able to pop right back up and he wasn't able to capitalize on the position. Of course it should count but I can't see it counting for too much because I was able to escape quickly. I think the amount of punches I landed on his face should have counted more than his one takedown."
Another factor that came to light towards the end of the fight was an injury Kampmann had suffered to his right hand. As Sanchez continued to press forward Kampmann attempted to shake it out and when the fight had concluded, the Dane was certain his right hand was broken.
"The hand is better. Still sore but it's better," Kampmann explained. "It wasn't broken so I don't need surgery and maybe it's just a hairline fracture but I'm still not sure. It could have happened in the first round or it could have happened in the last round because sometimes when you start to feel the pain isn't exactly when it originally occurred. I've broken both of my hands and it kind of felt like those old injuries so I was certain it was broken but fortunately for me it wasn't. It was probably a straight right because I hit him with a bunch of those. It's still swollen and I won't be throwing any punches for awhile but I'm going to start training here soon, wrestling and jiu-jitsu, and hopefully in a couple of weeks I can start punching again."
After the loss to Sanchez the Xtreme Couture striker is faced with the reality that he has dropped consecutive bouts despite strong performances. With that being said, those two losses have come against two of the division's best and it will be interesting to see where the UFC places him in the order of his weight class.
"When you take two losses in a row it definitely pushes you down the ladder," Kampmann replied when asked about his divisional position. "I still feel that I can compete with the very best in the division so I want to fight the best the UFC has to offer but really it's up to them. When you have two losses in a row it doesn't look good on your record. I feel both fights were solid showings and I wasn't dominated in either of those bouts. In the Jake Shields fight I made a lot of mistakes and I was disappointed in my performance and while I made mistakes against Diego, I feel I had a much better showing and should have won the fight."
Kampmann continued, "It's up to the UFC and two losses don't look good but everybody who has seen my last two fights should know that I can compete with the best and I can put anybody in trouble. It doesn't matter who you put me in there with it's going to be an entertaining fight and whoever is in there with me is going to be in trouble. Nobody can come in there an expect an easy fight from me and if they do they are making a big mistake."
In the aftermath of their three round battle in Louisville Diego Sanchez has moved on to calling out former two divisional champion B.J. Penn. Sanchez doesn't seem to care for the potential immediate rematch that sometimes follows bouts where the decision is highly questioned.
"I would love to rematch Diego," Kampmann answered when asked about another opportunity to face Sanchez. "I feel I won the first time but I would love to fight him again. If I was him I wouldn't want the rematch either because imagine how his face would look after the second fight. I would love to beat him up one more time and hopefully not leave it up to the judges this time."