Photos by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Tonight's UFC Live on Versus 3 card had the potential to create new contenders in two of the UFC's weight classes and where one battle ended in controversy, the other ended decisively. The welterweight war between Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann ended in controversy but it was just the opposite in the middleweight division as former NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion Mark Munoz used his ever-improving striking to stop TUF alum C.B. Dollaway in the first round of their contest.
Both Munoz and Dollaway came into the bout with momentum as Munoz had earned back-to-back victories and Dollaway had put together three of his own. Their fight was put together to push the winner into the upper tier of the division and carve out a future contender in one of the only UFC weight classes that needs the help. Despite the record breaking reign of champion Anderson Silva, the UFC middleweight division lacks both the depth and talent enjoyed by the majority of the other weight classes. Over the course of Silva's run atop the division, the organization has been forced at times to stretch out to find a suitable opponent for "The Spider" and while this past year saw several fighters emerge, circumstance and drawing power leave plenty of questions unanswered. With age and injury a threat to fighters like Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort, the UFC is left with contenders who are deserving in stature but short on drawing power like current number one contender Yushin Okami. The winner of tonight's contest between Munoz and Dollaway would add the winner to the list of names "in the mix" and after landing a hammer counter right hand, Munoz pounced on Dollaway to finish the fight.
While Munoz celebrated, Dollaway came around and began to contest the stoppage with referee Mario Yamasaki. The former Arizona State wrestler was upset that Yamasaki had apparently stepped in too early and called a stop to the fight while he was still in a competitive state. Multiple camera reviews showed that Dollaway's eyes were spun after eating the strike and Mario only let Munoz land two ground strikes before he awarded the stoppage victory. Had Yamasaki allowed Munoz to continue, the past tenacity of "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" would lead us to believe further damage would have been caused.
With the victory Munoz now makes it three in a row, and his next opponent should come from somewhere in the top five of the division where fighters like Brian Stann and Nate Marquardt could pose for some interesting matchups later in the year. There is no doubt that Munoz's wrestling skills afford him the chance to make any fight competitive, his much improved striking skills are making him a legitimate threat to anyone at 185 lb.
Things turned out a bit different for the welterweight division as their contender showcase has left many questions on the table. Diego Sanchez was awarded the unanimous decision victory but the judges' decision created an uproar with MMA fans and critics alike as many feel that Kampmann should have been awarded the victory.
The first round was all Martin Kampmann as he used spacing and counterstriking to punish Sanchez. Diego's face took immediate damage and midway through the round "The Hitman" landed a stiff counter punch that dropped Sanchez to the canvas. Diego immediately latched onto a single and closed the distance but at the round belonged to Kampmann. Coming out in the second frame Sanchez turned up his trademark tenacity and began to find success in the fray against the cage as he lured Kampmann to drop his technical game plan and take part in a wild, punch flinging brawl. Sanchez landed two big shots in the second that gave won him the round as Kampmann's knees buckled and a cut opened up on his eyelid. Going into the final frame it was a close fight but Kampmann was landing with greater efficiency and more impressively had successfully defend all 12 of Sanchez's takedown attempts.
The third round saw more pressure from Diego and the continued counter attack from Kampmann. Martin continued to find success with his straight right hand and landing knees in the clinch. Sanchez was finally able to land a takedown almost two minutes into the round but he was unable to capitalize on the position as Kampmann worked to get back to his feet. Much like the second round there were several wild exchanges but where Sanchez clipped Kampmann in the second, the majority of his shots missed in the third. When the final bell sounded the war had ended and the decision was now left in the hands of the judges. After rendering a unanimous decision victory to Sanchez the controversy and debate fired up immediately but regardless of which way the argument is seen, it would be difficult to shoot either Diego or Martin to the top of the divisional race.
It was said in the pre-fight that the winner could land at the front of the pack but after winning a fight where many believe he lost, Sanchez will more than likely need another win or two to get to the contention tier of the division. As for Kampmann the bad luck continues as he now has dropped back to back fights on judging decisions. The previous loss came via split decision to Jake Shields as Kampmann self-admittedly gave away the fight in the final round but the loss to Sanchez tonight in Louisville, doesn't carry the same level of regret. In the Shields fight, Kampmann made a poor decision in the final round but against Sanchez Kampmann worked a solid game plan, showed tremendous takedown defense and did enough to believe he had earned the victory. Back to back losses of that variety won't put Kampmann in trouble with the UFC but it will put him several fights away from contention in a busy and competitive 170 lb. division.