The UFC had already given fans a great night of action last night on Versus before the headliner even started. Mark Munoz, Shane Roller, Igor Pokrajac, and Brian Bowles all provided definitive finishes and Chris Weidman and Alessio Sakara gave us a back-and-forth battle.
But it was last night's epic headliner that put things over the top into the crazy zone. Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann straight up went to war. The kind of war that fans will talk about for years. A Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti caliber war.
Luke Thomas talks about Diego Sanchez' incredible heart:
At UFC on Versus 3, Diego Sanchez reaffirmed my belief that he is the toughest fighter actively competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. After a first round against Martin Kampmann where he was badly cut, rocked by crisp punches from a better striker and his ground and pound strategy was blocked by the Dane's superior takedown defense, Sanchez barely flinched. He lost the first round big, but you'd never know it by the way he continued to fight in the second and third rounds. Always pressing the attack, always on the offensive, always trying to find a way to create openings.
Corazón, Spanish for "heart", isn't just the vague notion of being "tough" or a measurement of one's ability to take punishment (or just a word Sanchez references in this video). In its highest and truest form, it is the mental inability to surrender, to experience frustration or to allow bulwarks to prevent success. It's not just refusing to say no, however, it's also refusing to budge. Gameness is the pursuit of the fight despite physical consequences. True corazón, the kind where fighters persevere through unimaginable difficulty, the kind Diego Sanchez put on display last night, is success vis-a-vis gameness.
I don't think he'll ever wear championship gold, but Diego Sanchez will forever stand above his peers and the vast majority of fighters ever to compete for his iron-willed performances of grit. He hasn't always won, especially on the biggest stages, but he's been in the trenches against elite fighters refusing to compromise an inch of territory. Georges St. Pierre is certainly a far superior fighter with a different level of skill, but when the walls are closing in he can't fire back and refuse surrender like Diego Sanchez. Not even on his best day.
Kevin Iole talked to Dana White:
The crowd of 8,319 paid a gate of $471,450 to see the fight and a nearly giddy White, who could barely contain his glee, gave nearly all of it to Sanchez and Kampmann.
"I don't forget fights like that," White told Yahoo! Sports. "That was an unbelievable fight. That was the kind of fight you saw back in the 1980s in boxing, a classic war. Diego Sanchez is one of the toughest [expletives] I've ever seen, man. It was a dogfight. They both gave every ounce of what they had. Kampmann got a loss on his record, but he didn't lose that fight. There are no losers when you're in a fight like that."
White gave both Sanchez and Kampmann an unprecedented but well deserved $160,000 Fight of the Night bonus.
It's sad that the utterly ignorant Kentucky crowd booed Diego and decision. That's no way to honor fearless warriors fighting for your entertainment.
Personally I'm still high from that fight. Just enjoyed my third viewing of it. Standing up and pacing with nerves even though I already knew the outcome. Not every fight can do that to me. Here's to Sanchez and Kampmann for showing us all what heart, skill and determination can do.
Debate the decision all you want, but it's unanimous that Sanchez vs Kampmann was a classic.