Friday, 11 March 2011

COLUMN: Diego Sanchez vs. Martin Kampmann provides excellent matchup for Versus main event

By: Eric Hobaugh, MMATorch Contributor

Remember WAY back in 2005 when the UFC had the first season of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike? Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture were the coaches and the cast included future world champion Forrest Griffin, Bobby Southworth, Sam Hoger, Alex Schoenauer, Stephan Bonnar, Mike Swick, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Josh Rafferty, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben, and Alex Karalexis among others.

I remember that season as a season of possibilities. I loved the idea of MMA being presented in a reality show format, with weekly fights on a national cable station. I hated the game show crap they made the fighters do in between fights for various, stupid, and unnecessary reasons, but besides that, several of the fighters showed major promise.

When I saw Diego fight on that show, I knew he could be something special. He beat Kenny Florian in the finals to be crowned TUF Middleweight Champ, and now six years later he headlines the March 3, UFC on Versus 3 event at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky against Martin Kampmann. This is to be the first ever UFC event broadcast in 3D.

Diego has been a big name since being on the show, notching some big wins and losing some as well. Sanchez has a strong wrestling base with a good ground game, excellent ground and pound, and a much improved striking game. He is known for his cardio and is relentless in his pursuit of the take down. Diego started 17-0 in his MMA career before losing a lopsided decision to Josh Koscheck in April 2007. Since then, he is 5-3 in the UFC and has posted a 22-4 overall record.

Sanchez has fought a lot of big names in the welterweight and lightweight divisions, such as Jon Fitch (loss), B.J. Penn (loss), Nick Diaz (win), Clay Guida (win), and Joe Stevenson (win). After losing to Penn in December 2009 for the lightweight belt, he moved back to welterweight. This is a much more natural weight class for him and the cut does not take as much out of him. He fights and trains out of Albuquerque, New Mexico in Greg Jackson's camp, and he's known for exciting fights in which he never moves backward.

Martin Kampmann is a Muay Thai, kick boxing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist with an excellent over all game. He trains out of Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is 17-4 in his MMA career, with a list of opponents almost as impressive as Diego's. He started his UFC career in 2006 with a string of victories that started with Crafton Wallace, Thales Leites, Drew McFedries and Jorge Rivera. That win streak ended with a loss via TKO to Nate Marquardt in September 2008. He has fought the likes of Carlos Condit (win), Paul Daley (loss), Paulo Thiago (win), and most recently lost to Jake Shields in a fight that many people feel Kampmann won. It was a razor close split decision loss to the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, but I am among those who feel Kampmann won that fight.

The winner of the Shields-Kampmann fight was next in line for a title shot against GSP. Kampmann was also in line for a title shot in 2009, but his loss to Paul Daley moved him back down the ranks.

Most of Martin's wins have come by way of submission, although he will have a striking advantage against Diego in this fight. I have him as my number seven welterweight in the world. In my opinion, a win over Sanchez puts him very close to a title shot. If Diego can win this fight he is ready to make another run against more top ten fighters.

This fight presents an interesting matchup for both. If Kampmann can utilize his excellent striking and keep this fight standing, he should have the advantage. Sanchez must use his excellent grappling and close the distance in order to minimize Kampmann's reach and striking advantage. It is important to note, Sanchez recently fought at lightweight and the majority of Kampmann's fights have been at middleweight. Kampmann's reach advantage is only an inch, but it is what he does with that advantage that will decide this fight. He can use his jabs to keep Sanchez at a distance and capitalize on that distance with kicks. But If Sanchez gets this fight to the ground he should gain the advantage.

This should be an excellent fight on free TV. It is the first time for the UFC in Louisville, Kentucky. UFC on 3/3, Versus 3, in 3D also features two middleweight matchups in C.B. Dollaway vs. Mark Munoz and Alessio Sakara vs. Maiquel Falcao, as well as an excellent lightweight one in Danny Castillo vs. Joe Stevenson.


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