Diego Sanchez and Martin Kampmann. Photo by Tracy Lee/CombatLifestyle.com.
After Diego Sanchez chased Martin Kampmann around and swung away during the final seconds of their UFC on Versus III main event clash on Thursday night, I thought for sure that I had just witnessed one of the best and bloodiest fights of the year to date, but also a candidate for 2011's top comeback in a bout.
In fact, I thought it was a no-brainer in that a couple of minutes, Diego Sanchez's hand was going to be raised, unquestionably. It was.
But then the boos came raining down from those in attendance at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Joe Rogan comforted a disappointed Kampmann and told him that he thought he had won. I received some texts from friends asking why judges keep messing up decisions this days. And then I wondered, was I even watching the same fight? Did I miss something?
I thought I was going crazy for a second.
In my mind, Kampmann had easily won the first round. He picked Sanchez apart and put him on the seat of his pants with a nice counter right hand. Sanchez staged a comeback in the second and hurt Kampmann during a pair of flurries. In the third, Sanchez finally scored the takedown he was working for the entire fight, maintained his aggression and had Kampmann reeling during some more flurries.
I thought it was more than enough from him to win the fight.
Confused, I hopped on Twitter. With the exception of UFC President Dana White, nearly everyone thought that Kampmann was robbed. In fact, it wasn't until about ten minutes later that his longtime nemesis, Josh Gross, chimed in and gave a pro-Sanchez take.
So I decided to do what any fight fan wants to do - watch the fight again, and again and again, at least for me. Here's what I found, round by-round.
Round one: Kampmann's reach and superior technique came into play as he beat Sanchez to the punch in almost every exchange and dropped him with a counter right hand two minutes in. Sanchez landed some punches of his own, but Kampmann nullified all of his takedown attempts, leaving Sanchez struggling against the cage. 10-9 Kampmann.
Round two: The first three minutes of the round provided very little action. Kampmann landed the only punches of note with a counter right and a stiff jab. All other shots from each fighter were off the mark. Sanchez went in for some more takedowns. All were stuffed but Kampmann spent at least half a minute being pushed up against the fence. The tide turned at the two-minute mark, when Sanchez flurried.
Both fighters landed in the exchange but Sanchez caught Kampmann and buckled his legs. Kampmann settled into the pocket and began to pick Sanchez apart again after that. I would have had Kampman winning the round at that point until Sanchez came after Kampmann again and landed more punches as the horn sounded. I'll have to change my scorecard here to a 10-10 round.
Round three: Both fighters land shots from the beginning to the middle of the round. Sanches earns some crucial points when he finally scores a takedown at the 2:18 mark. Sanchez momentarily takes his back but Kampmann bucks him off and quickly stands back up. Until the end of the round, both Sanchez and Kampmann land their share of blows, but Sanchez often has his opponent peddling backwards. The takedown was the big difference in an otherwise fairly even round. 10-9 Sanchez.
After viewing the fight again multiple times, I've officially changed my call to a draw. It such a close, close fight, and it was one of those fights where it's a shame that one fighter has to win and the other has to lose.
However, I don't agree with Dana White's assesment that neither fighter lost this one. Kampmann has now came out on the wrong side of two straight razor-close decisions and is unfortunately in a hole. His next fight is a must-win.
I re-watched the fight on the basis that Kampmann should have won and I focused on the shots he landed throughout the fight. Even in doing so, I still didn't see any clear evidence that he was robbed in this one. The outrage over him losing isn't warranted.
It was a close fight and Sanchez's face was a mess, but Kampmann didn't dominate him like some people are making it seem. He won the first round without a doubt. The remainder of the fight was ultra-competitive. There's just no way around that.
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