It was an excellent fight featuring two of the sport's top welterweights, and it was a good display of both Ellenberger's great skill and Sanchez's tremendous heart. Ellenberger was the better fighter in the Octagon, but Sanchez deserves credit for making it through 15 minutes.
In the end, the judges all agreed that Ellenberger had won the first two rounds and Sanchez had won the third, and the scorecards were unanimous, 29-28.
Ellenberger had the crowd on his side in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and they carried him through a close first round in which both men had their share of effective strikes. Ellenberger knocked Sanchez down with a punch, and that knockdown may have been the difference in a close round.
In the second round Sanchez appeared to grow more frustrated as Ellenberger continued landing punches and then moving out of Sanchez's range. With a minute left in the round, Ellenberger ducked under a Sanchez punch and executed a takedown, and he landed some big elbows from the top, clearly winning the second round.
Sanchez wouldn't go down without a fight, and in the third round he did some damage to Ellenberger in the striking exchanges. Ellenberger took Sanchez down with just over a minute to go in the round and appeared to be in good position to ride out the victory, but Sanchez did a sensational job of transitioning into a dominant position and pounding away on Ellenberger. Sanchez had Ellenberger in big trouble as the third round drew to a close, but he wasn't able to finish the fight, and Ellenberger held on for the decision.
"Diego's known for that -- he's the toughest guy I've ever fought and he's a true warrior," Ellenberger said. "It's an honor to fight him."
It's an honor for UFC fans to watch Ellenberger. He's a future title contender, but he demurred when asked if he wanted to call out interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit.
"I'm not sure, that's up to the UFC," Ellenberger said.
Ellenberger is willing to wait for his title shot, but he won't have to wait too long. Ellenberger has the talent and the toughness to be a champion.