Diego Sanchez promised and delivered a dogfight, surviving a rough opening two rounds to nearly finish Jake Ellenberger in the third. It was the kind of gritty performance that has become expected of Sanchez during his 17-fight tenure in the UFC.
Now 30 years old, Sanchez's future in the sport hold a bit of uncertainty. For one, he has discussed the possibility of making the move back down to lightweight for his next fight. In addition, there is the question of how these wars he's waged have affected his body and possibly stolen some years on the back end of his career. At his age, he's certainly not over the hill, yet there's no denying that he's had some troubles over the last two years. He's now 2-3 in his last five fights, and one of his wins -- a decision over Martin Kampmann -- was considered by many to be a gift from the judges.
Regardless of his won/loss record, he comes to fight every time, so there is still a place for him in today's UFC. But you have to wonder if that style will eventually be his undoing. No one is suggesting he retire, only that he put more emphasis on his defense in the hopes of extending a career that has provided many thrills.
On to the predictions…
His future hinges on Carlos Condit. If the new UFC interim champion decides to fight again instead of waiting for Georges St. Pierre to return, Ellenberger is the man most likely to get the call to stand across from him in a bout that would be a rematch of their 2009 matchup that ended in a Condit split decision. Condit has yet to decide what he'll do, but at least their schedules are basically synced up, so there's no rush to make something happen. My gut instinct now is that Condit will wait and cash in his chip later this year. That will give Ellenberger time to take one more fight.
Prediction: He plays the waiting game and faces the Josh Koscheck-Johny Hendricks winner
It's hard to look into the crystal ball when Sanchez himself hasn't yet decided upon whether he belongs in the welterweight or lightweight division, but last time he was fighting at 155, BJ Penn was the champion. It's a different world there now, and I think that's what will draw Sanchez back to lightweight. I'm expecting him to move back down.
Prediction: He takes some time off to move down, then faces someone like Joe Lauzon in the summer.
Don't look now, but Struve has won four of his last five. As usual, he looked fantastic on the ground, dominating Dave Herman there en route to a TKO win. He continues to work hard on his standup but he fought in a measured style and probably took more punches than he would have liked. Using his reach remains a priority, and it's something he certainly needs to continually address as he moves up the ladder.
Prediction: He faces Gabriel Gonzaga
Herman certainly made an impression, if not an impact. One of the UFC's most eccentric talents, Herman is also one of its most criticized, as rumors surrounding a less-than-stellar work ethic persist. Given his natural talent as well as his relative youth (he's still just 27), Herman has to determine whether he's getting the most out of himself, particularly in a division in which a relatively short win streak could quickly vault you to the top.
Prediction: Matt Mitrione would seem like a fun matchup for him
Miocic stayed unbeaten with a swift, 43-second KO of Phil De Fries. Now 8-0 overall and 2-0 in the octagon, Miocic shouldn't be rushed, and should be matched up with another prospect rather than a long-established veteran.
Prediction: Strikeforce's Shane Del Rosario recently said he should be ready to fight again by the spring, and a fight with Miocic would make sense.
A dominant performance from Dillashaw, who did everything but get a finish over Walel Watson. Dillashaw not only out-wrestled and out-grappled Watson, he also got the better of several striking exchanges, a nice development for him after getting knocked out by John Dodson in his UFC debut. With a strong win firmly under his belt, Dillashaw can move forward in the hopes of proving he's going to be a true force among bantamweights.
Prediction: Reuben Duran is set to return around the spring. That's a matchup of equal experience level.
Longtime fans probably have memories of Menjivar going back so far that they wouldn't believe he's yet to turn 30. Yet the veteran with over a decade in the game is indeed just 29 and in the midst of a three-fight win streak after a spirited comeback against John Albert on Wednesday. The former lightweight looks rejuvenated at bantamweight, so let's see what he can do against a more seasoned opponent.
Prediction: He faces Raphael Assuncao
Brookins has rarely been one to flash power to go with his stifling wrestling and ground game, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see him knocking out Vagner Rocha, who had never been finished in his career. Perhaps it's a new element to his game or perhaps it was a onetime fluke, but either way, he's won two of three in the UFC. A nice challenge for Brookins would be a fighter capable of challenging him either striking or on the ground.
Prediction: He faces Diego Brandao