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UFC 95 Review: Sanchez wins lightweight debut

UFC 95 came to us all live from The O2 Arena in London, England on February 21, 2009. Let's face it, coming in you had to figure that the night would likely be remembered most for one of two things. Either UFC 95 would prove to be Diego Sanchez's lightweight coming out party against Joe "Daddy" Stevenson, or it would be remembered as the night that Stevenson righted the ship that had been derailed by BJ Penn and Kenny Florian.

Then again, fights between Chael Sonnen and Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt and Wilson Gouveia were also worthy of notice. So, let's get it on!

In the first fight of the night, Josh Koscheck took on Paul Thiago. Beforehand, Koscheck said, "I didn't come all the way to London, to lose." Guess is, neither did UFC newcomer Thiago.

But someone, of course, would.

Early on, there was very little action. Over a minute and a half in, Koscheck landed a hard overhand right. From there, Thiago connected with a couple of nice leg kicks only to get clocked several more times with ferocious rights from the former TUF 1 contestant. In fact, Thiago was generally on his horse during the entire fight.

Until the end. When Kosheck moved in for a big strike, Thiago landed a huge right uppercut followed by a left hook that dropped him. Game time!

Paul Thiago wins via KO at 3:29 of round one in a huge upset.

Next up was a highly anticipated match up between former WEC fighter Chael Sonnen and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wizard Demian Maia. "This fight for me is I think is the biggest challenge of my life," said Maia beforehand. Of course, it wasn't exactly looking to be a walk in the park for Sonnen.

Early on, Sonnen landed a nice left hand, caught Maia's leg, and threw his Brazilian adversary to the ground. Sonnen continued to connect with nice jabs. Maia eventually went for a takedown that Sonnen sprawled out of. There Maia tried to hold him and pull guard unsuccessfully, even if Sonnen did get hit hard in the face by his opponent while he was still on his back.

Eventually the fighters came to their feet. Maia came forward aggressively with punches, grabbed a hold of Sonnen. Then he threw him to the canvas, mounted him, and transitioned to a triangle choke when Sonnen turned him over.

And that was all she wrote. Demian Maia is about as good as you'll ever see in any division on the ground. He's just a scary Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fighter.

Demian Maia wins via triangle choke at 2:37 of round one.

Next up was a fight between Stefan Struve and Junior Dos Santos. Could Dos Santos come anywhere close to the performance he put in during his UFC debut when he knocked out Fabricio Werdum?

By the way, his opponent was 6-foot-11. Just thought you might want to know that.

In the end, Dos Santos knocked his opponent down two consecutive times with right hands after landing a flurry that dizzied him. The second time Struve fell, the referee had no choice but to step in.

Junior Dos Santos wins by way of TKO after 54 seconds in round one.

Next up was another highly anticipated match between Nate "The Great" Marquardt and Wilson Gouveia. "My goal is to definitely get another title shot with Anderson Silva," said Marquardt before the bout, in essence indicating that he was planning on going through Gouveia. However, Gouveia had other plans, saying, "I'm gonna knock him out in the first round."

Gouveia landed a low kick early on; Marquardt connected with a body kick. Beyond that, the action was slow in the beginning stages. However, Marquardt began to utilize what appeared to be superior speed to connect with front kicks, low kicks, and punches on his adversary in spots. Eventually, Marquardt took Gouveia down to the ground, almost got caught in a one armed guillotine, and demonstrated some nice ground and pound on his adversary before the bell.

If the submission hold had truly been close to ending the fight, this round would've been harder to call strictly because of that. But the submission really wasn't that close and Marquardt controlled the stanza.

In the second, Gouveia landed a nice leg kick early. Soon after, Marquardt roughed his adversary up a little bit with dirty boxing along the cage wall. After a separation, Gouveia landed a hard right that sent Marquardt backwards. Unfortunately for him, Gouveia came forward too aggressively, allowing Marquardt to take his back momentarily. Soon after, Gouveia achieved guard on the ground. From there, Marquardt began connecting with some big time elbows on his adversary. Though Gouveia got to his feet, almost getting caught in standing guillotine for his efforts, the rest of the round saw Marquardt connect more than his opponent once again, including a right hand to the face, multiple knees, and then a punch to the body that stunned Gouveia before the bell.

Wilson Gouveia likely needs a stoppage in order to win. On top of being hurt at the end of the stanza, he's looking kind of tired.

Early on in the third, Gouveia landed a nice combination. However, soon after Marquardt started doing what he'd been doing all day, eventually taking his opponent's back standing and then pushing him into the cage wall. But Marquardt could not get him to the ground, so he let him go and traveled to the center of the ring. Then Gouveia landed a nice left hand.

That's when things truly went bad for him.

Marquardt came in and connected with a terrific flying knee. From there, came two kicks, a couple of punches, and then another knee that dropped his bloodied opponent.

Soon after, the referee stepped in.

Nate Marquardt wins by way of TKO at 3:10 of round three.

Next up was a fight between Terry Etim and Brian Cobb. Early in the fight, Etim landed some hard low kicks and shunned a Cobb takedown attempt. However, eventually Etim threw a kick that was caught by his opponent. Moments later, he found himself on the ground. That said, Cobb did nothing on the ground and the two were eventually stood up.

Etim once again started picking his opponent apart with timely and ferocious punches and kicks to the body and face. Cobb came inside for a takedown; Etim tried to get the guillotine as he was slammed to the canvas, but was unable. Then came some mild ground and pound by Cobb on the ground. Without a lot of action, the two were stood up again.

This time on their feet, after some impressive striking by Etim, he clinched with Cobb and took him down. Soon after came the bell.

Early in the second round, Etim landed a huge high left kick that floored his adversary. While on the ground, Cobb got punched a couple of more times before the referee stepped in.

Terry Etim wins by way of TKO after 10 seconds in round two. Etim looked good on his feet in this one.

Next up was a fight between Per Eklund and Evan Dunham. Early in the fight, Dunham landed a hard left that hurt Eklund. From there, Dunham almost sunk in the guillotine as Eklund took him to the canvas. However, Eklund got out and to his feet, looking for the guillotine but losing it on the way down to the canvas. As Dunham began his ground and pound, he was almost caught in an armbar.

While on their feet, Dunham connected with a huge left hand that floored Eklund. From there, he followed up with strikes on the ground until it was all over. This was a good, short fight.

Evan Dunham wins by way of TKO at 2:14 of round one.

Next up was a fight between Neil Grove and experienced MMA fighter Mike Ciesnolevicz (Mike C). "I'm here for the UK, I'm here for the UFC fans, I'm gonna knock him out," said the hometown favorite Grove before the fight. Well, we'll see.

Early in the fight, Grove ended up on top of Mike C. From there, Mike C began looking for a leg lock and ankle lock. Grove started looking for the same thing. However, Mike C then pulled off the heel hook.

Mike C wins by way of heel hook at 1:03 of round one.

Next up was a fight between the hometown favorite Dan Hardy and the hard-hitting Rory Markham. "I'm gonna be putting him to sleep," Hardy said before the fight. Of course, Markham is a man known for that type of things as well.

Early on, Markham landed a hard left hand on his opponent. He was clearly the aggressor. But that aggressiveness caused him to come forward quickly and get caught by a Hardy left hand. Markham hit the canvas. Hardy followed him there, and the referee stopped things.

Dan Hardy wins by way of KO at 1:09 of round one.

"I come every time, regardless of the situation, regardless of the weight, regardless of anything," said Diego Sanchez before taking on Joe Stevenson in the main event of the evening. On the flip side, Stevenson said the following: "I'm gonna punch him in the face."

Well, that about says it all. Now onto the fight.

Early on, Sanchez landed some nice jabs, missed a takedown, and got hit with a very hard right. However, Sanchez then landed a nice knee and hard right hand. Stevenson connected with a good flurry. Stevenson then connected with a couple of nice shots again. Sanchez looks, well, small. Of course, that's to be expected when you drop weight. Still?

Sanchez landed a bunch of shots then in a flurry, including a huge left uppercut. He followed that up with a hard body punch. From there, Sanchez continually moved well and struck, with both his hands and feet, in spots. Give the stanza to Sanchez.

Early in the second, Sanchez landed a hard punch that hurt Stevenson and followed that up with a knee before taking his opponent's back. The groundwork was short lived, however, as Stevenson got to his feet quickly. But on the feet, Sanchez started hitting him with those flurries in spots again.

Eventually, Sanchez pushed Stevenson into the cage wall. Stevenson started looking for that famous guillotine of his. However, Sanchez picked him up and slammed him into the canvas. The two then did some impressive scrambling on the ground until getting back to their feet. Though Stevenson had his moments, Sanchez kept winning the stand up battle for the rest of the round as he had been doing all fight.

Joe Stevenson needs a stoppage in order to win.

For the majority of the third round, Sanchez did what he'd been doing all fight?hitting in spots and moving. He went for a takedown late in the fight and got it, only to see Stevenson get out and almost take his back standing. In the end, both fighters flurried on one another. But Sanchez's strikes hit home more.

Diego Sanchez should win a decision. The judges agreed unanimously.

Diego Sanchez wins via unanimous decision.

In the end, UFC 95 was a fun night of fights. Dan Hardy showed that he was a force to be reckoned with in front of the hometown crowd. Paul Thiago stunned everyone with a huge victory over Josh Koscheck. Both Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt made a strong showing toward getting a shot at Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. In the end, though, Diego Sanchez's striking looked very strong and that's likely what will be remembered from the night.

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