There was much at stake in the featured UFC 196 Fight Pass prelim bout Saturday between Diego Sanchez and Jim Miller.
The two veteran lightweights are well-liked UFC mainstays. But both competitors also came into the bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as losers in three of their past four fights.
"I take my hat off to Jim Miller, he's a standup guy," said Sanchez (26-8). "He came in here, he threw down, I hope the fans enjoyed the fight."
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Turns out both fighters acquitted themselves well in an exciting, back-and-forth bout. But in the end, Sanchez was the one who got back into the win column, as the Albuquerque native scored a unanimous decision on across-the-board 29-28 scores.
Sanchez had his best round in the first as he engaged in a bit of role reversal. Sanchez took it to the ground against Miller, the submission expert, and got the best of things there with solid ground-and-pound work.
But Miller (25-8 1 NC), for his part, got back into the fight in the second, with a counter-intuitive strategy. He rocked Sanchez with a big right hand, just missed on a huge head kick, and then delivered a pair of brutal knees while working a standing choke in the closing seconds.
With the bout hanging in the balance of the final round, both guys, while tired, gave what they had left. Sanchez, as it turned out, had just a little more left in the tank, and he sealed things in the final minute with a takedown and then a late flurry at the horn.
After the bout, Sanchez, the TUF 1 middleweight winner and last fighter left on the roster from TUF's original season, was asked what keeps him going.
"Taking care of myself, yoga and always looking for the next thing," Sanchez said.