Michel Pereira snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
After putting on a tactical striking performance that belied his reputation as a wild man, Pereira (23-11, 2 NC) committed a major error midway through the third round, landing a clearly illegal knee on a grounded Diego Sanchez (29-12) in the welterweight co-main event of UFC Rio Rancho on Saturday.
After much deliberation between Sanchez, referee Jason Herzog, and the in-cage physician, it was eventually ruled a disqualification win for Sanchez at the 3:09 mark of round three.
The New Mexico crowd cheered the verdict, happy to see home state hero Sanchez pick up the win and improve his UFC record to 19-12.
For the majority of the contest, it looked like Pereira was on his way to a decision win as he mixed his usual array of flashy moves with some solid technical striking, including body work that the always aggressive Sanchez backing up.
It was actually Sanchez who looked to dazzle the crowd first, firing a forward-roll kick shortly after the opening bell, but for the next two rounds it was Pereira who would assert himself and open up his arsenal.
Sanchez’s trademark takedowns were nowhere to be found as the larger Pereira ably stuffed the attempts and punished Sanchez with punches and kicks to the mid-section. He continued to show off his unorthodox offense as openings developed throughout the contest.
In the end, it was all for naught as Pereira seemingly lost his composure in round three, throwing a knee at Sanchez’s head as Pereira held him down against the cage. Herzog immediately intervened and could be seen talking to Sanchez afterwards, making sure that he understood the situation.
A cut above his eye appeared to be giving Sanchez issues and after talking things over with officials, the bout was waved off.