by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Can The Heat Burn the Nightmare? Will Leben Recover After A Devastating Loss?
Ultimate Fight Night Preview
When looking at the main card for this week’s Ultimate Fight Night card versus the upcoming pay-per-view for UFC 62, it looks like the brass at Zuffa decided to invest more in the Spike TV line-up than the fighters competing on the big show at the end of the month. The main event for the Ultimate Fight Night event will feature arguably the #1 contender in the welterweight division, Karo “The Heat” Parisyan versus the still undefeated Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez in action at 170lbs. Chris “The Crippler” Leben will return after being decimated by Anderson Silva in his last fight to face off against Jorge Santiago, who defeated Justin Levens at another Ultimate Fight Night event back in June. Dean Lister will drop to 185lbs after debuting at light heavyweight to take on Pancrase veteran Yuki Sasaki, and Ultimate Fighter season 1 veteran Josh Koscheck steps back up to the main card to fight Canadian stand-out Jonathan Goulet.
In the main event of the evening, Karo Parisyan will take one more step in his quest to get back to a title shot he never really lost after being injured prior to his bout with champion Matt Hughes at UFC 56 when he steps in against Diego Sanchez, who despite still holding an undefeated record is routinely hounded by press and fans alike for being overrated. Parisyan, at only 23 years of age, will be making his 7th trip inside the Octagon, making him one of the most veteran fighters currently competing in the UFC. He is undeniably one of the most well rounded fighters at 170lbs combining excellent submission skills, stand-up and a judo game that he has transitioned into use like no other fighter has in mixed martial arts today.
Karo had to drop out of his bout with Hughes due to a pectoral injury and when he returned the champion was already engaged in a fight with UFC legend Royce Gracie and now will face Georges St. Pierre at UFC 63, leaving “The Heat” out in the cold. The brush off only seemed to motivate Parisyan who came back to action at UFC 59 and took the time to dismantle Nick Thompson, ending the fight by strikes on the ground with a ferociousness that fans had not seen from Karo previously.
Diego Sanchez has received flack from day 1 since he won the first season of the Ultimate Fighter. First it was about his undefeated record. After that it was the talk surrounding his spirited entrances and interviews. Then it was about the level of competition that he’s faced. The fact is that until Sanchez is defeated, he can keep talking, and if he wins in this bout against Karo Parisyan, he will undoubtedly be in line for a title shot in the near future. No one can question his skill or his heart and respect will have to be paid if he’s able to win this fight.
This match-up will showcase two of the most well rounded fighters in the welterweight division. Each one has a dominating style with takedowns and submissions, while the only question in either fighter’s repertoire being their stand-up skill. The biggest difference coming in is that Karo is coming off of an extremely dominant performance when he defeated Nick Thompson, while Sanchez faced his first struggles when he won a close decision against John Alessio at UFC 60.
Karo has faced the very best in the welterweight division and if he’s able to come out and be as unrelenting against Sanchez as he was against Thompson, he could put on the performance of the night. Since his back to back losses against Sean Sherk over 5 years ago, no fighter had ever been able to dominate Parisyan, his only defeat coming at the hands of Georges St. Pierre at UFC 46 in a very tough fight that was close on just about everyone’s score cards. Diego Sanchez has looked equally impressive with his strong wrestling and submissions but after only having one fight go to a decision in his entire career previous to his time in the UFC, he has now had 2 of his past 3 fights go to the judges. For him to get the monkey off his back, Diego needs to be impressive and truly dominate if he wants respect after this fight.
Parisyan’s judo throws and takedowns can rattle just about any opponent and while Diego has proven time and time again that he can hang with anyone on the ground, if he gets tossed at some point during this fight, it could be interesting to see how he reacts. Karo’s strength has been highly underrated throughout his career but has excellent clinch skill and has worked on his top control quite a bit recently. Diego has to come out and show confidence right away or Karo will pick him apart. He needs to display strong wrestling and go for a takedown or slam early on to show that he’s ready for all that Karo has to offer.
Prediction: Karo Parisyan by decision
Coming back from a loss can be one of the toughest or most highly motivational situations depending on the psyche of the fighter of which you speak. For Chris Leben coming back after being knocked out for the first time in his career, this fight could be crucial to not only his immediate future but his confidence to stand in there with the very best. Jorge Santiago is looking for the upset special in this fight but the fact is that if he wins, it really wouldn’t be that much of a shock to many critics. Santiago is a very solid fighter who does very well at avoiding damage and inflicts quite a bit of his own along the way.
Leben has not stopped talking since he debuted on the Ultimate Fighter some time ago, so will a :49 second knockout loss put some humility in his voice? Not likely. He does have a great clinch and generally has a great chin. Its almost a definite that he’ll try to push Santiago against the cage, work for the takedown or slug it out trying to prove his stand-up dominance. To Santiago’s credit, he’s been in the cage before with a fighters with great punching power and has survived. Almost exactly a year ago, Santiago stood toe to toe with King of the Cage champion Joey Villsenor, and while he lost a decision, the smartest of gamblers would say that Villasenor hits harder and has a more polished striking game than Leben.
This fight will surprise many fans in regards to how good Santiago really is versus how overrated Leben might actually be. Look for a slug fest but look for Santiago to step out victorious.
Prediction: Jorge Santiago by decision
The middleweight division is getting pretty dangerous these days and Dean Lister could be a wildcard that no one saw coming. His ground skills are unparalleled at 185lbs and a few quality wins could put him on the short list for title contenders. He showed why he deserves to be in the UFC after he submitted Alessio Sakara by triangle choke at 205lbs and will now drop back to his more natural weight where he could be even more dangerous. Little is known about his opponent Yuki Sasaki except that he is a seasoned veteran of top Japanese promotions like Pancrase and Shooto. Unfortunately, Sasaki has struggled against most of his more well known opponents, but has a wealth of experience which always helps when stepping into the UFC for the first time. While he has a number of losses on his record, he has withstood some of the best ground fighters in the business being able to avoid submissions, which can only help him against someone like Lister.
Lister has been training non-stop since coming back to America after fighting in Pride for some time, being seen as a coach on the Ultimate Fighter season 3, and will now focus on his career, looking to get back to the top by way of the UFC. His ground skills have been steadily improving since he debuted, and his ability to transition his submission game to MMA has been phenomenal. Sasaki has to understand that he’s not being brought in to win so going all out can only improve his chances in this fight.
Prediciton: Dean Lister by submission Rd 2
Former NCAA champion Josh Koscheck will return at Ultimate Fight Night to take on Jonathan Goulet in a welterweight bout. Koscheck has been staving off almost as many naysayers as his former housemate Diego Sanchez , questioning his overall skill, always depending on his wrestling when all else fails. Koscheck does fall back on wrestling a great deal of the time but the fact is when you are one of the best wrestlers in all of MMA, its hard not to use that skill set against your opponents. Jonathan Goulet could well be on his way to the top of the contender’s list if not for his knockout loss to Duane “Bang” Ludwig back in January. Since that loss, Goulet returned to win a unanimous decision in a very exciting bout against Luke Cummo in June.
Like many of the top fighters coming out of Canada these days, Goulet is very well rounded, throwing good hands and displaying impressive ground fighting. Koscheck is still improving and it seems like he’s just one good trainer away from being a top fighter at 170lbs. Goulet is well versed in submissions but has never fought a wrestler the level of Josh Koscheck who can control just about anyone on the ground.
This fight will feature one of the most interesting characters in the sport with Goulet, who always keeps things exciting and never stops until the last horn sounds. Koscheck still seems like he’s playing it safe in many of his bouts and if he could just watch a Tito Ortiz fight every now and again and keep an eye on his ground and pound attack, he could be that devastating at 170lbs. If he takes this fight to the ground…and he will…and unleashes some elbows, he could end Goulet’s night early, but its still not likely.
Prediction: Koscheck by decision