by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
UFC 60 Breakdown: Hughes Destroys Gracie; Sanchez Struggles in Victory

After months of build-up and a ton of promotion, the champion of the new school faced off with the champion of the old school when Matt Hughes took on Royce Gracie at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California on Saturday night.

In what can only be described as a one-sided battle, Hughes dominated from start to finish, taking out Gracie in the first round with some vicious ground and pound. Referee John McCarthy was forced to call a stop to the action and declare Hughes, the current UFC Welterweight Champion, victorious by TKO.

Gracie was the taller fighter, but looked much smaller than Hughes when the two fighters finally engaged. To Gracie’s credit, he did manage to keep Hughes away for the first minute of the fight. Gracie used his long legs to kick at his shorter opponent, trying to prevent the inevitable takedown. Once the fight hit the ground, Hughes absolutely dominated Gracie. At one point, Hughes locked on a kimura, and Gracie’s arm bent violently (even appearing to snap at one point), but Gracie didn’t tap out and Hughes eventually let go of the hold in order to focus on strikes instead.

Showing the world how much mixed martial arts has evolved since the early days of the UFC, Hughes eventually took the legend’s back, sinking his hooks in and trying to secure a rear naked choke. Gracie defended effectively at first, but Hughes knew that he was in position to inflict some serious damage, and he reigned down the punches and elbows from above.

After Hughes really opened up his strikes to both sides of Gracie’s head and his arms went limp, referee John McCarthy jumped in to prevent further damage from being done. Matt Hughes, the most dominant champion in recent UFC history, had proven his supremacy once again.

Gracie just looked completely overmatched in the fight, and Hughes entered the fight seeming almost angry at the presumption that the former champion dared to step into his house and challenge him in the Octagon. Hughes’ focus will now return to the welterweight division and his upcoming title defense against Georges St. Pierre, which is tentatively scheduled for the UFC’s September (or early October) pay-per-view.

In other action, Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez made his return to the Octagon after having to pull out of his UFC 58 fight due to an extreme illness that dropped his weight down to the neighborhood of 150 pounds. His opponent, John Alessio, was the same man that he was supposed to fight on the UFC 58 card.

In the opening minutes of the fight, Sanchez looked somewhat tentative or unfocused, which is something we rarely see from the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 1’s middleweight competition. To Alessio’s credit, he was able to stuff Diego’s takedowns at every turn. Sanchez never even tried to secure a double-leg takedown, but every time he attempted a single-leg, Alessio was quick to grab an arm and pull Sanchez off of him, or sprawl completely away from his opponent.

While Alessio did successfully keep Sanchez from getting a takedown, he didn’t really do much else to try to finish the fight. It looked as if Alessio focused so much on preventing Sanchez from taking him down that he forgot the fact that he needed offense to win the fight.

In the second round, Alessio landed a solid job that opened a pretty deep cut over Diego’s eye, which looked worse once the cameras focused in on him. However, the punch didn’t look like it phased Sanchez very much at the time. Diego did try to push the pace and looked for multiple combinations standing, while still occasionally shooting in for a takedown. The only true takedown he scored was in the second round, but Alessio quickly rolled away and got back to his feet.

The third round was the only round in which one fighter truly looked more dominant than the other. Diego got around to Alessio’s side, hopped on his back, and sunk his hooks in for the rear naked choke, but the Canadian managed to stay on his feet and defend. While it looked like Diego was trying to maintain his balance more than anything, he was never able to lock on a submission, though he did have the dominant position for the last few minutes of the fight. In the final seconds, Diego unleashed some shots as he tried to end on a high note.

In the end, Diego Sanchez walked out with a unanimous decision win (30-27, 29-28, and 29-28), but looked pretty vulnerable for the first time in the UFC. “The Nightmare” will need to focus on his training, especially considering the fact that his next opponent is rumored to be Karo Parisyan, a top contender in the welterweight division.

Brandon Vera looked good in his heavyweight fight against Assuerio Silva, winning by guillotine choke at 2:39 in the first round. While Vera’s stand-up game has looked good in all of his fights, it looked like he was rattled by his opponent for the first time since he entered the UFC.

Silva managed to land a few shots that stunned Vera, but once the opportunity presented itself, Vera locked on a guillotine choke that forced Silva to tap out. Vera had harsh words after the fight for the critics that keep telling him to go down to light heavyweight, pointing out that he is now 3-0 in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Dean Lister demonstrated why he is considered one of the best ground fighters in the world with his win over Alessio Sakara. Lister managed to avoid Sakara’s strikes long enough to take the fight to the ground, and once Lister had Sakara in his guard, Lister started to work for a position that would allow him to lock on a submission.

First, Lister went for an omo plata shoulder lock (which is rarely successful in full contact fighting). Sakara freed himself, but made the mistake of putting his head back down, at which point Lister brought his legs up and locked in a triangle choke. Lister sunk the choke in deep, and while Sakara tried valiantly to pull himself out of the move, he had no choice but to tap out as his oxygen became restricted. This was a light-heavyweight fight, and Lister said afterwards that he planned to move to the middleweight division.

In the opening fight on the pay-per-view broadcast, Mike Swick continued his winning ways with a victory over Joe Riggs in a middleweight fight. Both fighters failed to engage early, as they both looked to avoid a big strike that could put an end to the bout.

After a little while, Swick landed a good kick to the head. Riggs looked rattled by the kick and shot in for a takedown, putting his head down in the process, and Swick sunk in the guillotine choke. It didn’t seem as though Riggs struggled all that much to get out of the hold, as he quickly submitted. While Riggs has gone back and forth between welterweight and middleweight in the UFC (and said before the fight that he would be returning to welterweight in the future), it’s uncertain at this point whether Riggs will even be brought back to the UFC in the near future after such a lackluster performance.

The UFC claimed that the paid attendance for the show was 14,802 (full attendance information will be out next week). The building holds 16,947, so this event was not a sell-out. There were still a lot of fans in attendance, but this was probably not the showing that the UFC was anticipating, given the amount of promotion that they put into Hughes vs. Gracie.

The next UFC pay-per-view could very well draw record numbers when it takes place in Las Vegas on July 8th. Ultimate Fighter Season Three coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock will fight for the second time, and the event will also feature a fight for the UFC Heavyweight Title as Tim Sylvia meets Andrei Arlovski for the third time.