Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez will collide this Saturday (Nov 11, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 120 inside Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia.
Brown was something of a perennial undercard warrior until a seven-fight win streak brought him to the top of the division. Unfortunately, the Top 5 proved too much for Brown, resulting in some tough losses. Now, Brown looks to retire in the win column, as “The Immortal” decided now was the time to hang up the gloves after losing for the first time via knockout. Sanchez probably should be thinking similar thoughts, but “The Nightmare/Dream/Lionheart” forges on. To his credit, he did score a pair of definitive wins for the first time in years in his last four fights. Sadly, his famous durability also began to fail him in that time.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Stephen Thompson (UFC 145), Jordan Mein (UFC on FOX 7), Erick Silva (UFC Fight Night 40), Mike Pyle (UFC Fight Night 26)
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC on FOX 12), Donald Cerrone (UFC 206), Johny Hendricks (UFC 185), Demian Maia (UFC 198), Jake Ellenberger (UFC 201)
Keys to Victory: On paper, Brown’s approach has always been the same: A gritty combination of violent Muay Thai and a sneaky dose of Brazilian jiu-jitsu mixed in. The reason for his win streak was not necessarily any new developments, just putting everything together and gaining more confidence as the wins rolled in.
One of the key factors here is where each man is in their respective careers. It’s easy to look at their ages and records and guess the end. That’s true in some regard, but Brown was a Top 15-ranked fighter within the last 18 months who belonged in the cage with Demian Maia and went to war with Donald Cerrone.
Outside of his bizarre bout with Ricardo Lamas at Featherweight, Sanchez hasn’t fought top opponents in years.
Additionally, Brown is still largely the same fighter as he was in his prime. A bit less durable, sure, but still able to throw down or grapple as need be. Sanchez, meanwhile, has lost a lot of durability but has also lost the ability to wrestle consistently, which was once his bread-and-butter. In short, everything seems to line up for Brown to walk down his foe and drop heavy leather. Neither man can stand up to haymakers anymore, but Brown’s far more advanced Muay Thai should ensure that he is the one landing.
Key Wins: Marcin Held (UFC Fight Night 98), Jim Miller (UFC 196), Takanori Gomi (UFC on Fuel TV 8), Ross Pearson (UFC Fight Night 42)
Key Losses: Al Iaquinta (UFC Fight Night 108), Joe Lauzon (UFC 200), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 166), Myles Jury (UFC 171)
Keys to Victory: In his day, Sanchez was a non-stop wrestler with slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and his attack was bolstered by legitimately dangerous offense-first kickboxing. At 35 years of age and 15 years into his professional career, Sanchez still has some incredible conditioning, but he mostly gets by on toughness more than any skill.
Last time out, Sanchez was set up to die against Al Iaquinta. There was no real path to victory for him, and the fight showed that, as “Ragin Al” ended things in the first two minutes.
Things aren’t quite so dire this time around, even if they don’t look great. Sanchez’s silver lining here is his Southpaw stance. It opens up the left kick — a weapon that has long served him well, and one that Brown struggles with. Even in the best of times, Brown did not respond well to body shots. If Sanchez can land a clean kick to the body, he probably won’t stop Brown, but he can shut his offense down momentarily. That’s his chance to land a takedown, make things ugly, and capitalize on that madman cardio.
Bottom Line: One of them is retiring, and the other probably should be, so it’s hard to talk about divisional impact.
For Brown, it’s always great to end your career on a high-note. Sanchez is a respectable name that would go well with the rest of his resume. Either way, Brown’s legacy will remain the same. He was never quite elite, but Brown was the definition of violence in the Octagon and never deserved to be counted out. And for what it’s worth, he’s still the only man to definitively beat Stephen Thompson in one of the sport’s more underrated upsets.
The stakes are higher for Sanchez, simply because he desires to remain in competition for the foreseeable future. This is his first bout at Welterweight since 2010, which does mean it’s a chance to rebound a bit in a new (sorta) division. If the lack of weight cut helps him take shots and maintain a high-pace, perhaps it will work out for him in the long run.
This bout with “The Immortal” is a good test of his Welterweight move. If Sanchez is bullied and beaten up, it’s a bad move, whereas a win shows there’s some potential for “The Nightmare” as a Welterweight once again.
At UFC Fight Night 120, Matt Brown and Diego Sanchez will face off in the co-main event. Which fighter will earn the victory?