LAS VEGAS — Diego Sanchez built interest in his fight with Michael Chiesa on the main card of UFC 239 at T-Mobile Arena for several weeks with his quirky personality, unconventional approach and by talking up a new coach who had unlocked secrets he hadn’t known before.
Sanchez sprinted from his locker room to the cage, a red towel draped over his head, with new trainer Joshua Fabia sprinting behind him. When Sanchez entered the cage, Chiesa was pacing back-and-forth in his corner.
Sanchez never took his eyes off Chiesa and sneered at him the entire time as Bruce Buffer was introducing the fighters and referee Mark Smith was preparing to start the bout.
But when the bell rang, the fun times ended for Sanchez, as did his modest two-fight winning streak. Chiesa held a 119-3 advantage in significant strikes land -- connecting on an almost unheard of 95 percent -- and had five takedowns to just one for Sanchez.
All three judges scored it 30-26 for Chiesa, who has now won two in a row and made himself a factor in the welterweight division.
The battle between the former “The Ultimate Fighter” winners — Sanchez won Season 1 at 185 pounds and Chiesa won Season 15 — drew a lot of interest because of Sanchez’s oddball way of promoting it. He said Fabia was teaching him how to be a jedi and he said he was coming to kill Chiesa.
But Chiesa, who said he watched Sanchez during TUF Season 1 in his parents’ basement, took it all in stride. And then he was gracious after mauling Sanchez and making him look like an aging and overmatched opponent.
“He’s a tough guy and he took me into some deep waters,” Chiesa said.
Sanchez showed his trademark resiliency in battling off several submission attempts, but he had next-to-nothing to offer Chiesa.
It’s unlikely the loss will spell the end of the road for Sanchez, but it should propel Chiesa into a fight with significance in his division.
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