At least it wasn't a draw.
OK, maybe it was worse than a draw. A lot of people in Louisville, Ky., were sure upset that Diego Sanchez won a bloody mess of a three-round fight, not the least of which his opponent Martin Kampmann, who came up short two rounds to one on judges' scorecards in the main event of UFC on Versus 3.
Were they right? It depends on how you weigh judging criteria that in MMA is comparatively vast compared to its combat sports' siblings and applied as evenly as a spray-on tan. In this case, it depends if you believe that flailing forward isn't effective aggression, and it means something when you turn your opponent's face into hamburger while landing more overall strikes.
Regardless, Sanchez won a unanimous decision in a comeback of Balboan proportions, and got a shower of boos while his face leaked. Kampmann, who opened up his opponent in the first round with one-twos and sprung a few of his own leaks later on as he brawled against his better judgement, stood in shock at the judges' call and nursed a hand he broke in the mayhem. Applause was little consolation.
As with last weekend's majority draw between BJ Penn and Jon Fitch at UFC 127, the debate over Thursday's main event won't center around the first and third rounds, but the one in between. Kampmann picked Sanchez apart in the first, and Sanchez evened the score in the third with several power punches and a takedown. In the second, he turned the heat up with his fists when he abandoned the thought of grinding Kampmann out, and whether he was successful in doing so -- or just looked that way -- is the stuff of many a message board posting.
If you haven't guessed already, I'm siding with the South on this one, though I've seen quite a few decisions that seem to hinge on Octagon control and can't say I'm surprised. Quinton Jackson's split decision over Lyoto Machida at UFC 123 comes immediately to mind, though one sane judge gave it to Machida, I imagine, for effective striking over Jackson's forward motion. "Rampage" agreed with that call.
Who's stock has risen after the epic brawl between Sanchez and Kampmann? I would sincerely hope it would be both, though Kampmann has now suffered back-to-back losses and is further away from a title shot than ever before.
Diego Sanchez (23-4): Whatever you may think about the decision, you can't question the heart of fighter newly christened "The Dream." Sanchez was outgunned by a superior striking technician and took an absolute beating in the first round. He was rattled several times, and the left side of his face literally split open on a punch in the final frame. Yet he never stopped coming forward and throwing everything he had at Kampmann. He seemed to get stronger, too, as the fight went on. That ran contrary to the extra flab he sported around his midsection, which UFC president Dana White so courteously pointed out on Twitter. All in all, a tremendously gutsy performance.
There is a logjam of welterweights currently at the top of the division who have previously beaten him, which will keep Sanchez far away from a title shot. But I see a good grudge/revenge match in store if Kampmann teammate Mike Pyle can get past Ricardo Almeida at UFC 128. There's also a utility headliner possibility with Matt Hughes. So Sanchez will be busy. Now he just needs to add more quality bulk to deal with the guys who cut from 195 pounds.
Mark Munoz (10-2): The former Oklahoma State University wrestler dispatched his second consecutive Arizona State University alum when he knocked out C.B. Dollaway with perfectly timed right hand in the first round. The win follows Munoz's unanimous decision over Dollaway teammate Aaron Simpson that righted him after a decision loss to contender Yushin Okami. He isn't in the place to get a bout with a top-five guy, but Brazilian submission aces such as Rousimar Palhares and Demian Maia could provide a bridge to that.
Brian Bowles (9-1): The former WEC bantamweight champion picked up right where he left off with a submission victory over Damacio Page. The kooky part is it took Bowles the exact same amount of time -- three minutes and 30 seconds -- to apply a fight-ending guillotine choke as it did the first time they met more than two years ago in their WEC days. I say put the former Pepsi salesman within reach of division contendership, say against Demetrious Johnson or the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Eddie Wineland.
Shane Roller (10-3): So he fell a little too much in love with his boxing and was a little too loose against Thiago Tavares, and it nearly cost him when the straight as an arrow Brazilian plastered him with punches in the first round. Roller did manage to set up a beautiful combination of his own, and he knocked Tavares senseless with a straight right in the following frame. Next time, he'll hopefully keep his guard a little more tight and lose the overconfident shoulder rolls. It will serve him much better against the more savvy strikers of the UFC lightweight division and keep him employed longer.
Martin Kampmann (17-5): After the dubious decision against Sanchez, he'll probably get another marquee welterweight before being pushed into a must-win situation. He once again got drawn into a firefight when he had other more effective options and thus deserves some of the blame for the outcome. Still, he put on a phenomenally exciting fight, and that's won him job security and a even more fans.
C.B. Dollaway (11-3): The loss to Munoz snapped a three-fight win streak that put him on the radar of middleweights to watch. I'm inclined to think it's not a measure of his inability to compete with the world's top welterweights, but more that he just got caught by a big punch. Although the stoppage was a hair early, it was better to be safe then sorry when Munoz dropped him and started raining down hammerfists. He'll live another day, and probably get a lower-tier guy to rebuild.
Alessio Sakara (15-8): He took a cut from an elbow that completely changed the course of his fight with newcomer Chris Weidman. After the blood started flowing, he seemed unable to stop an onslaught of takedowns that put the winning points on Weidman's scorecard and snapped his three-fight win streak. Sakara has never been a great wrestler, but he more than held his own until that fateful gash.
Joe Stevenson (31-13): After his third consecutive loss, the one-time lightweight contender is likely on his way out of the octagon. He's 3-5 since B.J. Penn railroaded him to take the 155-pound belt, and he's looked far too uneven since. There has been talk of him moving to the featherweight division, but I just can't see much more weight coming off his frame without a serious effect on his performance. In the overstuffed lightweight division, he's in career limbo.
Steve Cantwell (7-4): The former WEC light heavyweight champion lost a unanimous decision to French striker Cyrille Diabate, which bumped up his losing streak to 0-3. That's probably it for him in the octagon.
Rob Kimmons (23-7): "The Rosedale Reaper" got pounded out by Dong Yi Yang in the second round of their preliminary bout, and the Midwestern middleweight is now 1-3 in his last four fights. You know what comes next.
Todd Brown (15-3): The Indianan was knocked out by Igor Pokrajac and is now 0-2 in the UFC. See above.