UFC 239: Under The Radar
By James Heaney
It’s International Fight Week and understandably the main topics of conversation are the two title fights, a heavyweight battle thats been scrapped and another USADA impacted fight. Throw in the back and forth between Masvidal and Askren and there’s not much time been spent looking at other matchups. Given the attention being focussed elsewhere on the card, an exciting welterweight battle has gone under the radar…
Michael Chiesa will open the Main Card against Diego Sanchez- both fighters coming off submission wins in their latest bouts. During his 239 Media Scrum, Chiesa stated that he’s keen to avoid a Fight of The Night bonus and would instead prefer a more one sided battle.
This was Chiesa’s nod to those historic Diego fights, where he bites down on his mouthpiece and the commentator throws out some cliches about strapping yourself in for the ride.
Chiesa will want to create a technical contest, setting the pace and relying on his ground game and submission skills, rather than get caught up in a swinging contest with Sanchez.
Coming off the biggest win of his career, I’d expect Chiesa to try and mute the offence of Sanchez in the first, before taking control in the second and third as he looks to secure a submission or dominant points victory.
But game plans are often left at the cage door- styles make fights and Chiesa has already acknowledged that he would welcome a potential FOTN scrap should Diego push it that way.
Across the cage will be a fighter who always brings that air of surprise and intrigue. You’re never quite sure what to expect.
The night before the fight, Sanchez will see his fight with Clay Guida inducted to the Hall of Fame and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him inducted on his own a few years later. 4 months ago, Diego looked the perfect Sanchez mix of being technical, measured but also downright violent in his dominating victory over Mickey Gall. It felt like a lesson taught and a clear reminder that Sanchez may be a veteran but he’s far from done.
It’s never boring when Sanchez is involved and the recent split from Jackson Wink is something to keep in the back of mind. Diego said he wasn’t feeling the love- particularly given focus was likely on former stablemates Jon Jones and Holly Holm who top the 239 card.
Will that impact his style? Will be have a point to prove? Will he throw caution to the wind? He described himself as a “ruthless killer looking to put bodies in the dirt…” at the Media Day, so maybe there’s a hint.
This is an exciting match up and a great opener for the PPV component of UFC 239. Both are exceptionally skilled, technical fighters looking to build on recent victories, which will be exciting to see with the added suspense of knowing it could escalate into a crazy, FOTN brawl very quickly. “Strap yourselves in” etc and enjoy whilst we still have fighters like Sanchez around.