UFC brawlers stand up, trade more punches

JOSE RODRIGUEZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

To the great unwashed, it looks like this: A couple of guys in colourful shorts enter the caged Octagon, roll around the mat, drop a couple of elbows then find a limb to twist until one of them surrenders.

For years, the ground game has been the lynchpin of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

UFC greats such as Royce Gracie, Matt Hughes and Randy Couture have made careers out of taking guys to the mat and unleashing a buffet of beatings and submissions.

But there is a mini-revolution of sorts taking place.

In the ever-evolving sport of mixed-martial arts, more and more fighters are concentrating their training on striking and the stand-up game.

This was evidenced at this week's Ultimate Fight Night at the Red Rock Casino and Spa in Las Vegas.

At least a couple of fighters -- including headliner Diego (Nightmare) Sanchez -- abandoned their traditional wrestling roots to concentrate on stand up.

Sanchez, best known for winning The Ultimate Fighter 1, is a ground-and-pound specialist.

His strengths are his grappling ability and his stamina.

But in his scrap against Karo (The Heat) Parisyan, he showed he can comfortably fight on his feet.

Crisp jabs kept the cut-up Parisyan at bay and, in close quarters, Sanchez executed a highlight-reel knee that knocked one of Parisyan's teeth clear from his mouth and onto the canvas.

Fellow Ultimate Fighter alumnus Josh Koscheck also showed he'd been working on his striking.

The four-time All-American NCAA wrestler took less than a round to dispose of Canadian Jonathan Goulet with a bevy of unanswered punches.

So with all these relative newcomers concentrating on their standup, does it spell the end of ground game dominance?

Hardly.

Dean Lidster, Tito Ortiz, Matt Hughes, Babalu and a host of others will ensure that doesn't happen.

And those without a solid ground game -- outside of maybe Chuck Liddell -- will undoubtedly end up pretzeled into submission by some Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.

What it does mean, in my humble opinion, is the potential for more exciting scraps.

More fighters willing to stand up and trade and more of the reason many fans tune in -- to watch a good knockout.

FIGHT NOTES:

- Look for Diego (Nightmare) Sanchez to get his title shot against the winner of Matt Hughes/Georges St. Pierre. As strange as Sanchez may be -- with his over-the-top God squad verbage and just plain creepy pre-fight prep -- there's no denying his talent.

- King of the Cage is set to hold another card in Calgary in late September. The event is expected to take place at the Corral and will include world lightweight champ Mac Danzig in a title match. His opponent has yet to be named.

- Toronto's Rob (Maximus) MacDonald has been added to the UFC 62 undercard for next weekend. He will take on Eric Schafer.

- mmaweekly.com says former heavyweight champ Frank Mir -- who looked out of shape in his last two fights -- will take on the highly-rated Brandon (The Truth) Vera at UFC 65.


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