Matthew Semelsberger of Ijamsville bounces back by beating Sano in 15 seconds at UFC 266

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September 26 — Matthew Semelsberger could barely contain himself.

He spontaneously did a backflip which didn’t quite land perfectly. He screamed at the top of his lungs into a nearby camera – which he appeared to inadvertently head butt. He pounded the web with his two fists, letting out another primitive cry as the brown hair of his mule noggin quivered.

This unfettered celebration was almost more activity than “Semi the Jedi” needed to blow up their opponent at UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Semelsberger, an Urbana High graduate and ascendant welterweight in the world’s first mixed martial arts cohort, landed another dynamite right hand, disconnecting Martin Sano from consciousness just 15 seconds from their first preliminary bout in the T -Mobile Arena.

After his first loss in three career UFC fights and his first loss in three years, Semelsberger explained last week how he “reprogrammed” his focus and prepared for a full 15-minute battle with Sano afterwards. his lackluster unanimous decision loss to Khaos Williams on June 20. Semelsberger also spoke about how the noise and praise surrounding his 16-second right-handed knockout of Jason Witt in March crept into his head and poisoned his approach ahead of the meeting with fellow fireball colleague Williams – a case it doesn’t. was not at all as well for the resident of Ijamsville.

So while continuing to physically refine his full game, Semelsberger (9-3 overall, 3-1 UFC) has taken extra time over the past three months to challenge himself, to block anything that might interfere with him. its capabilities. focus on the task at hand – it was the idea that he would be ready to unload his entire arsenal in three 5-minute rounds against Sano. He mentioned how he hoped for a performance that could emulate featherweight Max Holloway, who already set a record for the number of strikes thrown in a fight.

And then Semelsberger came out and delivered another knockout boffo.

It was the second time in four UFC fights that Semelsberger had won almost instantly with what he called, in the post-fight interview, “that beautiful right hand.”

“It was kind of ‘Oh, wow, it happened again’,” he said of his reaction when he grabbed Sano.

UFC broadcaster Jon Anik has unofficially said it was the sixth best result in UFC welterweight history (170 pounds).

After at least calming down a bit, Semelsberger spoke in the cage seconds later with UFC color commentator and former dual division champion Daniel Cormier.

“Man, that was amazing,” Semelsberger said. “I’m going to take the quick knockout, but we worked so hard on a high volume, being ready to mix everything up every second of the fight. But, man, I’m going to take it.

“If I can just put that beautiful right hand down every time, I will. But I was coming in ready for a war.”

Leading up to the meeting with Sano, Semelsberger seemed more comfortable with his career, having recovered from the disappointment of his disappointment in June. For example, her brother and frequent training partner, Michael, said there was much less tension in their Vegas week before Saturday – unlike June sentiment before Matthew battled Williams, expectations were weighing down. heavily.

In his camp for the Sano fight, Semelsberger worked more on merging the mental and physical aspects of the sport. He meditated more often. For easier access, he stayed at a hotel adjacent to his base gym, Crazy 88 MMA, in Elkridge.

“If you don’t put the tactical brain advantage behind [the physical training]”, he said,” you don’t really have much to do in a UFC fight – especially at that level, because you have guys who are smart and who are absolutely freaks. “

Semelsberger, 28, entered on Saturday knowing that a loss to a professional like Sano could, perhaps, significantly hurt his chances of maintaining a strong position with the promotion. The multi-fight contract Semelsberger signed in August 2020 was drawing to a close.

Plus, in MMA circles, he seemed to be wondering if Sano deserved this fight, which was his UFC debut.

It was speculated that Sano clinched the spot only because he trained closely with MMA legend Nick Diaz, who returned to the UFC later on Saturday on the main card (and lost to Robbie Lawlker) after more than six years away from the octagon.

Sano (4-3-1) hadn’t fought for three years, and that most recent result was a draw on a Bellator card. He hadn’t won since 2014.

In the fraction of a round that Sano and Semelsberger fought on Saturday, Semelsberger shot a bullet in the body in the first 10 seconds, backed up, then exploded – “like a freight train,” he said. Cormier said – with a direct punch that landed directly on Sano’s chin, violently twisting his head to the side.

Sano fell immediately and Semelsberger added a hammer fist before referee Mark Smith could come in between them to stop the fight.

As Semi got wildly elated in the cage and the reruns were televised on ESPN +, Cormier said, “When your chin touches your shoulder on the opposite side, you go to sleep.”

The official announcement came with medical staff and team members still caring for Sano.

Meanwhile, Semelsberger had his hand raised by Smith.

UFC commentator Paul Felder said after the result, “[Semelsberer] did exactly what he had to do tonight. Someone like Sano, don’t be disrespectful, you probably shouldn’t be here right now. And [Semelsberger] did its job. “

Mike Semelsberger, Matthew’s father, said via text on Saturday night that he felt Sano disrespected his son on Friday by refusing to shake hands with Matthew during the weigh-ins.

“Matt made him pay,” said Mike Semelsberger.

And he was able to do so in front of a crowd that included a group of his friends and family, including friends from his Urbana football days as well as friends who join Semelsberger – a self-proclaimed nerd – by playing “Dungeons & Dragons”. “.

It was the first time either of them had seen Semelsberger fight in person in the UFC. His three previous UFC fights have been with virtually no fan in attendance at UFC Apex, a much smaller venue in Vegas.

With the opening crowd far from complete on Saturday, Semelsberger got to experience what he had always envisioned for himself, making his way to the cage with his exit music, during a card numbered in front of a live audience in a huge arena.

Last week, as he looked forward to it, called it “the full experience as a UFC fighter.”

“So happy for him,” wrote Mike Semelsberger shortly after his son’s victory. “He works and trains so hard. It’s very nice to be here to watch him. My stomach was in a knot, but not now.”

With another little night’s work under his belt, Semelsberger will be able to resume training almost immediately. He’ll likely be able to take another fight soon, his body and mind working in synchronicity for the next step.

“I want to challenge myself,” he told Cormier. “After the fight against Khaos I had a lot of mental baggage. But I’m done. I’m ready to be one of the best fighters in the world. So UFC, that was the last fight on the contract. .. I’m ready for whatever you want to throw at me. “

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