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UFC in Rio Rancho, main card: Blachowicz wins by KO; Sanchez by DQ

Jan Blachowicz throws a final punch at Corey Anderson as the referee prepares to stop Saturday’s fight at the Santa Ana Star Center. (Jim Thompson /Albuquerque Journal)

RIO RANCHO – Jan Blachowicz, having wreaked his revenge on Corey Anderson, loves his chances of getting in the Octagon with Jon Jones.

Meanwhile, Diego Sanchez loves New Mexico – where fate, or something, just won’t let him lose.

Blachowicz, a decided underdog in his main-event light heavyweight fight Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center, caught Anderson (14-5) with a short right hand in the first round and finished him with a punch on the ground.

Blachowicz had lost to Anderson by lopsided decision when the two faced each other in 2015.

The stoppage at the 3:08 mark improved the Polish fighter’s record to 26-8 and greatly enhances his chances of being the next challenger to Albuquerque’s Jones, the UFC heavyweight champion.

“I believe I should get the next title shot,” Blachowicz said after his dramatic victory. “I don’t want (any other) fight.”

Jones, who attended Saturday’s event, agreed that Blachowicz has earned a title fight.

“To finish the fight the way he did, first-round knockout, I don’t see how he can be denied,” Jones said.

Albuquerque’s Diego Sanchez, right, kicks Michel Pereira in the face as he works his way off his back Saturday night. Sanchez won by disqualification after Pereira landed an illegal knee to the head. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

In the night’s welterweight semi-main event, Albuquerque’s Sanchez (30-12) almost upstaged the main event in bizarre fashion, winning by disqualification when opponent Michel Pereira (23-11) landed an illegal knee to the Albuquerque fighter’s head. The disqualifying blow came in the third round of a fight that Pereira appeared to be dominating.

All three official scorecards had Pereira winning the first two rounds.

The last time Sanchez fought in New Mexico, in 2014, he defeated England’s Ross Pearson by split decision on a UFC card at Tingley Coliseum. Virtually everyone except two judges thought Pearson had won the fight decisively.

Sanchez, who suffered a cut to the head as a result of Pereira’s blows, was taken to a hospital and was unavailable for interviews.

Attendance at the Star Center was announced at 6,449.

In other main-card fights involving New Mexico fighters;

  • Albuquerque’s Ray Borg (13-4) 128 pounds, dominated Brazil’s Rogerio Bonterin (16-2), 126, in taking a unanimous decision.

After a competitive first round, Borg simply overwhelmed the Brazilian with superior strength and leverage, taking him down time and time again.

Often riding Bonterin’s back like a jockey on a quarter horse, Borg several times appeared close to securing a rear naked choke. Bonterin managed to fight off the submission attempts.

The scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 30-25.

Borg’s joy was muted by his failure on Friday to make the 125-pound flyweight limit (plus a permissible one pound for non-title fights). He has had difficulties making weight before, not only at 125 pounds but at the 135-pound bantamweight limit.

“It’s something that’s plagued me and followed me around,” Borg said, expressing concern about how those continued problems might affect his future with the UFC.

“But that’s something for another day,” he said, his young son Anthony in his arms. “Right now I’m just happy to get this win.”

  • Albuquerque’s Lando Vannata (11-4-2), 135 pounds, defeated Hawaii’s Yancy Medeiros (15-7), 135, by unanimous decision.

Vannata has won two “Fight of the Night” bonuses during his UFC career. This was not destined to be a third; the relative lack of action drew scattered boos from the crowd.

But Vannata thoroughly out-struck Medeiros throughout the three rounds, landing some sharp punches and leg kicks while Medeiros was fanning the air.

There were no takedowns, though Vannata came close on a couple of occasions

Vannata, however, did not leave the Octagon unscathed – limping out of the arena with a foot injury.

“I think my movement kind of kept (Medeiros) guessing on what to do,” Vanatta said during his media-room interview, after entering on crutches with his right foot heavily wrapped. “… There’s no better way to start 2020 than with a good win in my city … over a good opponent.”

All three judges scored it 30-27.

In other main-card fights:

  • Brok Weaver (15-4), 156 pounds, of Mobile, Alabama, won by disqualification (illegal knee) against Kazula Vargas (11-4).
  • Montana De La Rosa (12-5), 126 pounds, defeated Italy’s Mara Romero Borella (12-7), 126, by unanimous decision.

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