Martin Sano Jr ‘s UFC debut at UFC 266 ended in 15 seconds, thanks to a devastating straight right from opponent Matthew Semelsberger. Daniel Vreeland takes a look at how Sano’s UFC debut – and resulting knock out – went down.

The Lowdown

To a lot of people, it came as a shock to see someone like Sano Jr. show up on the UFC’s roster. After all, he hasn’t won a fight since 2014 and hasn’t even fought since 2017. Before UFC 266, he was just 0-2-1 in his last three fights and seemingly had less than zero momentum in his career. He is, however, friends and training partners with Nick Diaz. Diaz seems to have worked into the agreement for this fight that he’d get to bring along a couple of training partners for their debuts. Nick Maximov, who previously was not offered a contract after his Contender Series bout, also got a shot despite not having a fight since then. This pick seemed a bit more egregious given what Sano Jr. has accomplished so far.

From a stylistic standpoint, Sano Jr. has some of the traits that you’d expect from a Diaz trained fighter. He moves forward with no fear whatsoever. He also has some pretty solid jiu-jitsu from the top control positions. However, where he differs is what he looks like on the bottom. Compared to Nick or Nate, Sano Jr. really struggles off of his back. In his last pre-UFC fight, he looked like a fish out of water after being taken down. However, he did bounce back from the early part of that fight and earn himself a draw, which is indicative of his will and grittiness.

The Aftermath

Sano Jr. entered the fight on Saturday as a massive underdog (+370) to Matthew Semelsberger. In fact, he was the biggest underdog on the card with the exception of Lauren Murphy, who had the daunting task of dealing with Valentina Shevchenko. There was good reason to feel that way too. Sano Jr. had trouble off his back last time his last out, and this time he faced a fighter with a wrestling base and a great blast double.

He also leads with his head in exchanges and moves forward recklessly. This works on some people, but typically not on people with the composure and raw KO power that Semelsberger often demonstrates. And did so again, in this fight.

I expected the path to victory for Sano Jr. had to be through his top control. The biggest problem with that is that I had no idea how he’d get the fight there. Not only does he not have the wrestling that Semelsberger has, but he also gave up two inches of height and three inches of reach. Against a guy who does a good job maintaining distance, I couldn’t imagine that going well for Sano Jr.

There isn’t much to be said of Sano Jr’s debut. The whole thing lasted a grand total of 15 seconds and he wound up unconscious at the end of it. As previously stated, he simply leaves his chin exposed too much coming forward without the weapons to deter his opponent from popping him one. That’s exactly what Semelsberger did. Judging by the way the commentators were talking about Sano Jr, I would be really surprised if he gets a second chance in the UFC. 

What to Expect Long-Term

With the skills he showed in his UFC debut, combined with his age, it’s hard to be too positive about his chances of a sustained time in the UFC. He fights just a little too dangerously and hasn’t been all that successful. It’s also not like either Nick or Nate Diaz are on cards often enough to encourage the UFC to give Sano Jr. a second kick at the can. On the other hand, there is always a chance that he can make some improvement, but I don’t see it happening. It has been 4 years working with some top-notch guys but not much has changed.

If asked to give a final prediction on his career, I would expect that he doesn’t win a fight in the UFC. Furthermore, after the beating he received here, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was his only fight.

The Stats

NameMartin “The Spartain” Sano Jr.
FromVallejo, California
ClassWelterweight (170lbs)
Height5’11”
Reach74 inches
Pro Record4-3-1
Last PromotionBellator FC

Daniel "Gumby" Vreeland has been an MMA writer for over a decade. He currently hosts The Top Turtle Podcast and is a member of the UFC's ranking panel.