Follow Knuckle Junkies

Bob Barton | Bob Barton Photography

El Dirte Diary - Quarterfinal Round

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

After making it into the The Ultimate Fighter: Season 23 house with an eye-opening win over the hyped Phillip Hawes, Andrew Sanchez has had limited air time during the ensuing two episodes that followed.

That all changed on Wednesday night.

Sanchez, an Illinois product who cut his MMA teeth in the St. Louis area before heading to K-Dojo in New Jersey, was picked by his coach Claudia Gadelha to fight Myron Dennis. The winner would advance to the semifinals in the men's bracket of the show.

The week before, Gadelha's Blue squad improved to 2-0 over UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk's Team Red and Gadelha chose Sanchez (the No. 1 overall male selection) next up for a specific reason.

"Andrew is ready to go," Gadelha said on making the match-up. "He has so much talent. He is very skilled. He's a great wrestler and Myron is big and strong and has a lot of power and I want to break her biggest and strongest fighter now."

During the initial square off in last week's episode, Dennis said to Sanchez, "I hit hard." Sanchez responded with a confident wink.

Sanchez proved his coach's decision correct, earning a dominate decision victory Wednesday and advancing to the semifinals.

Sanchez scored the first of several takedowns a minute into the first round. Dennis had no answer and little movement from his back as Sanchez sprinkled in elbows and punches. Jedrzejczyk, pleaded with him to, "take a chance. Go," at the start of the second round but Dennis threw zero combinations. Sanchez scored another takedown around the 3:15 mark, bloodied Dennis' nose, and advanced one step further in the tournament.

KJ: Dennis never threatened and you were able to do more than enough. Were you surprised by anything in the fight?

AS: "I fought a smart fight and did my job. I shut him down and it was pretty demoralizing for him. He had no submission attempts and that left him feeling vulnerable. He would wait, wait, and explode. I was forcing him to stay in full guard. I didn't even want to pass. A pass can allow for scrambles and I wasn't going to allow it. I knew that his only chance is to let loose on someone who is right in front of him and on the fence. He's not super aggressive and I was not going to give him no chance to get off. My movement and my wrestling made him scared to commit."

KJ: It's good to see the ukulele made its return.

AS: "I brought it with me for that first week. When you make it into the house they go through all your stuff and are taking things out, like no books, no headphones, no music, and they were like, we'll let it slide. It was something to do to pass the time. You don't have much."

KJ: After the airing of the show, you were then on the episode of TUF Talk.

AS: "They put me up in a five-star suite in Beverly Hills and all that stuff. It was my first glimpse of showbiz. It's not really my thing but it's cool to experience it. Being on (The Ultimate Fighter) helps with all of that. It's like a boot camp."

KJ: We knew you were skeptical of the reality television dynamic going in. So far not just your team, but both sides, seem to be getting along rather amicably for reality TV standards.

AS: "From the first day, our whole team clicked and became friends, and even with the Red Team. Not me so much. I sort of distanced myself from (red team) in the beginning because they were my immediate target. I was always thinking, who will I be competing against. It's a reason why you have guys and girls hanging out a lot because you can relax a little. You know you won't have to be competing against them."

KJ: If Twitter or Reddit means anything, it appears that your coach (Claudia Gadelha) is picking up more fans with each and every episode.

AS: "Claudia is a sweetheart. She is really genuine about everything. Her and all the coaches, they really gave a shit. They were passionate and wanted to win very badly. They were amazing."

KJ: I wanted to ask a question brought up by PunchDrunk Radio's Dane McGuire, going into the show did you have a preference on either coach?

AS: "No. Not really. I didn't know that much about them. I had never seen Claudia fight and I watched Joanna fight only once. I was kinda of leaning toward Claudia because her and her coaches were Brazilian and I knew they would be more BJJ while clearly Joanna is stand up."

To read the first installment of the El Dirte Diary, click here.

Graphic by Chris Oth