Sanchez beats Riggs with early knockout

Times Staff Writer

Diego Sanchez's unbeaten Ultimate Fighting Championship career remained easily intact Wednesday as the welterweight used a devastating right hook-right knee combination to knock out Joe Riggs in front of a packed crowd of servicemen at the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

Sanchez (19-0), trying to become UFC's first unbeaten champion, ended more than a minute of first-round posturing with Riggs (28-9) by landing a right hook that knocked the veteran to the canvas.

As Riggs rose, Sanchez charged him and buried his right knee into Riggs' face. Sanchez then pounced on Riggs and slammed three more right-handed punches toward his opponent's right ear, prompting referee John McCarthy to stop the fight 1 minute 45 seconds into the first round. Riggs had never been knocked out.

"I found that place on the chin early, and it was a good night," Sanchez said.

It was Sanchez's first knockout since April of last year.

Sanchez stands poised for a welterweight title fight in 2007, but champion Georges St. Pierre probably has two bouts to complete before that.

UFC President Dana White said Sanchez could fight former welterweight champion Matt Hughes in the spring.

The event drew more than 3,000 Marines, along with 10 members of the public who bid more than a combined $10,000 for use in Miramar's Operation Homecoming that supports troops returning from Iraq.

Former Marine Luigi Fioravanci dropped welterweight Dave Menne with a thundering right hand late in the first round of a preliminary bout, then won by technical knockout with a flurry of left-handed punches.

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