Clearly the crowd favorite, Gomi looked to feed off the energy of his fellow countrymen in attendance, while Sanchez hoped to play the role of spoiler and notch his first victory since March 2011, when he defeated (did he, though?) Martin Kampmann at UFC Live 3.
Sanchez looked flat and uninspired for the bout's duration, which may have been a product of his failed weight cut, but he secured a couple takedowns in Round 1 and stayed active for the bout's duration, which was enough to earn him the split-decision victory.
Personally, I thought Gomi should have won the fight with his constant pressure, technical striking and takedown defense, but such is the world of MMA judging.
What We'll Remember About This Fight
When reflecting on this fight, we'll first remember that it should have happened circa 2005.
While each fighter is currently past his prime, each still comes to fight, and fans and critics expected this to be a "Fight of the Night" contender.
At its conclusion, it was just that, and I mean that as a knock on the rest of the card, not as praise for the strength of this fight.
UFC on Fuel TV 8 has disappointed thus far, and the consistent but still somewhat lackluster action we saw in this matchup still beats some of the other snooze-fests we were treated to on the night.
In all, we will remember Gomi's body punches and activity, Sanchez's belly fat and early takedowns, the all-out brawl that broke out in the bout's final 10 seconds and the questionable decision.
For that fleeting moment, we were treated to what we expected the entire contest to provide.
What We Learned About Takanori Gomi
Gomi's conditioning, takedown defense and discipline surprised me in this fight.
"The Fireball Kid" looked sharp and quick for the full 15 minutes of action, and he smartly avoided most of Sanchez's takedown attempts.
In addition, he avoided the rock-em-sock-em brawl that Sanchez often drags his opponents into, and he stuck to his game plan and showcased a more technical striking game that earned him the decision in my eyes.
Did I mention that I thought Gomi won that fight?
What We Learned About Diego Sanchez
I hate to say this, but Sanchez's ship has sailed. His goose is cooked. His wick is turned to ash (is that one real? I don't think it is.).
Sanchez showed that he can take a punch and hang tough for 15 minutes inside the Octagon.
Nothing new to see here.
It was the same old Sanchez who has failed to produce consistent results of late, and, while "The Dream" is undoubtedly one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC's roster, he just has not shown that "it" factor that would lead one to believe he can contend at the highest level.
Expect him to become a transitory gatekeeper who can challenge foes at 155 or 170.
What's Next for Takanori Gomi?
This loss hurts for Gomi.
A win over Sanchez would have netted the Japanese fighter his third straight victory, but now he slips to just another lightweight lost in the crowd.
The UFC's 155-pound division is incredibly deep, and Gomi will have to score a signature win in his next outing if he wishes to advance his career.
Give him Melvin Guillard in a "loser leaves town" matchup and see what happens.
Somebody is going down.
What's Next for Diego Sanchez?
Sanchez's immediate future holds an important decision: Will he continue his career at lightweight or welterweight?
After missing weight and looking less than impressive against Gomi, Sanchez may be better suited at 170 right now.
For now, though, let's assume he stays at lightweight until otherwise noted.
If that is the case, I like a matchups with Ross Pearson, Evan Dunham or Joe Lauzon.
Lauzon is the sole fighter of the three coming off a loss, but that fight guarantees fireworks, and if Sanchez can dedicate himself to his training leading into the bout, it would more than make up for his shoddy performance against Gomi in Japan.
Because of that, I like a potential matchup of Sanchez vs. Lauzon moving forward.
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