A couple of hours after his fight with Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166, Diego Sanchez hit the nail on the head.
"Those are the types of fights you wait for your whole career," Sanchez said at the post-event news conference.
MMA fans would probably say something similar. The three-round war pitted one of the world's best lightweights in Melendez with one of its most popular in Sanchez. The result was one of the best, if not the very best, MMA fight of 2013.
Melendez moved his feet and pumped his jab to outscore Sanchez early and take control of the fight after working out of an early "backpack" position. Sanchez, a notoriously easy bleeder thanks to years of scar tissue buildup, found himself busted wide open toward the end of the first after a sharp elbow from "El Nino."
It only got worse—and so much better—from there. Regular spates of heavy trading opened a very deep cut over Sanchez's left eyebrow, and as a result, the fight was stopped twice so a doctor could examine the injury.
Melendez indulged Sanchez's desire to brawl, planting his feet and throwing very hard straight rights directly down the pipe before circling to reset and repeat. Despite the hard shots and the copious blood, Sanchez stood firm, exhorting Melendez to brawl even harder.
The fight ended with frenetic flurries, including a heart-stopping sequence in which Sanchez floored Melendez with an uppercut and then locked on a choke. Melendez wriggled out and the fight ended. The judges scored the bout for Melendez 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28, thus handing him a win by unanimous decision.
Melendez (22-3, 1-1 UFC) would now appear to be "in the mix" at the top of the lightweight division. Sanchez (24-6, 13-6 UFC) is 1-2 in his last three bouts but does not appear in any danger of losing his job given his performances. The two took in $60,000 bonus checks for waging the Fight of the Night.
Did you miss this epic battle? If so, don't worry. We've got you covered with this highlights package, courtesy of FoxSports.com.