Diego Sanchez wanted to keep things moving in the new year, and it didn't take long for the the UFC to line him up something exciting.
On Wednesday the organization announced on UFC Tonight that the former title challenger had recently signed an eight-fight and was looking to make his return to the Octagon at UFC 171 in Dallas. While a return on March 15 was speculated, there was no talk of who he could potentially face on that card, and questions swirled around which fighters "The Dream" would scrap it out with in his next showing.
Those questions were answered on Thursday when the UFC announced via Twitter that a fight between the 31-year-old Jackson's MMA fighter and Myles Jury had been made official for UFC 171.
The lightweight scrap is the latest high-profile tilt to be announced as the Dallas card begins to take shape. The event will also feature a welterweight tilt between Hector Lombard and Jake Shields in addition to the championship main event where pound-for-pound great Jon Jones puts his light heavyweight strap on the line against Brazilian powerhouse Glover Teixeira.
The matchup between Sanchez and Jury will feature one of the division's grittiest veterans against one of the brightest prospects at 155-pounds. The 25-year-old Team Alliance fighter has found victory in all 13 of his professional bouts, including all four of his showings under the UFC banner. Where his first three wins inside the Octagon garnered praise and acclaim, his most recent win over Tristar product Mike Ricci at UFC 165 in September was panned for its lack of excitement.
He won't have to worry about that aspect of the fight when facing Sanchez because that element is almost a certainty any time the New Mexico native steps inside the cage. That was certainly the case in his most recent bout against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166 back in October as the two Mexican-American lightweights put on a "Fight of the Year" worthy battle over the course of the 15-minute affair. Where Melendez's hand was raised at the end of the fight, Sanchez's performance certainly proved he's back to his hard-charging, forward pressure-based style.
While the fireworks in Houston certainly put Sanchez back on the map in the highly competitive lightweight division, he will be entering the bout with Jury with his back against the wall. The veteran has lost two of his last three showings and can ill-afford another setback if he hopes to remain in the upper-tier of the division.
On the other side of the coin, Jury will come into the bout looking to keep his undefeated record intact. A victory over an established name like Sanchez would certainly bolster his stock in the lightweight picture.