Diego Sanchez may have awoken from his confessed nightmare, but there are still plenty of ghosts for him to bust before a title shot is more than just a dream.
Following his victory by unanimous decision over Martin Kampmann in UFC Live: Sanchez vs Kampmann, Sanchez is set to face UFC Hall of Famer and former two-time welterweight champion, Matt Hughes, in September at UFC 135 in Denver, Colorado.
Diego consistently proves himself to be one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC, having won several ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses in the past three years and one ‘Fight of the Year’ bonus in 2006 for his victory by unanimous decision over Karo Parisyan.
Provided Sanchez defeats Hughes—who lost 21 seconds into the first round to B.J. Penn in November 2010 after being knocked out for the second time ever—however, there are three fighters ahead of Sanchez in the division that should automatically be on his hit list during his journey for a title shot.
Prior to his meeting Josh Koscheck in the Octagon in April 2007, Diego Sanchez had a professional MMA record of 17-0.
Sanchez believed it was his destiny to go down in history as the first professional mixed martial artist to retire undefeated.
Koscheck believed it was his destiny to disrupt Diego’s plans, and disrupt he did, avenging the loss he suffered from Sanchez during the reality show.
Sanchez went to on to lose his next fight against Jon Fitch in UFC 76.
Koscheck–currently recovering from the orbital fracture he suffered during his fight against incumbent division champion, George St. Pierre, in a welterweight championship fight in 2010—has been hoping for a one-off at 185lbs against a not-yet-determined opponent.
Once he returns to the welterweight division–while Koscheck might have different plans—Sanchez might be looking to take Koscheck in a best-out-of-three.
Fitch was the next loss on the yellow brick road for Sanchez in September 2007 due to split decision.
Prior to his victory against Sanchez, Fitch—with one more fight than his Sanchez at the time—held a professional mixed martial arts record of 16-2 (1).
Of Sanchez’s 16 fights in the octagon, 10 have gone to the judges, compared to the one fight he won by decision prior to his UFC career.
His loss to Fitch was one of two split decisions he’s faced. The other was a win against Clay Guida in 2009, where they earned ‘Fight of the Night.”
A win is still a win, but a finished fight is always better than leaving it up to the judges. Fitch is one of the top three fighters in the division. If Sanchez makes his way towards the title, a rematch is almost inevitable.
This next time Sanchez should not leave it up to the judges, but instead make it a clean victory.
Wherever Diego Sanchez attempts to go, B.J. Penn will inevitably be in the way.
The last time the two fighters met in the Octagon, Sanchez weathered the destruction Penn rained down on him for five rounds during UFC 107: Penn vs Sanchez.
Dreams of wearing the lightweight division belt, however, were put to a halt due to a doctor stoppage after Penn landed a head kick that opened up a cut on Sanchez’s head that gushed blood all over ‘The Dream’s’ already battered face.
A rematch against 'The Prodigy' would require a more aggressive and intelligent strategy than what Sanchez executed during their last encounter in the Octagon. Penn already held the welterweight title once when he beat Matt Hughes in 2004 by rear-naked choke.
After losing two welterweight title shots since his return to the UFC in 2006, Penn will be just as hungry for the welterweight belt as—if not more than—Sanchez.