Diego Sanchez landed the fight of a lifetime when the UFC announced he would be fighting Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166. The pay-per-view is headlined by the Junior dos Santos/Cain Velasquez rubber match.
Sanchez has fallen on hard times as of late inside the organization. He is 3-2 in his last five fights. One of losses was to Jake Ellenberger, a known top-10 fighter, and the other was to John Hathaway in 2010.
Sanchez beat Paulo Thiago back in October of 2010 and Martin Kampmann in March of 2011. Since the win against Kampmann, Sanchez has only fought twice in bouts against Ellenberger and Takanori Gomi.
Though Sanchez beat Gomi, it came in a less than satisfying fashion. The days of the man formerly known as “The Nightmare” appear to be over. The Dream just doesn’t have the same fire as he did in his past.
With all of that being said, Sanchez will get an opportunity to prove naysayers wrong when he fights Melendez. Melendez, who is still a consensus top-5 fighter inside the UFC, will be looking to rebound from a split decision loss in his title fight against then champion Benson Henderson.
Considering how close the Melendez/Henderson fight was, it proves that Melendez is a fighter to be reckoned with at lightweight. If Sanchez can pull off what many would consider an upset, then he would show the world he still has a little left in the tank. A win could even set Sanchez up for a fight with another top contender in the division.
It’s no secret that Sanchez is better at lightweight than he was at welterweight. He looks faster and can be more aggressive against the smaller fighters. Melendez won’t be a fighter he will be able to overwhelm.
Melendez also uses aggression to his advantage and has cardio for days. The fight has the potential to be a late candidate for fight of the year, and Sanchez is just hoping he will be on the winning side of that decision.
At 31 years old and holding a 13-5 record in the UFC, Sanchez’s career is far from over. The question is whether or not he will continue on as a contender or a pretender.
Anthony Cloud is a MMA Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @TheAceCloud.