Diego “The Dream” Sanchez has a huge fight and opportunity ahead of him this weekend, in the way of a bout with Gilbert Melendez. Yet, Sanchez appears to be looking beyond or at least past the shoulder of Melendez, to lightweight division champion Anthony Pettis.
As Diego sees it, he feels he has the skills to deal with Pettis and in comparison between the two, Sanchez believes that his style would beat that of Anthony Pettis.
In his remarks, Diego ostensibly states that he can pressure Pettis to the point of getting him to the ground and then dominate him once there, with superior wrestling and grappling skills. All of this appears to be predicated on using his stand-up and timing to accomplish the task.
As Diego stated to MMAjunkie.com:
"I love the way I match up with Anthony Pettis. We're a contrast in styles and I feel my style beats his style. I'm a very good wrestler, and I'm a better grappler than I am a wrestler. I feel I'm the best grappler in the division at 155 and with my size advantage, I feel there's not a guy that I can't take down in that division. So, it just comes down to being sharp in my striking and being ready to make a fight a fight.
One of my best skills is catching kicks. If you watch a lot of my fights, nobody really tries to leg kick me, because if they try to kick me I'm really, really good at coming forward, grabbing kicks, catching kicks and turning it into takedowns. It's an art that I've established throughout my entire career, and when people try to kick me, they're on one leg, and when you're on one leg, that's the easiest time to take someone down.
I feel like my style beats Anthony Pettis' style, and I feel like I can pressure him and it's all about timing. I feel I have what it takes to win the UFC championship at lightweight."
However, two things need to be considered and let’s consider the second, first.
Anthony Pettis is a beast; everywhere. Even if Diego is a superior wrestler and grappler, he is not in Anthony’s league on the feet. His greatest advantage, as he has proven so many times in the Octagon, is that he has a chin, he’s tough as nails and that he has a ton of heart. There is no quit in Diego. If his opponent can’t stop him, he’ll just keep coming until either the bell rings or he's finished his opponent. In a phrase, Diego shows up.
That said, If Sanchez can’t get Pettis down and (attempt to) demonstrate his dominance on the ground, then what’s Diego’s contingency? Again, Diego is a tough as fighters come, but Pettis has made some great stand-up fighters look pretty bad on the feet. If his game plan is to get him down, then Diego should do his best to finish Pettis on the first attempt, because surely he’s not going to go 100% on his takedown ratio over five rounds, and the longer "Showtime" survives, the harder it will be to either take him down or submit him.
As to the first and more important item for Sanchez to be concerned with, there is the question of Gilbert Melendez.
As stated, his remarks might lead fans to believe that Sanchez might be looking past “El Nino” and if so, that’s a big mistake. It hard to see how he is, because the two are friends and have trained together in the past. Diego is well aware by way of personal experience and Melendez’s record, that he’s not a fighter to be trifled with. However, as Diego has a title shot on his mind and he sees his fight with Melendez as the bout that can make that happen for him, it could be that he’s taken his eye off of the prize.
Sanchez’s remarked on this weekend’s UFC 166 bout as such:
"I get out there and make a huge statement, if I take it to him and I dominate him in striking, I dominate him in mixed martial arts and I finish this guy that nobody has ever finished, I think it's a huge statement. It makes a case for a title shot and it's going to put me right back to the top."
Most Sanchez fans would probably agree with that statement. A win and particularly a finish over Melendez, is / would be a big statement and if he got it, it would put him near the top and in title contention. However, he has to get the win to get the buzz and the bee that he needs to swat on Saturday night has a heck of a sting.
As fans, all we can hope is that Diego is thinking about Melendez on the 19th and not Pettis. If so, we should have a drawn out war. If not, El Nino might just cull a quick win.
Good luck to both fighters; may the best, most focused man win.