For the majority of his career Diego Sanchez has been an extremely consistent fighter. In the early part of his career he went seventeen fights unbeaten, six of those in the UFC including notable wins over Kenny Florian, Karo Parisyan and Nick Diaz, and won the first ever season of The Ultimate Fighter.
He finally came undone against two of the best welterweights around, namely Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, but bounced back with a further two wins at 170lbs, before making a successful move to lightweight which resulted in two wins and a title shot at the champion at the time, BJ Penn.
Heading into that fight Sanchez was full of self-belief, and rightly so considering his record was now 21-2, and even his two losses had been closely fought encounters that had went the distance.
Things can change quickly in this sport though, and his long awaited title shot proved to be a wake up call as he was rocked by Penn in the first round, dominated for the next four rounds and finally stopped due to a major cut in the fifth.
Down but not out Sanchez decided to move back up to 170lbs, a decision which surprised some observers who believed he still had plenty of life left in him at lightweight despite the defeat. Sanchez had always intended to move back up to welterweight at some stage though as that was the weight that he felt most comfortable at and still had unfinished business in.
On paper his fight with John Hathaway on Saturday night seemed like an easy fight to ease him back into the division, with his opponent being far less experienced and only tasting main card action in the UFC for the first time. 22 year-old Hathaway had other plans though, and outclassed Sanchez for all three rounds in a way that only Penn had previously managed to do thus far in his career.
In the space of just five months and two fights Sanchez has doubled the number of losses on his record and suffered to two most convincing losses of his eight year career.
So where does he go from here? Does he bid a hasty retreat back to 155lbs, or stick to his guns and continue to get his career back on track in the welterweight division?
In the aftermath of the fight Dana White said that he didn’t understand why Sanchez had made the move in the first place.
“I don’t think Diego belongs at 170. I think it’s easier to be at 170. He looked soft. He looked real lethargic and slow and heavy. [One] fifty-five, Diego. Fifty-five. He’s a tough guy. I’m not his manager, but I think he should stay at 155. Listen, a loss to B.J. Penn doesn’t mean you go back up to 170. It means you stay at 155 and you do what Kenny Florian did. You stay in there and keep grinding it out and beating the top guys, and you get back in line and work your way up to the top again. Diego does not look good at 170.”
White says the final decision lies with Sanchez, but as yet the ‘Nightmare’ has not indicated where his future lies. His only comments so far about his last loss have come via a couple of brief messages on his twitter account.
“I’m sorry i let my fans down. this just means i will work harder to make sure i come out on top next time.”
“everyone has bad days at work, except when i do, i get black eyes.”
it’s clear that he has some thinking to do though as he needs to find stability and get back to winning ways as soon as possible. Personally I agree with Dana that he should head back down to lightweight where a rematch with fellow TUF 1 finalist Kenny Florian is still a fight that I’d like to see made at some stage in the next six months to a year.