Diego Sanchez: Why He Should Not Get A Title Shot Yet!
So UFC 100 is less than a week a way and everyone’s focus is on that event. But at UFC 101 BJ Penn puts his lightweight belt on the line against Kenny Florian, which should be a great match up. However, once that outcome is settled rumors have it that Diego Sanchez is next in line for a title shot against the winner. While Diego is a top tier fighter and has beaten lightweights like Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida is he truly deserving of a title shot at this point? Many people consider him the most deserving or the highest rated fighter at this moment and that the other fighters in the weight class are not at his level, so it is a forgone conclusion that Sanchez is the best choice for the number one contender slot. If Penn looses to Florian it sets up an especially intriguing match up between finalists from The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 in which Sanchez defeated Florian via TKO in the first round. If it is true that Sanchez is indeed next in line he could hope to follow in the footsteps of Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans both of whom won the light-heavyweight title. He also would follow other TUF contestants such as Josh Koscheck, Joe Stevenson, and Kenny Florian (twice) who have received title shots. Diego could be next in this TUF line (along with a win by Michael Bisping) of title contenders, but does he deserve the shot right now?
Coming off TUF one Diego Sanchez was considered the most complete fighter of the contestants. He easily ran through the competition on the show and his defeat of Florian (who was fighting above his normal weight class) in the Finale seemed to point to a great career. Call him brash, arrogant, confident, etc… Diego went on a five fight win streak that included wins over top fighters like Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Joe Riggs. His claim that he would become a champion and end his career undefeated, especially as he began to develop better striking to already go with his great submission skills, which was evident in his fight against Joe Riggs. People began to talk about him getting a shot at the welterweight title right after his fight against Season One fighter Josh Koscheck, who had developed a rivalry with Diego on the show.
The fight against Koscheck might have been seen as a turning point to many in Diego’s career. The fight was hyped as a traditional wrestler in Koscheck versus a submission specialist in Sanchez and many believed that the fight would be fought entirely on the ground. After three rounds all that transpired was Koscheck sticking his jab in Diego’s face en route to a decision. Many felt Diego looked tentative never closing or never really attempting to take the fight to the ground. Koscheck went on to fight Georges St. Pierre for a shot at the title, while Diego went on to loose a split decision to Jon Fitch. Diego then went on to win fights against David Bielkhaden and Luigi Fioravanti before making the drop to lightweight. Why would a fighter who was once in-line for a title shot and riding a two fight win streak move out of one division and to another? Two words Kenny Florian were given, although there were perhaps other reasons.
Diego’s reason for the move to Lightweight division was that he could beat Kenny Florian, who was ranked as the number one contender for the title currently held by BJ Penn (a fighter Diego also has stated he can beat). After all Diego had dominated Florian in the TUF Finale, so in his reasoning he could also beat him at lightweight. Because as much as Florian had progressed as a fighter, so has Diego, especially in his stand up skills. He fought a former title contender in Joe Stevenson and won a unanimous decision, then won a split decision against an always dangerous Clay Guida, although many felt Diego dominated the fight. Immediately after the fight many including Diego claimed he was in line for a title shot against the winner of the Penn vs. Florian fight. But the truth is that Diego should not get a title shot based on these two wins, and it is not because of his performance in either fight.
First off Diego never won a shot at the Welterweight title when it mattered, he may have been a top tier fighter, but so were a lot of fighters and he never got past a fighter when it really mattered. Furthermore, his wins over Guida and Stevenson were impressive in many respects, but the fact that one judge favored Guida and that he could not finish Stevenson who was dominated by both Florian and Penn still leave some answered questions about Sanchez. If you were to compare his fight record against Florian as a way to determine title contention, you will see that Florian has won six fights since his loss to Sean Sherk for the Lightweight title. This leads one to believe that either Diego is getting a “free ride” to the title based on a possible Florian vs. Sanchez II match up or because he has a recognizable name at Lightweight. Either way Sanchez’s record in the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions does not warrant a title shot at this point.
Finally people will argue that fighters like BJ Penn and Randy Couture have moved up or down in weight classes and received title shots. Also there has been discussion of other fighters like Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva moving up for title shots as well. The flaw in using these fighters as examples as to why Diego should get an immediate shot at the title is that at the time of their movement in weight class these fighters were either champions or former champions, in the case of Couture and Penn they moved to weight classes were both had held titles before. Diego has not held a title or even been in a fight for the number one contender spot. Any fight he has had with future title implications resulted in two losses, hardly a resume builder in this case.
Is Diego Sanchez a top fighter in either the Welterweight or Lightweight division? Absolutely! Is he someone who should receive a title shot in either division at this moment? Not at all! Like the Welterweight division, in the Lightweight division there are a number of fighters who also deserve to be considered as well. And why should either BJ Penn or Kenny Florian be overlooked for a title contender shot in the event of a loss at UFC 101? What if the fight is a “fight for the ages” should the looser have to go fight six fights (as was the case for Florian) before earning another shot, while Sanchez has earned one after four fights since his loss in a none title shot? If Diego wants to be considered a true number one contender he should have to earn it by defeating fighters such as Sherk, Edgar, Huerta (who has come back), Nate Diaz, or Tyson Griffin to name a few. Two wins in any division should not make you a title contender. No one is mentioning Rich Franklin as a possible Light-heavyweight contender at this moment and his victories at Middleweight and Light-heavyweight are much more impressive than Sanchez’s.