UFC 95 “Sanchez vs. Stevenson” is set to go down tonight starting at 9 pm ET from the O2 Arena in London, England. Headlining the event opposite Joe Stevenson will be Diego Sanchez, a former welterweight contender making his much-anticipated debut at 155 lbs.
The inaugural Ultimate Fighter (TUF) middleweight champion had resisted the move in recent past, especially since he was knocking on the door of a potential 170-pound title shot with a win over Thiago Alves at UFC 90: “Silva vs. Cote” back in October.
Sanchez had to withdraw from the bout, however, because of a rib injury. Alves went on to strafe last minute replacement and top player in the division, Josh Koscheck, to score a convincing unanimous decision win.
While the injury was legitimate, it didn’t stop the critics from making accusations about his desire to fight the dreaded “Pitbull.” Some even accused him of “running” to the lightweight division to avoid him.
Sanchez was unfazed.
“People are entitled to an opinion. It is what it is. You get hurt, you get hurt. I just trust God’s plan!”
His new career at 155-pounds starts against one of the top contenders in the weight class. Joe Stevenson, TUF 2 welterweight winner and newly-minted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, poses a very serious threat to Diego’s plans to move quickly through the lightweight ranks.
And Sanchez isn’t taking it lightly.
“It’s a good opponent and I’m very prepared. Being the main event at a UFC is a dream come true. I’m ready for the time change, it’s all about being able to flip the switch to ‘on’. I can do that very easy after learning peak mind state training at Tony Robbins. My game plan is to just outclass him in all aspects and to stay out of his guillotine. I’m prepared for that move.”
When Diego posted to his MySpace blog last December that he was dropping to lightweight, it wasn’t long before he was called out by former 155-pound title holder Sean Sherk. A win over Stevenson and Sanchez feels a bout with Sherk is inevitable.
“It will happen. He is the top fighter at 155 in my opinion. He just was dumb to try and strike with BJ (Penn at UFC 84). He should have pushed the pace with scrambles and a lot of takedowns. But I guess he was not confident in his ground game.”
As if facing “The Muscle Shark” wasn’t bold enough, “Nightmare” can even see himself eventually taking on perhaps the best lightweight in the world in BJ “The Prodigy” Penn.
“(Dropping weight will be a) good opportunity to better my stock as a fighter. Yes, I beat (Kenny) Florian easy and think as long as I show I can make the weight and dominate Joe, I can argue … I know the fans want me and BJ. It makes no difference in the outcome. BJ gets tired easy. It’s pathetic to think I really believed he had focused and trained hard (for UFC 94). I hope we get to fight. It’s a dream fight for me.”
Despite his optimism, not everyone was convinced that Sanchez would be able to drop the weight in time for his fight at UFC 95 - especially since he was as high as 195 lbs. just two months out.
It didn’t matter. Aside from his commitment to his new division, Sanchez had the power of herbal sweetener Stevia on his side.
“Stevia is amazing, good for cutting weight. It’s like a healthy lemon aid. Sweet! Also it gives good energy. I’m faster, stronger, more dedicated, and very focused - like never before. It’s all or nothing from here on out, I promise.”
In the end, Sanchez can’t credit Stevia, dedication or anything else for his overall success in the UFC. That good fortune came from none other than the man upstairs, the notorious G.O.D.
“All things are possible through Christ who strengthens me! The victory is not mine, it is his. Without him I am nothing. With him I am everything. I love Jesus so much! Thanks (also) to the Maloof family, Sacramento Kings, Bad Boy MMA and all my supporters.”
It all goes down a little later tonight. Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the tape-delayed main card action starting tonight at 9pm ET.