Clay Guida (25-9) is no stranger to being given some of the stiffest competition within the UFC's lightweight division. He took on a much taller, more skilled Nate Diaz and managed to squeak out a decision win. He pushed the pace so vigorously against TUF alum Mac Danzig that Danzig's will to continue had been broken by the third round. He waged a relentless but losing war against Roger Huerta that many fans considered one of the most entertaining battles of 2007. Saturday night's Ultimate Fighter Season 9 Finale at the Palms in Las Vegas, Nevada won't be any different as Guida will be taking on one of the UFC's newest lightweight additions in the highly-touted Diego Sanchez (20-2).
Sanchez made his debut in the lightweight division at UFC 95 against veteran UFC lightweight Joe Stevenson. He showed some solid standup skills in the match, but many fans were a bit disappointed in Sanchez' performance. Currently, there is a lot of hype surrounding Sanchez's move to the division due to the success he had in the UFC's welterweight division. He narrowly lost to eventual title contender Jon Fitch at UFC 76, and he was defeated by fellow TUF 1 contestant Josh Koscheck at UFC 69. He managed to defeat Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan, John Alessio, and Kenny Florian.
Diego's move to the division has sparked a lot of interest from fans in terms of his skillset creating big problems for the existing roster of lightweights. Sanchez is most notable for being a very powerful fighter. He has an impressive record of using his strength to his advantage, but he's also very skilled in most areas of his game. He trained with professional boxers Joey Gilbert and Lupe Aquino, BJJ black belts Saulo and Xande Ribeiro, and a top-notch wrestling coach in Bob Anderson for the battle with Stevenson. If that wasn't enough, he recently obtained his BJJ brown belt from Saulo Ribeiro.
Guida isn't exactly a pushover matchup for Sanchez however. Guida's full intention in almost any matchup he's in is to push a relentless pace. He's one of the ultimate tests for a fighter's conditioning regimen. The only real problem for Guida is that his striking remains mediocre. Looping overhands that are easily countered by better boxers and a low connection percentage have been glaring weaknesses. Guida will have to rely on his wrestling base and pace to tire Sanchez, and that's a task that may be futile if Sanchez can outwrestle Guida.
Most fans will be picking Diego Sanchez in this matchup. It isn't a matchup that pushes him up in the rankings as Guida stands at #18 while Sanchez comes in at #11 in the USAToday/SBN Consensus Rankings, but it will continue to expose him to fans as a lightweight fighter. With an exciting fight in the main event and a win for Sanchez, it should propel him into the limelight of the division. The UFC may be thinking about matching him up with Sean Sherk or Gray Maynard in the future.
If Guida can manage to defeat Sanchez, he'd be lumped into the middle of the pack where he has fallen short in the past. Without some improvement in his striking, Guida really doesn't stand much of a chance on the outside. He produces exciting fights for the UFC, but at some point, he needs to make a breakthrough. I'm a firm believer that Guida's striking is one piece of his skillset that needs to significantly improve. Hopefully, we'll begin to see something happen in that area.
Check out Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida in the main event on Saturday night's TUF 9 Finale from the Palms in Las Vegas, Nevada and airing live on SpikeTV at 9 PM EST. Check out the rest of our The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale coverage.