Diego Sanchez fought a 3 round war against man of the hour, Jake Ellenberger last night in Omaha, Nebraska, and provided us with what he called a "dogfight". Their meeting won fight of the night honors and after taking a savage beating through 2 and a half rounds Diego eventually mounted some offence when he took Ellenberger's back on the ground and began raining down his trademark ground and pound. While this was a great moment for Sanchez and his many supporters, it does not signify - as many are claiming - that Diego would have gone on to win in a 5 round fight. Diego was repeatedly lit up on the feet as he ran in with his trademark flurries and many of the moments where Ellenberger counter punched Sanchez could easily have been lifted straight from the BJ Penn fight at UFC 107.
Diego deserves enormous respect, he fought in front of possibly the most hostile crowd in UFC history who booed him at every opportunity, even after he had turned in a performance which was full of heart. Unfortunately he still showed all of the holes in his game that I commented on here. He still runs in with powerless flurries which either end in a predictable shot or a predictable high kick, and he still carries his lead hand down by his waste - SUICIDE for a southpaw. A good southpaw will never get jabbed, Diego seems to eat them non-stop. Additionally, while Diego has still never been knocked out, his chin is rapidly declining; the shots Ellenberger clipped him with throughout the bout made him stumble, roll his eyes or drop to his knees, while nothing that Sanchez threw on the feet even fazed Ellenberger.
Where then is Diego's place in the division? Clearly he is still tough enough to hang with the up and comers, and his win over Paulo Thiago showed that he can get the better of journeymen, particularly when he can force his game down their throats. However in 4 out of his last 5 matches Diego's holes have been exposed and punished - in the Penn, Hathaway, Kampmann and Ellenberger bouts his opponents were happy to walk him down, let him charge at them and take free counter punches all day. For all the emotional and physical excuses that supporters and promoters find for Sanchez, these strategies will work against his unchanging style on his best day. Intensity has turned to predictability, and you can set your watch by when Diego is going to charge in with a 2 - 3 - high kick / takedown combination.