Following the third fight of the UFC 166, commentator Joe Rogan proclaimed the Lightweight fight between the two former Lightweight contenders Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez as the greatest fight he's ever seen. And it was an incredible battle. Both "El Nino" and "The Dream" swung for the fences for the entire 15-minute contest. It was an absolutely amazing display of heart from Sanchez who was cut early in the fight and continued on despite twice being examined by the ringside physician. In the end, regardless of his late-fight rally, Sanchez lost a unanimous decision in a valiant effort.
I don't want to take anything away from Sanchez here. Regardless of his status as a former contender, he was unranked going into this fight against the #2 Lightweight in the UFC. He was out of his league and a close decision win over a 2013 Takanori Gomi didn't qualify him to face Gil. That said, he gave every ounce he had in the attempt to pull off the upset, and despite clearly being outmatched, he was absolutely relentless and almost pulled off a huge upset in the third round when he rocked his opponent. Sanchez deserves every bit of respect an MMA fan has to offer for his performance at UFC 166.
There's one problem with this though. While it was a valiant effort and worthy of praise, it never should have been allowed to happen.
Throughout the first two rounds of the fight Diego was completely outmatched in every aspect of the fight. When he swung at Melendez, he missed and received two punches for each one of his that fell short. When he went for the takedown, he was sprawled on and received more strikes for his efforts. He was not competitive in the fight despite the strength of his heart.
In the second round, the ringside physician was called in to to check out the cut over Diego's left eye. He allowed Diego to continue. At the point, the cut was more minor and it made sense for him to allow him to fight on. However, between the second and third rounds, the cut had worsened. It was a gaping wound that allowed blood to pour down Sanchez's face. Still, the doctor let it continue. Again, midway through the third round, the action was stopped, and the physician allowed the fight to continue once again. Especially in the final check when Sanchez's blood was flowing profusely, it's the ringside physician's job to protect the fighter from himself, not to let him "go out on his shield".
Finally, there's the celebration of the fight itself. If we ignore the cut, Diego was almost entirely uncompetitive throughout. He had minor success early in a grappling exchange and rocked Melendez in the third. Aside from that, he lost the other 14 minutes of the fight. In almost every exchange when Diego really attacked, he whiffed on his punches while taking brutal shots to a sensitive area. It wasn't a back and fourth brawl like Garcia/Zombie I, and it wasn't Shogun/Hendo with a late rally by a hurt fighter. It was Diego Sanchez taking a brutal beating for 14 minutes.
Diego deserves praise for his tenacity in never giving up, but he shouldn't have been put in the position where one of his wild punches landed. After all, the fight shouldn't have gotten to that point anyway. And MMA fans shouldn't praise one-sided beatings as fight of the year candidates.
Zombie Prophet has a video playlist of all the UFC 166 post-fight interviews, highlights and press conferences from last night in Houston.