When we last left our heroes...The very concept of Diego Sanchez transports us to a time when the only rule of civilization involved the predatory senses of the first eukaryotes. When I watch Sanchez fight, I don't see a prizefighter. I see lions wrapping their teeth around flesh and bone, with only their pheromones to guide them into the future. This would normally be a simplistic analogy...the kind of doo dah analogies that define descriptions of valor in combat, but Sanchez fights in a way that approximates the phrase "literally primal" (were there such a thing).
For my money (which there's not much of), Sanchez is the most fascinating guy to watch in MMA. It's not that he's supremely talented. It's not even that he's exciting. It's that not even Linda Blair can compete with the possessed nature of the spirit that drives Diego.
Sanchez fell to a 24-6 overall record after losing to Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166. It was a brutal fight for reasons that by this point are obvious if you know Diego. Peruse youtube long enough, and you'll find plenty of highlights calling it the Mexican War this, and the Mexican War that.
Can we expect the same this weekend when he takes on the (technically) unbeaten Jury? At 13-0 with a 4-0 UFC record, not many people see Jury as a larger threat in the division.
His pedigree is pretty unassuming, which likely explains it. He lost to Al Iaquinta on the show, but he's racked up very big wins over guys like Michael Johnson and Ramsey Nijem, and is quietly one of the more intriguing fighters in the division.
I mean, who won't remember the way he knocked out Nijem? If he pulls that off against Diego Sanchez, expect his comparative obscurity to completely fade.
Here's Kid Nate, Dallas Winston and Connor Reubusch previewing the fight and offering their predictions:
What both men can do: I have a hard time really explaining Diego's strengths at this point. He fights with abstraction behind his pugilistic sails. He's turned that bite down on your mouthpiece and hope for the best mentality into a way of life, and thus, a method of warfare.
Technically, he's not bad though. While his right hook, left hand combinations are rote, and sort of sloppy, he throws so much he's always able to land at least a few. He's not a power puncher but he's giving it his all with every punch, so every now and then he can catch guys like he did against Melendez, and Joe Riggs.
Striking wise, I feel like his left high kick is easily the best weapon he has, and a very good one at that. But obviously it's his grappling that he's most technical with. His game used to rely on scrambles, and transitions, but he's abandoned that lately. Nonetheless, it's still there. I'll never not take any preview opportunity to remind those that don't remember how he essentially outgrappled Nick Diaz, securing an armbar for a brief moment in the 3rd round at one point in their famous bout, or refer a casual fan to his grappling match with phenom Marcelo Garcia. He's a legitimately talented fighter who I wish would fight to the type of grappling strength he showed against Jon Fitch.
As for Jury, he's pretty meat and potatoes. I'm surprised he's gotten as far as he has. He has a big right hand from his traditional stance, but his strength is being able to create opportunities. He's not a flashy submission fighter, but he'll find submissions amidst flurries on the ground. He's not a flashy boxer, but he can land incredible shots with efficient timing on the feet. He's active on the ground, and is defensively sound while executing great positioning when on top.
What both men can't do: Nijem handwrapped that knockout for Jury. The punches Ramsey threw prior to being knocked out were awful. Granted, Sanchez will be throwing wildly enough to leave himself open but Sanchez has an incredible chin. Jake Ellenberger landed his best punch on Diego and he still didn't go down. It's probably the best 'chin' in the business right now. It's so great, it even has its own meme (not for the feint of heart).
A lot of people are on board the Jury train, but I'm not buying it. I get the oddsmaker logic; Sanchez is trending down, while Jury is trending up. Jury looks young, strong, and intelligent while Diego looks old, grizzled, and aloof.
A fair point. But Deigo is also still a technician. Even in brawling he was able to acquire back control twice on the massively more talented Gilbert Melendez. Jury looked awful against Mike Ricci, who is nowhere near the quality of Sanchez. If there's an argument to make for Jury it's that Diego doesn't have good takedowns, and so he'll be forced to stand with Myles. And? It's easy to play off Diego's striking as comical, and erratic.
That's obviously true, but he's had his moments on the feet against far better strikers than Jury in Ellenberger (who he was eventually able to land on), Melendez, Kampmann (brutal decision, granted), and Gomi.
Jury is a good fighter who will continue to improve, but it takes a specialist to take out Sanchez, and in Jury I see a very good but very typical jack of all trades type. He's simply not fast enough to pull away an easy decision on the feet. If he wins, he'll win with top control. If Diego is serious about fighting like a complete fighter, this will be a far tougher fight for Jury than oddsmakers anticipate.
X-Factor: The cut that opened up on Diego against Melendez was the same one Penn sliced a canyon through. That scar is brutal, and I also wouldn't at all complain if the fight was stopped because it opened up again. Frankly, I'd prefer to see more of it. There's no reason for a professional athlete to bleed like a stuck pig just to entertain those of us who are too drunk to realize that maybe enough's enough.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Every Sanchez fight reminds me of Brenden Gleeson's bloody last walk (and eventual flight) from In Bruges. Thus...
Prediction: Diego Sanchez by Decision.