Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
On Saturday night, after two more six-figure contracts are handed out to season nine’s Ultimate Fighters, two warriors will enter the Octagon for what is sure to be three exciting rounds in the lightweight division.
Standing on one side of the Octagon will be the original Ultimate Fighter, Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez. Boasting a 22-2 record, the man fighting out of Albuquerque, New Mexico holds victories over Joe Riggs, Karo Parysian, and current lightweight number one contender Kenny Florian. After a successful stint as a welterweight, the former wrestler took the plunge down to the stacked 155-pound division. In his first outing—and first pay-per-view headlining bout—he emerged the victor over Joe Stevenson. However, the fighter he’ll be facing when the cage door closes Saturday is as far from Stevenson as one can get.
Looking back at Sanchez will be Clay “The Carpenter” Guida. Unlike the “Nightmare,” the Illinois fighter earned his Octagon stripes without the aid of the The Ultimate Fighter. With victories over Mac Danzig, Nate Diaz, and Samy Schiavo, Guida will enter the Octagon with a very respectable 25-6 record. While Guida’s victories make him one to watch in the division, he may be better defined by some notable losses. At UFC 72, Guida lost a razor thin split decision to Tyson Griffin and was submitted by former rising star Roger Huerta at The Ultimate Finale 6. Guida has been unstoppable since the loss to Huerta and will ride a three-fight win streak into the Octagon on Saturday.
The truth is, you’d have better luck flipping a coin to pick the winner of the Guida-Sanchez bout than you would trying to analyze the fight intelligently. But since coin tosses don’t make for good reading, here’s the breakdown of TUF 9’s main event:
Sanchez’s keys to victory: While Diego Sanchez was victorious in his debut at 155, the win provided more questions than it answered. At 170 pounds, Sanchez was a monster in the Octagon and his never say die attitude kept the pressure on fighters, causing some of the best to wilt against the cage. Sanchez was unable to finish Stevenson, who appeared to gas as the fight wore on.
With 15 of his 20 victories coming via (T)KO or submission, the “Nightmare” needs to dig deep and finish a fighter in Guida that’s not known for being finished inside the cage. Sanchez will need to land big shots early that either hurt Guida, or force “The Carpenter” to respect his striking power. If Sanchez is unable to hurt Guida early—and often—he’ll be in for a long night.
Guida’s keys to victory: On paper, this is Clay Guida’s fight to lose. He’s been at the lightweight division longer and can easily match—or exceed—the break neck pace that Sanchez was known for in the welterweight division. Watch for Guida to come out and keep the pressure on Sanchez early. While “Nightmare” may hold an advantage in the grappling department, Guida is no slouch himself and the faster fighter will likely dominate the fight.
It may be safe to say that Guida stands at next to no chance of knocking out Sanchez, and while the “anything can happen” mantra is alive and well in today’s MMA, Guida has not shown knockout power in the past. If the bout goes the distance, Guida will likely outlast Sanchez en route to a decision win, taking one more step towards a shot at the winner of the BJ Penn-Kenny Florian championship bout at UFC 101.
Fight News Pick: If this match ends early, Sanchez will leave with his hand raised, if it goes to a decision, Guida will likely pull it out. However, since nobody respects a fence rider, I’ll go out on a limb and predict that “The Carpenter” adds another notch to his tool belt, besting Sanchez via decision.