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History in the Making: Diego Sanchez earns his stripes against Nick Diaz at The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale

Nick Diaz had a problem with Diego Sanchez.

The forever-scowling Stockton, Calif., bad boy didn't appreciate the fact that "The Nightmare" won a "reality show" to get into the UFC. He didn't appreciate that Sanchez was receiving what Diaz thought was undeserving respect. And in classic 209-style, he told just about anyone who would listen.

The trash talk that hyped the build up to his fight with Sanchez laid the blueprint for future fighters such as Jorge Rivera and the polarizing Chael Sonnen.

As the countdown for Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley (April 9) begins, we'll take a look at Diaz's classic battle with Sanchez at The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale, which resulted in an amazing display of grappling that proved that a fight isn't boring just because it hits the mat.

To this day, Diaz is adamant that he won the thrilling three-round welterweight scrap and that the judges sitting ringside got the decision all wrong.

Let us take another look:

Diaz had been hounding Sanchez for a fight since his arm was raised after defeating Kenny Florian earlier in the year. The Cesar Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt knew that Sanchez was now a name fighter and beating him would raise his own stock.

In fact, according to a Kevin Iole story from 2006, Diaz pestered the New Mexico native with emails about signing for the fight. Eventually, Diaz got his wish.

Sanchez returned to his old stomping grounds, the sight of the greatest moment of his budding mixed martial arts career: The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Just seven months earlier, he was fighting for a three-year, six-figure UFC contract on a card headlined by Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock.

Now, he was fighting for respect as the headliner. It had been a long road for the Greg Jackson fighter and he wasn't about to let Nick Diaz knock him off his path.

Looking at the tale of the tape, it is shocking to see that Sanchez was 23 and Diaz was only 22 years old when they met inside the Octagon in Las Vegas, Nevada, in Nov. 2005.

And both were essentially veterans in the sport at that point.

Diaz had been fighting for four years and was the first WEC welterweight champion. Sanchez, meanwhile, started fighting three years prior with a King of the Cage strap on his resume. 

On fight night, the passionate pair met in the center of the cage for pre-fight instructions and Diaz immediately got in Sanchez's face, forcing the referee to order him back. The bad blood was boiling over at this point.

So how did this fight shake out?

Sanchez immediately ducked down for a double-leg and ended up atop the dangerous jiu-jitsu specialist. Diaz rolled for a knee bar, but the Greg Jackson fighter defended and began to attack from the guard. Diaz landed several upkicks that his opponents answered with punches and elbows.

Sanchez latched onto an arm and attempted a kimura, but in doing so, lost position and gave up his guard to the Cesar Gracie product. A scramble later and Sanchez was back on top.

The pace is frenetic and the crowd loves it.

More ground and pound from from the guard from Sanchez as Diaz attempts to grab a punch and transition it into an armbar or a triangle. The first round ends with the New Mexico native standing over the Stockton bad boy throwing punches.

Diaz opens up the second round with a head kick that makes him lose his footing. He gets back to his feet quickly, but a perfectly timed takedown by Sanchez finds him almost immediately back on the mat. "The Dream," from Diaz's guard, lifts his opponent up and then slams him back down, a mini-Rampage of sorts, before opening up with punches to the body and head.

Halfway through the fight, Diaz has been on the receiving end of some brutal ground and pound for a majority of the fight. However, he's nowhere near being stopped and even landed a nice upkick that cracked Sanchez right on the jaw, but he's been on the defensive the entire time outside of that.

Diaz finally scrambles and tries to reverse position, but Sanchez is able to muscle his way out.

Sanchez lands an impressive knee to Diaz's chest while they're on the mat and then slips into mount. Diaz immediately throws his legs up and pops Sanchez up and off before sliding into guard. It was an absolutely brilliant stretch of grappling between the two.

Diaz is finally able to work his opponent over from guard, but it pales in comparison to the damage that Sanchez was doling out and for good reason because the moment Diaz really opens up to score, TUF winner is able to scramble out and shoot in for a takedown. Diaz uses Sanchez's momentum and flips him over, all the while trying to latch onto an arm for a kimura.

Sanchez turns out of the submission attempt and as both fighters get to their feet, he clinches up and throws a knee to Diaz's chin that finds its mark. The two exchange punches until a last second takedown finds both fighters back on the mat to end the round.

Diaz is bleeding from his nose and has a cut under one eye, while his other eye is sporting a nice-sized mouse. Sanchez is pounding respect into his face, one punch at a time.

The last round opens up with the Stockton native landing a left that momentarily drops Sanchez, but the future lightweight title contender shakes the cobwebs off quickly. As opposed to the first two rounds, Diaz seems to have finally timed the takedown and is able to sprawl out to avoid them, even sometimes landing a strike as Sanchez shoots in.

He overcommits during an exchange, though, and pays for it as Sanchez scores with his first takedown of the round. Diaz's chest is starting to get soaked in blood as Sanchez has now been busted open. The Greg Jackson fighter takes his opponent's back for a moment and while he does, you can see the blood dripping from Diaz's face onto the mat.

The jiu-jitsu black belt turns the tables on Sanchez after they get to their feet and scores with his own takedown. Diaz lands punches and elbows from the guard until "The Dream" is able to grab onto an arm and threaten with a submission.

Diaz slips out, Sanchez reverses the position and we're back to the familiar sight of Diaz on his back while his opponent lands ground and pound. The round, and the fight ends, where most of the action has taken place:

The mat.

Sanchez and Diaz are both bloody messes, battered and bruised, when Sanchez is announced as the winner by unanimous decision.

After the fight, Joe Rogan asked Diaz if he had  developed some respect for Sanchez, the man who had just bested him over 15 minutes. "Not really," responded Diaz to a chorus of boos.

There's just no pleasing some people, I suppose.

After their epic battle, the careers of the two fighters took wildly different turns. Diaz lost his next two in the UFC and got released by the promotion. He returned as a last minute replacement one fight later, but decided not to re-sign after rattling off two wins.

Since then he's defeated Japanese legends Hayato Sakurai and Takanori Gomi, although the latter victory was overturned to a no contest. He's 13-1-1 since leaving the premier fighting organization, avenging that lone lost to KJ Noons and also becoming the Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.

Sanchez continued to run through 170 pounders -- including a highlight flying knee knockout over Joe Riggs -- until he ran into two-thirds of the American Kickboxing Academy welterweight wall. Losses to Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch convinced him to drop down to lightweight soon after where he picked up two wins over fellow TUF winner Joe Stevenson and fan favorite Clay Guida.

Sanchez was awarded a title shot against BJ Penn, but was thoroughly dominated.

He returned to welterweight in an upset loss to John Hathaway but has once again found his form beating the likes of Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann. Despite beating Diaz that night, Sanchez still hasn't fulfilled the promise of his young potential and attained championship gold, while the Stockton fighter has found success in Strikeforce and Japan.

Such is the mistress that is mixed martial arts. She can be cruel and take an undefeated future champion and toss him crushing losses that leave his face scarred for life or she can be fortuitous and take a fighter who has been cut and had the biggest win of his career overturned and make him into a top 10 welterweight.

Can Sanchez find his way back onto the championship path? Can Diaz continue his good fortune and extend it past this Saturday when he takes on Daley? And if so, will we one day see Sanchez-Diaz 2 inside the Octagon?

We should be so lucky.

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