After dropping down from 170-pounds to ply his wares in the lightweight division, Diego Sanchez was finding success in his new slimmer state.
Clay Guida had gained a reputation for always having the kind of fights that will turn someone who had never seen an MMA fight into a lifelong fan.
When they met at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 9 Finale, hype was riding high for the fight. And somehow it not only failed to disappoint, it actually exceeded expectations.
Before "The Carpenter" steps into the Octagon against another exciting fighter in Anthony Pettis this Saturday (June 4) at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale: "Pettis vs. Guida," we'll take a look at his tilt with Sanchez that won Fight of the Year honors from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Inside MMA, and the World MMA Awards.
Let's dive in.
"The Nightmare" made his lightweight debut a fight prior, defeating fellow TUF winner Joe Stevenson by decision.
When Sanchez and Guida were booked against each other in June of 2009, bragging rights and a W in the record books weren't the only things at stake.
The fight had title implications and each fighter fought as if their career depended on it.
Let's check it out.
The two fighters meet in the center of the Octagon for pre-fight instructions and each stares daggers into the other.
Sanchez bursts out of his corner and immediately engages his opponent. They begin swinging wildly in one of those "I can't believe this is actually happening"-type exchanges.
"The Carpenter" is shoved against the cage as both fighters deliver punch after punch. Sanchez then delivers a handful of uppercuts that snaps Guida's head back.
The Greg Jackson product gives his opponent a bit of distance, perhaps lulling him into a false sense of security. Instead, "The Nightmare" lunges forward, leaps into the air, and buries his knee into Guida's chest.
An uppercut is followed by a hook and Guida has been on the defensive this entire time. "The Carpenter's" mouthpiece is flung from its home and finds itself on the Octagon mat as a result from one of the seemingly endless strikes Sanchez has thrown.
Another flying knee is thrown from Sanchez and it's hard to believe that we are less than 30 seconds into the fight.
Sanchez continues to pressure Guida against the fence, throwing uppercuts, hooks, and knees -- everything but the kitchen sink it would seem like.
The wild-haired madman ducks under a punch and is able to drop Sanchez onto his back. But the New Mexico native keeps an active guard and doesn't allow Guida to get any significant offense in before he is kicked off the both fighters return to their feet.
A short stoppage is made to allow Guida to get his mouthpiece back in place. It's quite lucky because second later "The Nightmare" blasts him straight across the face with a picture perfect headkick that still shocks me as to how "The Carpenter" was not knocked out cold.
Guida falls onto his back but eats the kick. It's absolutely insane.
Seconds later, he's back on his feet and exchanging with Sanchez, not really showing any ill effects of the kick that would have knocked out just about any other man.
The two fighters open up the second round circling and exchanging. Guida is able to get a takedown within the first minute and starts to land elbows from Sanchez's guard.
"The Nightmare" isn't one to just lie there and take damage without dishing out some of his own. He begins delivering elbows in turn from on his back while trying to create distance between himself and Guida's Velcro-like body.
Three minutes into the round and the entire story has been "The Carpenter's" stifling top control. Frustrated and tired of being on his back, Sanchez begins elbowing the hell out of Guida's head.
Seconds later, blood is pouring from the skull of the Fight of the Night stalwart and is soaking "The Nightmare's" body and the cage mat, making both look like they are out of a horror movie or crime scene.
The third and final round begins and Sanchez is keeping his distance, wary of the impending takedown attempt. Another headkick missed by mere millimeters.
Beyond that, "The Carpenter" seems to be the aggressor so far. He takes the center of the cage and stalks his opponent. He steps forward and cracks Sanchez on the jaw with a textbook hook.
With only two minutes remaining, Guida shoots in but ends up finding Sanchez on his back. A rear naked choke is teased but the blood and sweat makes grabbing hold of any kind of submission near impossible.
Guida now on top and from his back, Sanchez begins working towards a kimura but it leads nowhere. Guida, having heard the clacking signifying the last 10 seconds of the round, opens up and begins hammering down on his opponent.
When the scores were read, no one was exactly sure what to expect.
The first round was obviously Sanchez's but did he do enough to earn a 10-8?
The second round saw Guida control the action for a majority of the five minutes but "The Nightmare" scored significant blows from his back.
The third round was razor-thin close. "The Carpenter" was the aggressor to be sure but it didn't seem like he won the round overwhelmingly.
The first judge's score is read: 29-28 for Guida.
The second: 29-27 for Sanchez, a result of a 10-8 first round.
And finally the third score -- another 29-28 -- is announced for the winner Diego Sanchez.
It's a shame that B.J. Penn ran the former "Nightmare" and now "Dream" out of the lightweight division. Returning to his original home at 170-pounds, Sanchez now finds himself separated by 15 pounds from his Fight of the Year opponent.
While some fans feel that rematches are the result of lazy matchmaking, I can't possibly imagine anyone who loves this sport not wanting to see these two warriors battle it out one more time.