After an entire year away from the cage and almost four years away from the lightweight division, Diego Sanchez made his long awaited return to action at tonight's (March 2, 2013) UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann" event at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, against Takanori Gomi in a 155-pound featured contest.
"The Dream" raised questions on his health and motivation when he missed weight by two pounds and forfeited 20-percent of his purse but assured fans he was raring to get back to the top of the food chain, starting with a thrilling victory over "The Fireball Kid."
It looked rough early. Sanchez struggled to find his range while Gomi looked nice and comfortable in the pocket. Diego even broke out the kicks and wild takedown attempts. Crazier still?
A kneebar attempt.
It failed and the two quickly went back to exchanging punches and kicks but at least we knew Sanchez wouldn't hesitate to go there if the opportunity presented itself.
Round two was a carbon copy of the first, just with less takedowns and submission attempts. Sanchez, for all the fire he claimed to have, simply looked hesitant and worn, at least for most of the round. He turned it on a bit late but time was rapidly running out.
No different than Hector Lombard earlier in the night, Sanchez understood he was likely down on the cards and needed something big in the third and final round. His mad dash to the center of the cage to meet Gomi at the pass was a clear sign of as much.
He just didn't deliver any meaningful offense after teasing it.
As noted repeatedly by color commentator Kenny Florian, Gomi had Diego's timing and set ups down pat, leaving very few openings as the clock ticked down. Sanchez failed to exploit any of them and the clock hit zero, sounding the horn on an unsuccessful return to 155-pounds for "The Dream."
Or so it seemed to anyone watching at home.
When the scores were read, Sanchez had earned a split decision in a bout that will be widely debated in the days to come. How did you Maniacs score it?
For complete results and blow-by-blow coverage of UFC on FUEL TV 8 click here.