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Shots After The Bell: End of the road rapidly approaching for Diego Sanchez

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As much as we love watching Diego Sanchez fight, UFC Fight Night 108 made it pretty clear that it’s time for the ‘Lionheart’ to consider retirement.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Iaquinta vs Sanchez Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

UFC Fight Night 108 went down Saturday night from the Bridgestone Arena in Nasvhille Tennessee and it was full of entertaining matches from familiar faces and new talent. As always, there were a bunch of interesting conversations worth having that came out of the show, and I do my best after each event to hit up a few of them. Let's do this!

Main Event Matters

Last night's Nashville card was pretty impressive on paper. Considering the number of UFC events lately filled with talent few fans recognize, UFC Fight Night 108 was bursting at the seams with names. But there was one constant complaint leading up to the event: the headlining fight between Cub Swanson and Artem Lobov (watch the results here).

With Cub Swanson having headlined two Fight Nights in the past, most of the hate was reserved for Artem Lobov, whose 13-12 record led many to wonder what exactly he'd done to earn himself top billing on a UFC card. Could it have to do with his close relationship with Conor McGregor, who brought "The Russian Hammer" into the UFC on his coaching season of The Ultimate Fighter?

For all the talk of the UFC being a meritocracy, there have always been cracks in that facade even before the WME-IMG days. Dana White and the other top brass have favorites on the roster that get better placement on cards and more chances to succeed. See: Sage Northcutt. Now people are wondering whether Conor McGregor may also be getting some say on matters like this. We've heard of deals that included agreements to bring other members of a fighter's gym into the UFC. But are we now at a point where who you know can be just as important as who you beat?

Fortunately, once the cage door closes there's no one you can rely on other than yourself. Cub Swanson made Lobov look like an unranked fighter taking on the #4 featherweight, which of course was exactly what he was. Now Cub just has to hope that victory helps him in his as of yet fruitless quest to earn a UFC title shot. If only he had a few friends in high places to vouch for him.

Platinum Plated Douchebag?

"Platinum" Mike Perry has been a controversial figure since arriving in the UFC less than a year ago at UFC 202. He raised some eyebrows when he offered his hand to Hyun Gyu Lim at the weigh-ins, only to pull it away last second and scream in the Korean's face. Less people were laughing when one of his cornermen was overheard making fun of Lim's eyes at the start of their fight. But Perry went on to knock Lim out in brutal fashion, and people started looking forward to the brash fighter's wrecks inside and outside the cage.

There's a lot of skeletons in Perry's closet. The fighter admits “I smoked drugs, I carried guns, and I thought I was a gangster," until a stint in jail for burglary woke him up and got him serious about his fighting career. He continues to carry the kind of cocksure swagger that tends to polarize people, and that "Platinum" face tattoo also gets a lot of attention from the Mike Perry hate wagon on internet forums.

But you can't deny the kid's got the kind of knockout power that goes a long way in the UFC. That tooth rattling finish of Jake Ellenberger is an early candidate for knockout of the year. And while his hijinx continue to rub people the wrong way, he's not running afoul of the UFC's conduct policy by getting into fights out in the streets or clubs. That keeps me interested in him as a prospect and a personality on the UFC's roster ... one I may not like very much, but only in the same way you don't like a heel in pro wrestling. Shine on, Mike Perry, you crazy platinum bastard.

No! No! No!

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Iaquinta vs Sanchez Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Diego Sanchez has never been one to admit defeat. The number of times he's lost the first two rounds of his fight only to come back and beat some ass in the third is so numerous it should be referred to as 'pulling a Diego.' Sure, those rallies don’t often earn him the win, but they have earned him the respect of fans and his opponents even as his record has started to look as checkered as Mirko CroCop's shorts.

But at UFC Nashville, Al Iaquinta starched Sanchez with two hard right hooks to the jaw that dropped the newly dubbed "Lionheart", forcing the referee to step in and stop the fight just a minute and a half into the first round. It's the second time in under 12 months Diego has been taken out in under two minutes, the last being UFC 200 when Joe Lauzon battered him from post to post. The Diego that used to go to war and come out the other side of round three bloody and smiling is having a harder time these days surviving that first round.

I hate to be that MMA columnist that calls for a fighter to retire, but this is exactly the period of time when smart fighters slow down and start planning for the next phase of their lives. No more accepting fights against killers like Al Iaquinta. Maybe a few more paychecks padding the upper end of international Fight Nights against regional talent less likely to concuss him. That may be a bit too rational a course of action for someone like Diego Sanchez. But it sure beats watching him spend the twilight of his career getting knocked senseless every couple of months.

Click here for more highlights, results, and analysis from UFC Fight Night: Nashville.