Credit: Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

For Diego Sanchez it's not all in a name

‘The Nightmare, the dream, the nightmare’. Diego Sanchez can’t decide.

His nickname has been the focus for his fights in the past few years. Which Diego Sanchez would show up based on the nickname that he has given himself for the particular fight?

Most recently, he has returned to being referred to as ‘The Nightmare’ and with it, he promises vintage Diego Sanchez.

“Something that people have been asking for, for a long time,” Sanchez said to Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour. “They asked enough to where I’m going to give it to them. I’ve going to give it to them this Saturday. They’re going to get ‘The Nightmare.’ They’re getting ‘The Nightmare.’

The first stint in which Sanchez donned the ‘nightmare’ moniker, it meant a hard-charging Sanchez was bound to appear and wouldn’t shy away from being hit or shedding blood. But the longtime UFC veteran stated on last Wednesday’s UFC Tonight, that the nickname was becoming more of a personality trait. Thus, the change to ‘The Dream’ as he attempted to rise back up the ranks of prominence towards a title shot that eluded him since a 2009 loss to BJ Penn in his only title fight in the UFC.

Since that loss to Penn, Sanchez has reestablished himself as a brawling ‘Fight of the Night’ winner well before he even gets in to the Octagon come fight night. A rebirth of what made him such a force to watch as he dispatched opponents who were well below title contender credentials.

His losses are in fact all at the hands of either touted prospects, title challengers, and a title holder. Not such a bad resumé when you think about it but at 32-years-old, and after sustaining the kind of punishment that Sanchez has received over nearly a decade in the UFC, Sanchez must make some changes.

It’s not as easy as recreating a persona to model your fighting style after to carry you through tough fights or to gain a mental edge before the fight starts. Under the tutelage of Jackson’s gym in Albequerque — the location of his upcoming fight with Ross Pearson — Sanchez has promised change in the past yet the same man has entered the cage to produce similar performances that we take for granted now.

Sanchez went on to confess a bad performance against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 166, which won ‘Fight of the Year’ and labeled it as ‘one bad performance’, as he seems to reference his past few fights, “I had one bad performance, and I still haven’t even watched the Myles Jury fight, so I don’t know how crappy I looked.”  

While ‘crappy’ is a harsh word for an outside set of eyes to label Sanchez’ performance against Myles Jury, he did lose in a fashion that resembles almost all of Sanchez’ losses. If you can avoid his timely, telegraphed rushes while conversely countering him on the outside, you can likely pull away with a decision win. This game plan has been mirrored by several of his past six opponents, against which he went 3-3.

His three wins came against Paulo Thiago at UFC 121 (Thiago is now 2-6 in his last eight, with the last two coming against unranked fighters) and then against Martin Kampmann and Takanori Gomi, both of which came with their own brand of controversy following close decisions that would have left fans scratching their heads no matter who was announced as the winner.

His losses during that time came via unanimous decision.

So what Sanchez will show up on Saturday? Considering there seems to be just one kind as of late, lets hope to see a version of him that he hasn’t yet been able to introduce to the world due to blame maybe the intensity of a fight or beef tartare.

Sanchez must show a level of maturity in his fight with Pearson this Saturday in his hometown without letting the intensity of the partisan crowd to affect his fighting. His poise, composure, and patience will be the difference between a win and a loss for Sanchez, if not in this fight, then surely in the ones to come. He has claimed increased footwork and speed with his camp for this fight and a tactical Sanchez is truly a nightmare for opponents, more so than a reckless monster charging them with his hands low and his chin high.

A loss Saturday would provide Sanchez with a third straight loss, which will be the first time this has occurred in his career but even with a win, three years separate a win that was his second straight.

If Sanchez can come in and avoid serious damage, while stealing a decisive win, and  abandoning technique and pacing after being hit a few times, then maybe he can demonstrate a new level of understanding for MMA in this late stage of his career and perhaps show fans that not only can he be an exciting fighter whose fate doesn’t rest in a loss, but in a performance, that he has turned the page to a new chapter, one where he realizes his full potential.

Tags: Diego Sanchez Martin Kampmann Myles Jury Ross Pearson Takanori Gomi UFC Fight Night UFC ON FOX UFC.

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