WelterweightsJake Matthews (16-4) vs. Diego Sanchez (30-12)
ODDS: Matthews (-700), Sanchez (+500)
For being such a big event at the time, UFC 200 had little in terms of long-term consequences, but one of the few things that stuck was the cracking of Sanchez’s legendary chin, as he was stopped by Joe Lauzon of all people. That started a depressing slide in which “The Nightmare” seemed to be the only man unaware that he could no longer take a hard shot, but after back-to-back wins over Craig White and Mickey Gall, there was some brief hope that Sanchez would be able to reinvent himself as a wrestler, given that was one part of his game that had yet to atrophy. However, a dominant loss to Michael Chiesa stopped that fun, and Sanchez’s last bout against Michel Pereira was concerning. If there is any sort of positive, at least Sanchez focused on surviving, but he mostly circled the cage and did not try much in terms of effective offense before Pereira disqualified himself with an illegal knee. Sanchez is back against Australia’s Matthews, who has had his ups and downs since coming into the UFC as a fresh-faced 19-year old. In the early days of his UFC career, “The Celtic Kid” was an aggressive grappler first and foremost, but he has done well to develop and adjust after that approach hit a ceiling. For one, Matthews transformed into a brick house of an athlete with his move up to welterweight. He also focused on developing his striking game, even as it has led to some lukewarm wins. That all seemed to come together in his last fight, a one-sided win over Emil Meek. While Meek was admittedly a perfect opponent for Matthews to look good against, it did give some new intrigue towards seeing what the Aussie can do going forward. Sanchez actually has a path to victory here since he still might be the stronger wrestler, but there is no reason to pick him against a younger athlete who can hit relatively hard. The pick is Matthews via second-round stoppage.
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