FeatherweightsRicardo Lamas (15-4) vs Diego Sanchez (25-7)
THE MATCHUP: The problem with Lamas has always been his inconsistency. He has good skills in just about every area. Strong low kicks from range help to set up hard straight punches. At times, Lamas has fallen in love with a single strike, such as the wheel kick with which he was so fascinated in his ill-fated encounter with featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Activity has been an issue for Lamas, as well, though he has a strange knack for turning the tide with a single, sudden and well-placed strike. Perhaps Lamas’ most underrated ability is his counterstriking. The jab with which he floored Dennis Bermudez and the uppercut counter to the sprawl of Chad Mendes both come to mind. He uses low kicks regularly to counter his opponent’s reaching punches.
Lamas is a strong wrestler with a fondness for the clinch, where he uses the body lock to mash his opponent’s underhooks and control the fight. Though he does not always do a good job of landing strikes in close, he is strong and quite difficult to take down. On the ground, Lamas has good top control and dangerous ground-and-pound. Again, he seems to lack a consistent, systematic approach to submission grappling, but he is one of the most dangerous opportunists in the sport, requiring only one small opening to jump on a submission or force a referee stoppage via strikes.
Sanchez is, well, Sanchez. Once one of the most promising prospects on the UFC roster, the mean-faced jiu-jitsu ace is a long, long way from his prime. Nevertheless, he is extremely aggressive and extremely hittable, making him an interesting test for any fighters with lackluster defense or poor composure.
Sanchez was once a very effective wrestler, using single-legs and lifts to drag his opponents to the canvas, where he showed off excellent positional jiu-jitsu. Since his move to the UFC in 2005, he has failed to put those skills to work -- a problem that has gotten progressively worse over the last 10 years. To wit, Sanchez has not gotten a single submission, other than a submission to strikes, since August 2005, more than a decade ago. However, he did come dangerously close with a guillotine against Gilbert Melendez.
THE ODDS: Lamas (-675), Sanchez (+500)
THE PICK: Ultimately, this fight was made for two reasons: 1) to feature two exciting Latino fighters in front of the Mexican crowd, and 2) to get Lamas a win. Sanchez seems to have the mentality that working hard is a recipe for success, but there is no indication that he spends any time working on the right things. He has not only failed to improve in some time but has gotten worse by leaps and bounds, making each successive slugfest more and more painful to watch. His aggression alone will likely win him a few minutes of each round, but Lamas is just better in every phase. Lamas wins by inexplicable split decision.
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