A long rumored UFC welterweight clash is now official. Former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes vs. The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez is signed and the UFC will deliver the fight at UFC 135 on September 24.
This is certainly one of the more interesting fights on remaining 2011 UFC calendar. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a must-win fight for either guy. I think that term is thrown out way too often and is just more drama than reality in most cases. But for Diego Sanchez, he will be doing a lot of soul searching if he can’t put away the aging Hughes.
About the only thing that these two warriors have in common other than weight is the fact that they were both recently dominated by former UFC champion BJ Penn (both also have finished Joe Riggs but those fights were years ago). Penn rocked Hughes in 0:21 of their fight while Penn took Sanchez deep into the fifth round before the doctor stopped the fight due to a nasty cut. Other than being owned by Penn there aren’t a whole lot of similarities between them.
Just as I don’t take much out of his loss to Alves, I don’t take anything out of the Renzo Gracie win he had back at UFC 112. I have always found Matt Serra to be highly overrated (and annoying) and Hughes was a big favorite, but it was a nice win nonetheless. On the flip side, his win over Ricardo Almeida took everyone by surprise. Hughes was an underdog going in and the win revitalized what looked like an embarrassing end to a storied career. Unfortunately reality set in when he fought Penn.
Sanchez is another guy I have always liked. How can you not after those wars with Clay Guida and Martin Kampmann? Sanchez is currently riding a two-fight winning streak, something he hasn’t been able to do in a long time. With back to back wins over Kampmann and Hughes, Sanchez would have to find himself in the championship mix of the division.
I couldn’t imagine Sanchez getting cut with a loss, so I won’t label it a must-win in that sense for Sanchez. However, between both fighters, Sanchez definitely needs this fight more. A win over Hughes could put Sanchez back into the title picture. He already has a history with Nick Diaz (and recently called him out on Twitter) and won a unanimous decision over the former Strikeforce champ in 2005 giving Sanchez his biggest career win at the time.
Against GSP, well I don’t think he would have much of a prayer. Although I do think it would be a fun fight.
I am going to go with Sanchez for an early pick. I just think he is too quick for Hughes. If Hughes has lost anything over the last couple of years it would be his reflexes. He can hang with fighters like Renzo Gracie and Matt Serra who have feet of stone. But against speedy fighters like Sanchez and even Penn, he will struggle. Sanchez isn’t a finisher so I wouldn’t expect it here. I think Sanchez wins a long, and maybe even boring decision over the former champion.
Jon Jones vs. Rampage Jackson for the UFC light heavyweight championship is expected to headline the event.
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