Ricardo Lamas vs Diego Sanchez Preview and Analysis – UFC Fight Night 78

Ricardo LamasThe co-main event of UFC Fight Night 78 is a featherweight contest between former title challenger Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas and longtime veteran Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez. This is Lamas’ first foray into the Octagon since his knockout loss to Chad Mendes in April. Sanchez, on the other hand, has not competed since June of 2014 due to a variety of injuries.   Ricardo Lamas (15-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC, -600 favorite) The 33-year old has been a perennial contender in the featherweight division, but he has never been able to seal the deal and capture the UFC championship. Even though he has never won gold, he still boasts a solid resume of victories over Dennis Bermudez, Cub Swanson, Eric Koch, and Hatsu Hioki. He did get a shot at the title in 2014, but he had no answers for Jose Aldo’s elite striking and takedown defense. Additionally, he was extremely tentative in that fight and never got anything going until it was too little, too late in the fifth round. Lamas has since gone 2-1 since losing his shot at the belt. The Chicago native trains out of MMA Masters in Miami, Florida, alongside fellow fighters Josh Samman, Luis Palomino and Junior Assuncao. Lamas is a grinder that likes to employ his wrestling to get on top of his opponents and pound them out. He was a NCAA Division III All-American, which may not seem that impressive considering all the Division 1 All-Americans and National Champions we have in this sport, but it still works for him in the Octagon. He has a nice array of takedowns, anything from double and single-leg takedowns to trips and throws in the clinch. From top position Lamas is a monster, and he unleashes brutal punches and elbows. However, he mainly just looks for ground and pound on top and does not have an elite topside submission game. However, Lamas does have a nasty guillotine and arm-triangle choke. The Florida native’s striking is pretty basic. He works a jab, straight right, left hook, overhand right, and several styles of kicks that he throws to all levels. Lamas’ striking defense and chin aren’t great, either. He does, however, have great cardio and can push a hard pace for a full 15 minute or even 25-minute fight.   Diego Sanchez (25-7MMA, 14-7, UFC, -450 underdog) It amazes me that Diego Sanchez is only 33 years old. He seems like he has been around forever. After all, he was the first winner of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. Amazingly, he won that tournament at 185 pounds and is now attempting to make 145 pounds for the first time for his fight against Lamas, similar to his opponent in the finale, Kenny Florian. Most of Sanchez’s best work came at 155 pounds but he preferred to fight a division up at welterweight because he did not like having to cut to 155. I don’t know what changed, but I am skeptical about him making 145 in a healthy way. Sanchez is one of the most popular fighters in UFC history due to his aggression and tendency to get in wild brawls, such as his fights with Gilbert Melendez, Karo Parisyan, and Clay Guida. Those brawls and his tendency to train very hard have led to him suffering multiple injuries over the years. Those injuries eventually led to have him having to go under the knife, which takes a piece out of a fighter each time. As far as his style, Sanchez is a brawler. He started as a submission grappler, but his wrestling is not that great and he has a hard time taking fighters down now. Instead, he pretty much bites down on his mouthpiece and swings wildly. He is more than willing to eat a punch in order to land one of his own. One positive aspect of Sanchez’s game is his conditioning, as he can push a hard pace for as many rounds as they will let him fight. “The Dream” has been at the center of controversy over the years, as he has won fights that a vast majority thought he lost. He is 3-3 in his last 6 fights but if those fights were judged correctly he would be 0-6. Although Sanchez is only 33 years old, he has absorbed a ton of damage over the course of his career, eating more significant strikes than any fighter in promotion history.   Thoughts This is an interesting fight because I never thought Sanchez would drop to 145 pounds. This is a fighter that fought comfortably most of his career at 170 and who used to complain about the cut to lightweight.  I do not think Sanchez has much left, and sooner or later, that iron chin of his is going to start to diminish. Lamas should try not to get into a brawl with him, as that is what Sanchez wants. He should use his superior striking on the feet and mix in a few takedowns and work ground and pound from the top. I think that happens here. Sanchez is very difficult to finish, having only lost one time via stoppage due to a cut, so I see Lamas taking home a decision.   Prediction: Ricardo Lamas defeats Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision

Written by Mike James

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