Remember the last time Diego Sanchez competed at 155 pounds? In case you don’t, here’s an image to help jog your memory.

The damage was done by perhaps the best lightweight in MMA history, B.J. Penn, but it’s no doubt a performance that haunts Sanchez to this day. It was his first and perhaps last chance at a UFC title, and instead of seizing the opportunity, Sanchez came out completely flat and was summarily dominated until the bout mercifully came to an end.

Not only did Sanchez return to welterweight after the Penn debacle, but he also returned to his roots at Jackson’s MMA after spending time training elsewhere. “The Nightmare” had transformed himself into “The Dream” and seems to be rejuvenated despite competing in the UFC since the days of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter. His return to welterweight didn’t go so well against John Hathaway, however, but Sanchez is 2-1 in his last three fights. All three of those bouts have been “Fight of the Night” award-winners, which has not only inflated Sanchez’s wallet but also his place among the top welterweights. There’s certainly no shame in losing to Jake Ellenberger, which he did in his most recent welterweight contest, but it appears that Sanchez believes the door to an UFC title is more open at 155 pounds.

A look forward into Sanchez’s future at lightweight should be met with some skepticism. The weight cut is tough for any fighter, despite Sanchez’s appearance to some MMA fans. I’m not a fan of a guy changing weight classes multiple times in a career, due to the toll it takes on a fighter’s body. It’s bad enough you have to deal with brain damage every time you step in the Octagon, changing weight classes multiple times in a short period of time just adds to the damage.

Still, Sanchez has had some success in the past, taking out both Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida at lightweight. The field at lightweight is in the midst of a shift following Frankie Edgar’s departure and the sudden dominance of champion Benson Henderson. Nate Diaz just fell out of the top spot and outside of an injured Gray Maynard and the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis, there simply aren’t a lot of credible title challengers in the division.

This is an incentive that likely made Sanchez consider dropping a weight class, which could lead to one last hurrah for the UFC veteran. He’s a very good grappler who has evolved so much from the pure wrestler we saw in his early years. His stand-up is also increasing in skill level, and despite getting tagged numerous times by Martin Kampmann, Sanchez was still able to land his shots against a superior striker.

The opportunity for Sanchez is ripe for the taking in a wide-open lightweight division, but he will need to manage the weight cut and make the necessary adjustments to a lighter weight class. I’m sure fans will be calling for him to be put “in the mix” if he defeats Takanori Gomi in March, but let’s keep in mind that Gomi’s prime was years ago.

The dream can still be fulfilled, but there is no margin for error after the change in weight class for Sanchez. Luckily for him, Sanchez has not only one of the best game-planners in MMA, but also one of the best teams as well.

Photo: Diego Sanchez (left) and trainer Greg Jackson (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Kyle Symes
Staff Writer

Kyle is a recent graduate of Aurora University, where he obtained a Bachelor's in Communications. Kyle resides in Illinois, just outside of Chicago. He played baseball and football in both high school and college, but is now focusing on an amateur MMA career.