Diego Sanchez is slated to fight at the upcoming UFC 164 event in Milwaukee, but he’s not just looking for an exciting fight.
Sanchez (24-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC), 31, wants to take one last run at the UFC lightweight belt, and he believes conditions are favorable.
“After watching Benson Henderson‘s performance against Gilbert Melendez, I must say, I wasn’t impressed,” he told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “I see a lot of holes in his game, and I feel like that belt’s there for the taking.”
UFC 164 takes place Aug. 31 at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center. Sanchez said he will be part of the event’s pay-per-view main-card.
Earlier this month, lightweight champ Henderson defended his belt a third time with a split-decision win over former Strikeforce titleholder Gilbert Melendez at UFC on FOX 7. The champ is now expected to meet the winner of an upcoming bout between two-time title challenger Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant at UFC 160.
Henderson wants to exceed middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva as the winningest champ in UFC history, but Sanchez doubts he’ll be able to do it.
“I don’t see that,” he said. “I see a man who is growing in his martial arts experience. A great fighter, but I see holes in his game, and I really felt he lost that fight to Gilbert.”
Sanchez fought for the lightweight title at UFC 107, where then-champ B.J. Penn stopped him in the fifth round. Sanchez then returned to the welterweight class, where he went 2-2 and racked up three consecutive “Fight of the Night” bonuses against top-tier competition.
After a decision loss to Jake Ellenberger, he returned to lightweight, where he came in two pounds heavy and narrowly outpointed Takanori Gomi at UFC on FUEL TV 8.
Sanchez admitted he was “undersized” as a welterweight and said he was better suited to a 165-pound weight class.
“But as of now, there isn’t, so I have to do what I have to do and make some sacrifices and get down to 155,” he said. “I feel that when I’m on, nobody can beat me at 155.”
Watching UFC on FOX 7, Sanchez said he noticed several flaws in Henderson’s game that he could exploit.
“He’s strong, but in the Gilbert fight, he didn’t try to do one takedown the whole fight, which I think a champion would see, ‘I’m not dominating this fight in the standup, so let’s work for something else. Let’s try to change it up and at least get some points,’” Sanchez said. “At least try to win some rounds more convincingly, the way he did with Jim Miller. But he was just very content in his striking style and throwing the kicks. I saw it as a mediocre performance, and I think I can get in there and beat this guy.”
By any measure, Sanchez still has a long way to go before he gets that opportunity. But he said he has three to five years left in the sport, and until he quits, he’s going to push for gold.
For more on UFC 164, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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