Dan Hardy hasn’t fought inside the Octagon since being diagnosed with heart Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome in 2012, but the former welterweight contender recently announced plans to make his long awaited comeback in 2015 and suggested Diego Sanchez is right at the top of his wish list:

“[Diego’s] always kind of irritated me, I like Diego, I respect him and I forgive him for his strangeness, but in my opinion he’s kind of the problem with mixed martial arts. He started off as a really good fighter and he’s just slowly gotten worse throughout his career. That is the opposite to how martial artists should develop.

 

“He’s discarded technique, he’s discarded logic and intelligence and he’s gone with hard-headedness and blocking punches with his face. That is not a good example for future mixed martial artists. I just feel like, particularly with my fighting style and how it’s developing the last couple of years, I think that I could really expose him and hopefully teach him something about the martial arts and where he’s gone wrong.”

Strong words indeed from Nottingham’s finest, but I think Dan has hit the nail directly on the head. I agree with Hardy that Diego hasn’t adequately progressed his level of skill and technique over the years. The Diego Sanchez we see these days tends to stand square, flat footed and angry in the middle of the Octagon swinging for the fences, and like Dan says, “blocks punches with his face”.  Highly entertaining for the fans this may be, but it can’t be good for Diego’s health and well being to allow your body to absorb such punishment over and over again.

This version of Diego comes is in stark contrast to the form showed in early part of his career when he would look to wrestle an opponent to the canvas and ground and pound him into oblivion, or take home a submission. We haven’t seen that version of ‘The Nightmare’ in a long time, in fact, Diego has not finished an opponent in 4  years with all 8 of his fights going to decision (won 4, lost 4).

Of course, there is absolutely no denying that Diego Sanchez is always one of the most anticipated fighters on any UFC card, but not because fans are expecting either a sublimely executed submission,  a wrestling master class or a sweet KO. Instead they await a high octane 15 minute violent blood fest. Great for the fans, but is it great for the sport or the fighter?

Let’s take Diego’s absolute war with Gilbert Melendez, which goes down in my top 3 UFC fights of all time, if you watch that fight back again only this time with your martial arts purist glasses on you will appreciate that there was very little skill and technique on show, instead it was simply an old school slug fest.

Diego Sanchez is not a high level mixed martial artist, he is merely a good fighter that relies more on unbelievable durability rather than unbelievable ability to get through a fight, and I think that’s the point Dan was trying to make.

For me, Diego’s has unfortunately slipped into the same trap that stifled Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes careers; a ground and pound wizard that did not or could not evolve at the same rate as their peers.  Shame, because I would have loved to see Diego retire having won a belt.

@heffiejr