The UFC will return to Milwaukee on August 31, and Diego Sanchez is looking for a partner to tangle with.
After a two-year hiatus, the Octagon will once again roll through the BMO Harris Bradley Center for UFC 164. The event is part of the Harley-Davidson "Hometown Throwdown" that will help to mark the company's 110th anniversary celebration.
While Sanchez is attached to the card, he is currently without a scheduled opponent, and "The Dream" is taking matters into his own hands.
As announced on Fuel TV's UFC Tonight, the 31-year-old has selected three fighters he would like to square off with in the "Brew City." There has been no word so far about them accepting the fight, but with Sanchez campaigning for the matchups, it is worthwhile to keep an eye on the developing situation.
Here is a look at Sanchez's wish list for UFC 164.
After making a successful return to the lightweight division against Takanori Gomi at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March, Sanchez is looking for a path toward a title shot. That being said, the 155-pound division is one of the most competitive under the UFC banner. There is no easy route to take when traveling north, and a bout with Josh Thomson would make for a sensible next step.
"The Punk" recently made a huge statement in his return to the Octagon, when the AKA staple scored a TKO victory over Nate Diaz at UFC on Fox 7 in April.
It was the former Strikeforce champion's first victory in the UFC fold since 2004, and by defeating the brash Stocktonian, Thomson put himself within striking distance of a title shot. The only issue with said title shot is that traffic in that area appears to be congested for the time being.
With the No. 1 contender slot set to be determined by Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant at UFC 160, it will be several months before champion Benson Henderson will put his belt on the line. As a result, Thomson will have to take another fight to keep himself in a position to contend, and with most of the top fighters in the weight class coming off losses, a date with Sanchez could be the perfect option.
Both fighters like to push the pace when the cage door closes, and a scrap between Sanchez and Thomson could deliver 15 minutes of goodness.
The biggest stylistic difference between the two fighters is that Sanchez prefers to close the distance, whereas Thomson likes to use his footwork and attack from the outside. Nevertheless, neither fighter has a problem with getting down to business, and this fight would deliver for the Milwaukee fighting faithful in attendance.
Following Sanchez's victory over Gomi in Japan, the TUF 1 winner told Fuel TV in his post-fight interview that he would like to be the first person to defeat both Diaz brothers.
Back in 2005—during Nick Diaz's first stint in the UFC—Sanchez wrestled his way to a unanimous-decision victory over the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter. The Jackson's MMA-trained fighter would go on to greater glory under the UFC banner, while Diaz would continue to have trouble with wrestlers—as shown in his recent loss to Georges St-Pierre.
Fast forward eight years, and Sanchez is now targeting the younger Diaz brother. After a tough run in the welterweight division, the TUF 5 winner returned to the lightweight division and scrapped his way to the top of the weight class. Victories over Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller earned Diaz the opportunity to compete for Henderson's 155-pound strap.
Unfortunately for Diaz, the task was too steep, and the 28-year-old suffered a lopsided defeat at the hands of the current champion. And the problems didn't stop there. After suggesting he might return to the welterweight division in the future, Diaz squared off with Thomson at UFC on Fox 7 and was stopped for the first time in more than six years.
Six months ago, he was a title contender, and now Diaz is facing back-to-back losses and an uncertain road for his future. While the bout does nothing for Sanchez's title hopes, the fight makes sense in terms of entertainment value. The former title challenger is notorious for his pre-fight intensity, and when matched against Diaz's natural disdain for the opposition, the pre-fight buildup could produce fireworks.
If Diaz does decide to return to welterweight, that is no problem for Sanchez. He told UFC Tonight that he would be willing to fight Diaz at either weight, if the bout with Thomson couldn't be made.
The third opponent on Sanchez's wish list is former Strikeforce champion and recent UFC lightweight title contender Gilbert Melendez.
In the eyes of some MMA fans and media pundits around the sport, "El Nino" should be wearing the 155-pound strap. After a five-round back-and-forth dustup with Henderson, the "Skrap Pack" leader came out on the losing end of a controversial split decision. Nevertheless, the defeat means Melendez will have to earn his way back to the top, and Sanchez is looking to bar his path.
Melendez recently told Bleacher Report's Damon Martin that he wants his next fight to carry title implications. And while Sanchez's controversial split-decision victory over Gomi didn't catapult him to the top of the rankings, the current situation in the lightweight division could lead to Sanchez being the best option for Melendez.
Melendez is in a unique position. After losing a razor-thin decision to Henderson, he is most likely just one win from having another title shot. But with the rest of the top fighters in the division either being booked up or having been knocked out of contention with a loss, the options are few and far between. The 30-year-old Santa Ana-native has ruled out a possible fourth fight with Thomson, which leaves a tussle with Sanchez as a possibility.
Matching a fighter coming off a win against one coming off a loss is typically strange business for the UFC, but when considering the current positions of Melendez and Sanchez , a bout between them makes sense—maybe not perfect sense in the greater picture, but it is far from crazy.