Diego Sanchez returned to the lightweight division after a one-year layoff on Saturday at UFC on FUEL TV 8 against Japanese superstar Takanori Gomi in a highly anticipated 155-pound bout. Gomi, the former PRIDE legend, entered the cage with an entire nation backing him at the Saitama Super Arena. With fighters like Gomi and Sanchez entering the octagon, you know to expect a war and the fans were treated to an even bout full of back and forth exchanges.
The two fighters started off the bout by feeling each other out as they looked to find openings in their opponents defense.
After two minutes of circling, a shot to the groin from Sanchez temporarily halted the action before Sanchez was able to land a takedown and some hard shots. Gomi got back to his feet after eating a few punches and that is when the two started trading in the center of the cage.
On the feet, Gomi was landing the cleaner, crisper combinations and was able to cut Sanchez across the forehead. With Sanchez on the wrong end of punches on the feet, he once again shot and scored a takedown before diving for a knee bar that Gomi was able to escape. The two exchanged shots in the middle of the octagon for the final minute of round one that included some devastating body blows and entertaining scrambles.
Gomi continued to find his range in the second-round as the two men before taking another nut shot that resulted in Sanchez receiving a warning from referee Marc Goddard.
After the break in action, Sanchez seemed to gain more of a rhythm on his feet and began to utilize better movement, but Gomi was standing in the pocket and continued to use effective counter-punching to score points.
It was a very even fight heading into the final frame and many believed the bout to be even on the scorecards. With it all on the line in the last five minutes, Sanchez came out with some extra fire and was pushing the pace in the third-round. Both fighters exchanged punches through the first half of round three and the bout continued to be even coming down to the wire.
The fight ended with a flurry of wild punches from Sanchez, but there was no defining moment for either fighter during the match.
When the judges scorecards were read, it was Diego Sanchez who was on the winning side. In such a close bout, it was the early takedowns and late flurry from Sanchez that earned him the victory.