He may have earned a title shot on Saturday night, but not without an absolute war, as Diego Sanchez got a split decision win over Clay Guida in an instant classic during the main event of The Ultimate Fighter Finale at the Palms in Las Vegas.

Sanchez came out like a ball of fire, blasting Guida with a barrage of punches, flying knees, and virtually everything in his striking arsenal. Punch after punch, Guida appeared to be in trouble as blood started to flow from his nose, but the tough Illinois native recovered and took Sanchez to the ground.

Guida did a good job of controlling Sanchez, but the Ultimate Fighter season one winner got back to his feet, and then uncorked a thunderous head kick that sent Guida crashing to the mat. Tough as nails, Guida recovered again and made it to the end of the round.

"The guy has a tremendous chin, there's a reason he ain't never been knocked out," Sanchez said about the striking attack in the first. "I hit him with that kick right there and I thought for sure he was done. He's a machine, he's an animal."

The second round swung to Guida's favor as he took Sanchez down early and didn't let him back up. He stifled his jiu-jitsu game, keeping the pressure on for the full five minutes. To Sanchez's credit, he unleashed a crazy series of elbows from the bottom that stunned Guida, and opened a cut that started to rain down blood onto both fighters.

Guida started to land some big punches of his own in the third round, only attempting one takedown early on, and then deciding to strike with Sanchez instead. "The Carpenter" hit a big overhand right that popped Sanchez on top of the head, as the crowd in attendance reacted to the big shot.

Late in the round, Sanchez took a chance to take Guida's back, but he slipped out and again ended up on top, working for punches. With the seconds counting down, Sanchez went for a kimura, but Guida withstood the pressure and started to wing wild punches as the final horn sounded in a classic fight between the two lightweight contenders.

When the judges' scorecards were read, two saw the fight going for Sanchez, while one gave the fight to Guida, causing a split decision win for the original Ultimate Fighter winner.

Sanchez admitted after the fight that Guida was a very game opponent, and as the fight wore on, the blood and the sweat made the win that much sweeter.

"It got really, really bloody. I think I caught him with an elbow or something, it was just so slippery after that and he was on top. As I said before, I love it when the guy's bleeding on top of me. Call me weird, but it means a battle, it means a war, and that's what the UFC is all about," Sanchez stated. "Good battles and wars like this in the Octagon."

Even though he didn't get the win, Guida couldn't stop moving after the fight was over, and he paid respect to Sanchez after another contender for "Fight of the Year" was created following this lightweight war.

"You can't hurt this guy, I'm here for days," Guida said about his chin. "Diego, I've got to give him a lot of credit, he's a tough dude, a very tough dude. I've got to give him that much, it was a very close fight. I took him down; he cut me up. It was an awesome fight."

Diego Sanchez may have just secured his place as the No. 1 contender to the winner of the upcoming UFC 101 fight between champion B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian, while Clay Guida has nothing to be ashamed about after another eye-popping performance.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.