Every main-card fight on Saturday night's T.U.F. 9 Finale features at least one former finalist from the show. They're all in different stages of their careers -- some are on the way up, some starting to drift down -- while at least a couple are in frustrating holding patterns. But it's only the main event that threatens the produce a new top contender for its division.
"If I win, I think I'll deserve a title shot right away," said Sanchez. "But if he wins -- well, he's not going to win -- but even if he did, he wouldn't be the No. 1 contender."
Sanchez points to a more prestigious list of opponents to back up his claim, but also admits there's the issue of marketability to consider. Since his 2007 loss to
"I'm not worried about anything he does," Sanchez said, shrugging off Guida's wrestling ability. "He's just really predictable and kind of robotic."
Predictable, maybe. But if Sanchez wants to move closer to that title shot, he'll have to figure out how to beat that style, becoming the first former T.U.F. winner to do so. It might even prove to be a good lesson for the new crop of T.U.F. winners, reminding them that winning the contract is only the beginning of a long and difficult journey.
Season 9's UK vs. USA approach yielded an imbalanced final group, with three of the four finalists coming from the British squad. In the lightweight bracket, teammates
The Pearson-Winner lightweight scrap may turn out to be a contest of technical skill versus plain old brutality and will. Pearson has a well-rounded game, but he's not the smooth operator that Winner is; His biggest advantage is that he's always coming forward and doesn't mind getting messy. Whether that will be enough to beat the talented Winner seems doubtful.
Johnson proved to be by far the most dangerous of the American fighters, as well as a team leader, so it's only fitting that he stands alone for them in the finals. Wilks has a good jiu-jitsu game and a decent striking attack built around his sharp jab. If Johnson can avoid getting into a submission wrestling match with Wilks, he stands a good chance of picking him apart and overwhelming him on the feet.
And if he needs any extra motivation in this fight, he need only imagine all the gloating UK coach
Finally, lightweights and former T.U.F. winners
Joe "Daddy" has lost three of his last four, including two straight, to
Stevenson swears he isn't concerned about that, though it has to be a lingering question in his mind. Going up against Diaz, he's giving up around five inches in height and a similar discrepancy in reach. He needs a change in strategy and style if he's going to figure out how to beat a tough, resilient Diaz. Stevenson might need at least a little bit of good luck as well.