Diego Sanchez’s ascent in his second go-around inside the framework of the UFC welterweight division has been temporarily derailed.
The 29-year-old Sanchez was set to face former UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes at UFC 135 event, which takes place Saturday at Denver’s Pepsi Center.
That was until a single right-handed punch connected to the top of his sparring partner’s head and instantly changed his trajectory.
“I thought maybe I jammed it,” recently Sanchez told MMAjunkie.com Radio . “As soon as I took my glove off at the end of the round I could see my bone moving. Right there on the pointer finger, that metacarpal on the pointer finger, was just completely cracked in half. Fortunately, I’m not going to need surgery.”
In fact, the hand is expected to heal fully in four to five weeks. It’s more of a momentum killer than anything. Sanchez is fresh off consecutive “Fight of the Night” performances against Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann.
“I look at it like a blessing in disguise,” Sanchez said. “Right now, all I can do is work my knees, kicks, and my left hand and my conditioning. I can run hard. There’s still a lot I can do and still continue to get better through this injury. That’s something I’ve done throughout my career, through every little injury. There’s always something, and you work your way around it, and continue to get better.”
The injury has afforded him the time to be able to step back and assess his game as he continues to move up the ladder.
Despite the victory over Kampmann in March, Sanchez has been overly critical of his performance.
He admits his training camps for both Kampmann and Thiago were wrestling-heavy, and he may have neglected his striking in recent months.
“I felt that really hurt me in the Martin Kampmann fight,” Sanchez said. “I know how to strike. I’ve been fighting for a while. But I wasn’t sharp. I was not sharp at all.”
The technical difference between Sanchez’s kickboxing and Kampmann’s was substantial and clearly evident throughout the fight. As a result, Sanchez’s face was swollen and bloody by night’s end.
“I went back to the gym and said, ‘I’m not going into a fight again not sharp with my knees, kicks, and number one, my boxing,’ Sanchez said. “We got back to work and continued to evolve and continued to get very sharp. I took my striking to the next level.