While the bricklayer and the doorman go toe-to-toe for one of two titles in The Ultimate Fighter 9 finale tonight, former TUF champ Diego "Nightmare" Sanchez has a much bigger prize in his sights.
Sanchez, whose fight against Clay "The Carpenter" Guida will headline the TUF 9 finale card (Spike TV, Rogers Sportsnet), is convinced a win will earn him a lightweight title shot against the winner of the B.J. Penn/Kenny Florian showdown.
As far as Sanchez is concerned, Florian has no right fighting 155-lb. champ B.J. Penn at UFC 102 in August. That honour, says Sanchez, belongs to him.
"Kenny Florian is coming up on his second title shot and this is a guy I walked through four years ago," says Sanchez, who won the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter as a 170-pounder and only recently dropped down to lightweight.
"Everyone can say we both evolved and we both changed ... but the fact is I walked through him and it wasn't even a fight.
"In my mind, I am the No. 1 contender right now."
Sanchez says his 20-2 record and the fact he has yet to lose as a 155-pounder have earned him a title shot.
"(As a welterweight) I lost a split decision to (Jon) Fitch and I lost a fight to (Josh) Koscheck when I was sick. Those are my only two losses in my career," he says.
Sanchez would like to see Penn pound Florian, setting up a title fight with Sanchez.
"If (Penn) wins and I win, I think that would make a great fight for the fans and probably two great coaches for the next season of (The Ultimate Fighter) after Rashad Evans and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson," says Sanchez.
'I WANT TO DOMINATE'
"(Florian's) going to want a shot at redemption and I want a shot at that title, so it makes a good storyline too, but I'm going to be pulling for B.J. Penn. I've always wanted to fight him."
Before Sanchez gets that chance, he has to win tonight.
"I've got Clay Guida in front of me right now," says Sanchez, 27. "I look forward to putting on the best performance of my career and going in there and proving to people that there is a real No. 1 contender at 155. I'm here now and I want to dominate."
Tonight's card will also feature the conclusion of The Ultimate Fighter 9: United States vs. U.K. with lightweight and welterweight winners crowned.
In the 155-lb. class, bricklayer Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson will take on fellow Brit and former nightclub doorman Andre Winner.
At 170 lbs., former U.S. soldier DeMarques Johnson will take on Brit James Wilks, who runs a jiu-jitsu school in California.
The TUF 9 finale will also feature a fight between Joe "Daddy" Stevenson and Nate Diaz.
TUF 9 coaches Michael "The Count" Bisping and Dan Henderson will square off at UFC 100 next month.