Zoro taking it means that Sanji had no "plot armor."
And narratively speaking, Zoro's tradition is performing while compromised. Which made that such a big deal. Mihawk and Kuma were impossible to beat pre timeskip for any Straw Hat, so they were able to push him that far. Sanji pre timeskip couldn't beat Gin "due to damage from Pearl" or post timeskip can't beat a Doflamingo subordinate "due to damage from Caesar" so there's your difference.