Nate Diaz finally stepped from the long-cast shadows of his brother Nick Diaz at UFC 141.
The lightweight contender completely decimated a red hot Donald Cerrone en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory and quite possibly a shot at UFC gold.
To many, Diaz's win over Cerrone represented his true coming out party as an elite lightweight in the UFC, but pundits tend to go back further and see that Diaz has always maintained a solid track record at 155 pounds.
Before jumping to welterweight, the Cesar Gracie student was coming off a win over Melvin Guillard and a highly controversial split-decision loss to Gray Maynard, who is widely considered as one of the top three lightweights in the world.
Diaz has obviously come a long way in his striking, which looked almost identical to his brother Nick's against Cerrone. He constantly presses forward and wears opponents down with a high volume of punches in the pocket.
Cerrone had opportunities to seek out takedowns or jump into Diaz's guard, but along with world-class boxing skills, the Diaz brothers are known for having some of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in the sport.
The primary hole in Diaz's game lies in his wrestling, but he tends to brush that fact aside and hope that his submission prowess stands out as the great equalizer.
It's going to be interesting to see how he deals with strong wrestlers with great submission defense.
Lightweights such as Frankie Edgar, Ben Henderson and Gray Maynard should all be significant tests, but if the Cerrone bout was any indication, the year 2012 could represent the rise of Nate Diaz.