Mixed martial arts is the most amazingly bizarre and violent spectacle in the history of American sports. The fighters are all paragons of courage—men and women who are willing to test themselves in the confines of a steel cage simply to see who the better person is on a given day.
Also a factor in their willingness to lay it all on the line? Piles of cash.
I write the above to indicate how much respect I have for the people who do this for a living. Fist fighting, even for major dough, is a daunting prospect. But among this subset of special people, one shining diamond has emerged.
I've sung the praises of former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz for years. Is hyperbole what gets you through the day? I have even called Nick "the greatest man who ever lived." That's high-level hyperbole. And, no, I don't wish to reconsider my position. Thanks for asking.
The Stockton, California-based bad boy is one of the most dynamic fighters in UFC history. He is a rock-em-sock-em volume puncher who also just happens to be an amazing submission artist, as capable of pulling off a gogoplata against an elite competitor as he is of demolishing them with punches.
On top of that, his antics are legendary. Brawls on national television. Fist fights in the hospital. Terrorizing the ECW Press booth at the UFC Fan Expo. No matter where he goes in this world, Nick Diaz is guaranteed to make things more interesting. What more can you ask of any man?
It turns out, however, that while our eyes were locked on Nick, another Diaz was lurking in the shadows. And as incredible as it may seem, he may trump his older brother in pure and unbridled entertainment value.
Nate Diaz, in many ways, has arrived at a pinnacle of pure entertainment that even his brother will find hard to match. Diaz wowed the world over the weekend, dismantling lightweight contender Jim Miller and making it look all too easy. No one has ever finished Jim Miller, a tough guy from New Jersey who put the "it" in grit. But Diaz made him quit, choking him so hard that announcer Joe Rogan feared Miller was seconds away from biting off his own tongue.
The win earned Diaz "Submission of the Night" and a cool $65,000. In his 16 UFC fights, Diaz has walked away with a bonus check on nine occasions. Only Chris Lytle has surpassed that number, earning 10 awards in 20 fights.
But something tells me that before Diaz is through, he will have more bonus checks than Lytle or anyone else in the UFC.
Still, fighting is just part of the equation. Nate is like his brother, only a version of Nick Diaz dosed on a double helping of Ritalin. Nate doesn't miss press conferences. Nate doesn't miss flights. Sure, there was his wonderful confrontation with Karo Parisyan in the Ultimate Fighter house—but for the most part, Nate Diaz does his talking in the cage.
Does all this make Nate a more together, professional and promising athlete? Of course.
It also, for better or worse, hurts his chances of ever surpassing his brother in pure entertainment value. Nick Diaz, in my mind, still holds that title, with Chael Sonnen running in close second.
But Nick needs to keep pushing. The dark horse from Stockton is coming on strong, and he has the blood lines to make a real run at this thing.