A mixed martial artist’s journey is motivated by the goal of perpetual self-improvement. Arguably no fighter better exemplifies this attitude than Nate Diaz.
Once a talented though frustratingly middling fighter who indecisively hopped back and forth between the UFC’s lightweight and welterweight divisions, the younger Diaz brother has transformed himself into one of the world’s premier mixed martial artists.
Despite at one point looking as though he would forever languish in his older brother’s shadow, the 27-year-old Stockton native now looks every bit as capable as his more illustrious sibling.
With dominant wins over the likes of Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone, Nate has catapulted himself to within touching distance of the UFC’s lightweight title, as he prepares to take on Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 5—the man who resides at the division’s summit.
With that being said, one should perhaps sound a note of caution at this stage. After all, Diaz has flattered to deceive in the past.
Indeed, his brief trip to welterweight in 2010 initially appeared promising, as we watched him take out both Rory Markham and Marcus Davis in impressive fashion.
Unfortunately, Diaz then ran into Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald in quick succession—both huge 170-pounders. They were able to utilise their size and strength to neutralise his offensive weapons, ragdolling the Cesar Gracie protégé en route to a pair of momentum-shattering decision wins.
Therefore, it is fair to say that we have been here before. The Ultimate Fighter season-five winner has again put together some impressive wins and is again facing an opponent who is huge at the weight and has a strong grappling base.
It is easy to understand why Benson Henderson is reticent to tear up the established blueprint on Nate Diaz, as he explained last week:
Every time a fighter does what they're supposed to do, and improves and gets better every fight, I wouldn't say the blueprint goes out the window, but it can be harder to execute the blueprint.
It’s an astute point well made by the UFC’s lightweight king.
Diaz may have plugged some of the gaps in his game, but that doesn’t mean he has developed a sudden immunity to the kind of strength and wrestling brought to bear by someone like Benson Henderson.
It is worth remembering that Henderson drops a huge amount of weight to make the 155-pound limit. He boasts the strength and athleticism of a natural welterweight, which has historically been Diaz’s kryptonite up until this point.
There is also the issue of whether the challenger can submit the notoriously resilient champion, should the fight hit the floor—which it doubtless will.
In the past, Henderson has proved near impossible to submit. More like Stretch Armstrong than an average human, his uncommon elasticity has allowed him to fight through submissions that would likely have ended the evening for any fighter not named Dan Hardy.
The potential fulfilment of Nate Diaz’s potential is just one of several intriguing narratives to be explored in the lead up to the UFC on Fox 5 main event.
Whether Benson Henderson can halt the challenger’s considerable momentum remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, every true mixed martial arts fan can’t wait to find out.