The disciples of Cesar Gracie are some of the most loyal in all of MMA. If you’ve seen a fight involving Gilbert Melendez or one of the Diaz brothers, you have no doubt heard a post-fight shout out to “Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu” and rightly so, the camp builds champions.
Nick Diaz and Jake Shields are both former Strikeforce champs, while Melendez is the reigning Strikeforce champ. On December 8, the youngest of the core group of Gracie fighters, Nate Diaz, will look to become the next champion to rep Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu.
In order to capture that title, Diaz (16-7) will have to upset the odds-on favorite and current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (17-2) in the main event of UFC on FOX 5.
The task won’t be an easy one for the Stockton, CA native, but Diaz feels that the time is right for him to join the ranks of the champions from his camp, opining during a recent media call, “My whole team’s been champions, maybe it’s my turn.”
Diaz has had an up and down career since joining the UFC as the winner of the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter. He ran off four straight wins after earning his contract, but then hit a bit of a wall, dropping decisions to Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson before recovering to submit Melvin Guillard.
Impressively Diaz earned “Fight Night” bonus dollars in six consecutive bouts during that stretch. After the win over Guillard, Diaz decided he had had enough of lightweight and tried his hand at welterweight. He found mixed results at 170, defeating Rory Markham and Marcus Davis, but losing to the higher-level welterweights, Kim Dong-Hyun and Rory MacDonald.
The experiment ended after those losses and Diaz returned to lightweight, where he ran off three straight victories and earned three consecutive “Fight Night” bonuses, as well as the right to challenge for Henderson’s title.
Who will be the champion after UFC on FOX 5?
Diaz has some advantages to work with in his first UFC title fight, the first of which is attitude. Diaz’s trash talk and taunts put Donald Cerrone off his game during their UFC 141 bout. If he can do the same with the mild-mannered Henderson, he will gain the psychological edge.
Diaz also has is a six-inch advantage in reach. If he can keep Henderson at bay and utilize his busy striking, he has a good chance of out-pointing the champion if the fight remains standing.
Diaz's final advantage is his slick submission game. Yes, we have seen Henderson’s strong submission defense, but those submission defenses came against fighters that lacked Diaz's credentials. If Henderson thinks he can take Diaz to the mat and put him on his back without fear, he may find himself in a tough spot.
Diaz has the tools to defeat Henderson. The biggest key is keeping the shorter and more physically imposing fighter out of range and avoiding his powerful strikes.
In one week we will see if it is indeed Nate Diaz’s turn to be the next champion for the Cesar Grace Jiu-Jitsu camp.