UFC on Fox 5 Fight Card: Which Fighter Has the Most to Gain?
For all intents and purposes, lightweight contender Nate Diaz doesn't have the conventional look of a potential UFC champion.
He doesn't wear a cleanly cut suit to press conferences nor does he hide his true thoughts about his opponents through the standard set of cliches. While not as outspoken as his older brother Nick, the younger Diaz brother shares similar characteristics that have transformed the pair into mixed martial arts' most notorious bad boys.
They are confrontational, aggressive and definitely a bit cocky.
While fans have grown to love the eccentric Stockton boys over the years, Nick and Nate's actions both inside and outside of the Octagon haven't really gained them any favors within the powerful inner circles of the MMA community, despite their immense talent and skill. Saturday's title bout against champ Benson Henderson is an opportunity for Nate to not only take home a belt, but to also legitimize the Diaz brothers' spot among the sport's upper echelon of fighters.
Rewind the lightweight championship picture back to 2011, and you'll find that Nate wasn't even on the radar.
Around this time last year, Henderson had just claimed his spot as the division's top contender after beating Clay Guida at UFC on FOX 1 and was just starting to prepare for his UFC 144 battle with the now-former-champ Frankie Edgar.
Other names like Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller and Anthony Pettis were all vying for the next shot after "Smooth," while Nate was just getting acclimated to 155 again, returning to the lightweight division after two straight losses at 170 with an armbar victory over Takanori Gomi at UFC 135.
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While an impressive win, nobody thought that it would be the catalyst for Nate's current title run.
The younger Diaz emphatically clawed his way up the contender ladder with back-to-back demolitions of both Cerrone and Miller, virtually ripping out the top contender spot from his opponents' hands. It wasn't enough for Nate to just win, but these victories also had to be impressive, as no amount of trash talk from the Stockton-bred brawler could hype his way into a title fight.
Unlike, say, Chael Sonnen, the Diaz brothers' call-outs and out of the cage antics have actually hindered their chances at fighting for a UFC belt. Nick was infamously the cause of his own demise, losing out on a planned UFC 137 bout with welterweight king Georges St-Pierre after failing to make numerous media appearances.
Add in the 2010 Strikeforce: Nashville brawl, Nick's various failed drug tests and both brothers' tendencies to showboat inside the cage, and the pair becomes a mainstream marketing nightmare for the UFC. It must've taken UFC President Dana White hours to convince the FOX brass to let Nate, a man who once flipped double birdies while locking in a triangle choke and head-butted "the Cowboy" at a press conference, on a nationally televised card—twice.
To his credit, Nate has started to play the political game that Nick just refuses to participate in. That, coupled with the younger Diaz's string of impressive wins, have finally earned one of the brothers a UFC title shot.
Winning the lightweight belt isn't only imperative to solidify Nate's status as a top 155er, but it would also legitimize both brothers' claims as two of the sport's most feared, top fighters.
With Nick's erratic behavior and the overall negative stigma attached to the Diaz boys, Saturday night might be the last chance for either of them to become a UFC champion.
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