Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: 5 Fights for Nate Diaz to Take Next

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2012

Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz: 5 Fights for Nate Diaz to Take Next

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    Many times when a fighter loses a title shot, it is hard to imagine where they could possibly be going from there. Such is the case with Nate Diaz right now.

    After being thoroughly bested by Benson Henderson, Diaz is going to need to keep strong and win some more fights if he wants to stay ranked among the best lightweights in the world. Luckily for him, there are some options out there.

    So who could Diaz's next fight come against? Find out right here!

Joe Lauzon

1 of 5 like submissions? Oh, you like just generally awesome fights, too?

    Between these two there are 11 submissions of the night, nine fights of the night, and one knockout of the night, making for 21 fight night bonuses total. On paper, that's two of the most exciting fighters in UFC history and two of the best finishers in the sport today.

    Both of these fighters are alumni of Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, where Lauzon was part of Team Penn and Diaz was part of Team Pulver. During the show, they never ended up facing each other, as Lauzon ended up losing in the semifinals to Manny Gamburyan after beating Cole Miller and Brandon Geraghty, while Diaz won the season by beating Gamburyan, former title contender Gray Maynard and Corey Hill.

    Lauzon is a popular fighter, and if he can beat Jim Miller at UFC 155, he will once again be entering the title picture. He has failed to string together a winning streak longer than two since his first three fights in the UFC, but he has still gotten big wins over the likes of Jens Pulver, Jeremy Stephens, Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner.

    Really, if you know much about these two fighters, it is not a tough sell. Your mouth is probably already watering onto your keyboard.

Gray Maynard

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    Gray “The Bully” Maynard is another TUF5 alumnus who would make for a compelling opponent against Nate Diaz.

    As with Lauzon, he is seeking to re-enter the title picture. Unlike Lauzon, though, Maynard actually found himself fighting for the belt not once, but twice against Frankie Edgar in 2011, fighting to a draw and a loss at UFC 125 and UFC 136, respectively.

    Diaz and Maynard have fought each other twice before. Once in an “exhibition” fight during the TUF5 season, where Diaz won via a second-round guillotine choke. The other time officially headlining a Spike TV Fight Night event in 2010, where Maynard earned the nod in a split decision.

    The two know their way around smack-talking, which would make for a downright volatile build-up. The fight itself is deserving of either headline status on an FX card, or a PPV co-main event.

    It's an exciting fight between two talented lightweights that makes sense. Maynard currently has nothing on his schedule, after pulling out of a fight with Joe Lauzon at UFC 155.

    No reason not to book this, Joe Silva!

Pat Healy

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    As you probably heard, Strikeforce is going to be folding in just about a month. With that, we are going to see several fighters that have impressive wins in the promotion, but are still unknown commodities to UFC fans.

    Pat Healy is one of those fighters.

    He is currently on a five fight winning streak, which was enough to earn him a title shot against Gilbert Melendez. At this point, though, he will not be getting it, as Melendez twice pulled out of fights due to injury, first at the aptly named Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy (which was canceled due to Melendez's injury), then at the upcoming Strikeforce: Champions event (since renamed Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine).

    As both fighters enter the UFC, Gilbert Melendez is potentially lined up for an immediate title shot. At the worst, he is looking at one fight before going for the belt, and that would come against an established top-10 fighter, not a Strikeforce holdover with no name value such as Healy.

    Still, Healy has shown himself to be pretty darn good over the years. While he has not been super-electrifying in Strikeforce, this is a guy who has been fighting since age 18, and has wins at welterweight over Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Carlos Condit. If he can beat Jorge Masvidal at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine convincingly, he will be deserving of a top-10 opponent.

    Diaz can do what his teammate couldn't be bothered to. It would be a fun fight between two submission-focused fighters with deceptively good hands that would be a great chapter in the Strikeforce vs. UFC saga.

Eddie Alvarez

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    Much like Pat Healy, Eddie Alvarez is a fighter who has found a great deal of success in another promotion, in this case Bellator, but has lingering questions about how he will stack up in the UFC. Nate Diaz is a great measuring stick for how evolved a fighter is, both standing and on the ground.

    Alvarez, who trains with the Blackzilians these days, is the new Jake Shields. He is a highly sought-after free agent for the UFC and will likely be somebody Dana White and Co. try to shoe-horn into a title shot. Just like Jake Shields, though, he is going to need at least one big win before he gets the chance to touch gold.

    Because Alvarez has been exclusively fighting for Bellator since 2009 (and was in Dream before that), he can be reasonably slotted against almost any given high mid-tier, or high-tier UFC lightweight. Diaz finds himself in that lot alongside Anthony Pettis, Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller.

    Alvarez, who has many highlight-reel submissions and knockouts, is a threat anywhere in the cage and, really, it would be a joy for fans to watch him against Diaz.

    The first step to this, obviously, is actually signing Eddie Alvarez. After that? Totally plausible.

Anthony Pettis

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    The former WEC lightweight champion is quite the fighter. His lightning-quick kicks make him one of the most unique strikers in the UFC, and his win over champion Ben Henderson at WEC 53 makes him a top lightweight in the UFC as long as Bendo remains in the promotion's good graces.

    Unfortunately for everyone involved, he has been in matchmaking hell ever since joining the UFC; first finding himself on the outside looking in on the title drama between Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar, and now having to deal with rescheduling and injuries throughout 2012. He is scheduled to finally face Donald Cerrone at UFC on Fox 6 in January (fingers crossed).

    Assuming he wins, he is going to once again put Joe Silva in an awkward spot, as he most certainly warrants title shot consideration, but will have more than a little competition. If Pettis once again finds himself somewhere other than in a title fight, Nate Diaz makes sense as an opponent.

    Joe Lauzon is Pettis' biggest win right now. Obviously, Lauzon is really quite good. As stated, however, he is a guy who has not exuded dominance over the years in the UFC.

    If the UFC continues to refuse to set him up against Ben Henderson, it would be because they want him to build up more of a winning streak in the UFC. If things play out this way, it would be hard to argue with back-to-back-to-back wins over Joe Lauzon, Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz.