UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will defend his title against the always-outspoken Nick Diaz on March 16th at UFC 158. The fight will mark St-Pierre's second bout in four months, while Diaz will be returning from a forced hiatus of approximately 11 months.
Diaz was offered the pairing after St-Pierre expressed serious interest in the fight, which prompted Dana White to make the longtime fantasy matchup a reality.
While many feel that Johny Hendricks deserves a shot at St-Pierre after three consecutive wins against top-10 opponents—including two memorable knockouts—Diaz is arguably the more appealing name from a business standpoint.
Diaz has a more well-known career, and his “bad boy” antics and defensive, almost pitiable (I don’t mean that as an insult in the slightest) mindset have rendered him a polarizing figure.
Diaz brings a rugged in-your-face style that relies on forward movement and volume punching, with heavy emphasis on body shots. If he can put St-Pierre against the cage and uncork a few savage combinations, the champ could find himself in some deep waters.
So how does St-Pierre ensure he keeps his shiny belt?
St-Pierre can’t move in reverse in this fight because Diaz will walk him down. St-Pierre has to use side-to-side movement and stay on his bicycle whenever Diaz tosses the kitchen sink in the champion’s direction.
Diaz will try to make this an ugly affair. St-Pierre can avoid that by moving in every direction except backward.
Diaz loves to throw looping punches. He’s tightened up his offense over the years, but in the heat of battle, his punches tend to get loose and wide. If St-Pierre exercises his jab consistently, he can beat Diaz to the punch.
This kind of attack could lead to a long, drawn-out fight, but it could also create the openings that St-Pierre needs to land a fight-finishing strike.
The last thing I anticipate seeing in this fight is a submission victory for St-Pierre.
That said, he has a refined submission game that will prevent him from getting submitted while also allowing him to fight from side control or inside Diaz’s guard.
St-Pierre has to string together a few nice punches and follow through with the power double-leg or time Diaz’s forward momentum to snag the takedown. Either way, he has to use his wrestling to wear Diaz down.
If Diaz has ever shown an area in need of improvement, it’s his wrestling. St-Pierre has the tools to dictate the pace of this match and be Diaz's Kryptonite. It’s up to St-Pierre to use them.
Diaz can submit just about anyone. He’s slick, flexible and creative in his attacks, and when he fights smart, he sees every opening.
St-Pierre cannot afford to leave an arm planted on the deck from inside Diaz’s guard for too long, and keeping the arms extended any farther than necessary will be a risk as well.
St-Pierre has to take Diaz’s jiu-jitsu seriously and be wary from the jump to the final bell. One slip in this fight could see Diaz pulling off the upset of a lifetime via submission.
No one wants to hear this, but it should be said. St-Pierre has to fight conservatively and at a pace he can maintain.
Diaz isn’t likely to go anywhere for five rounds. He’ll be in St-Pierre’s face every second.
St-Pierre would like to get back to his finishing ways, and I expect him to push for an explosive finish. But if he leaves too much in the Octagon, he could end up in a precarious place in the championship rounds.
If Diaz manages to land a few significant flurries, and St-Pierre overexerts himself just a little, Round 5 could get ugly for the perennial pound-for-pound candidate.
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