Georges St-Pierre is healthy and back to defending his UFC welterweight title with regularity.
After reclaiming his spot as undisputed 170-pound champion by beating interim titleholder Carlos Condit, St-Pierre asked for a fight with archenemy Nick Diaz. St-Pierre had been booked to fight Diaz before and, although the former Strikeforce champion was coming off a loss to Condit, the Canadian wanted to settle his score with the outspoken Californian once and for all.
In addition to losing his most recent fight, Diaz has not fought in more than a year due to a suspension served for testing positive for marijuana metabolites. For those reasons, many felt Johny Hendricks was a more deserving contender, but the UFC decided to fulfill St-Pierre's rare opponent request.
As this long-anticipated grudge match between St-Pierre and Diaz approaches, let's take a look at which fighter is more likely to walk away from UFC 158 with the belt around their waist.
Landing 43 percent of his strikes thrown, Nick Diaz isn't the most accurate striker in the welterweight division. In fact, he's not even as accurate as Georges St-Pierre, who lands 53 percent of his strike attempts.
However, Diaz is able to overwhelm opponents because he throws with such volume.
Diaz probably won't be able to wear out a well-conditioned champion like St-Pierre, but his aggression and constant barrage of punches could be effective against the Canadian, who has really only had a significant amount of success standing when facing grapplers with non-technical striking.
If this fight goes to the ground, St-Pierre will almost surely be the fighter on top.
In that case, Diaz will be much more concerned with playing guard and working toward submission attempts or escaping than trying to strike off of his back.
Diaz has a solid chin, so it's unlikely he'll be finished with St-Pierre's methodical ground-and-pound, but it's very possible he'll spend five rounds getting punched in the head on the ground by the welterweight champion.
Power and Durability
St-Pierre answered some questions about his chin in his bout with Carlos Condit, surviving a knockdown from a head kick to go on and win on the scorecards.
However, Diaz also took some of Condit's best shots without going down, and he's never been stopped inside the Octagon unlike St-Pierre.
Offensively, Diaz has stopped more opponents than St-Pierre as of late, though that likely has a lot to do with the level of competition both welterweights have been facing.
Overall Striking Edge: Diaz
Takedowns and Takedown Defense
Georges St-Pierre may have the best double-leg takedown in MMA, while Nick Diaz's wrestling is fairly clearly the weakest aspect of his game.
Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch are widely considered some of the best wrestlers to ever compete in the 170-pound division, and both of them were taken to the canvas on several occasions by St-Pierre in their title shots.
It's pretty much inevitable that this fight will go to the ground. What will decide the fight's outcome is whether or not Diaz can threaten with submissions or successfully work his way back toward a standing position.
Control and Escapability
When St-Pierre takes opponents to the ground, they often stay there through the remainder of the round.
However, it has been quite some time since Diaz has been completely shut down on the ground. Even when his takedown defense fails him, Diaz has had the jiu-jitsu to submit his foes or put them in bad enough positions relinquish their top position.
That said, Diaz hasn't fought anyone with a ground game on St-Pierre's level in the recent past. It's much more likely he'll catch the champion in a submission than escape with regularity.
Submissions and Submission Defense
St-Pierre has submitted Matt Hughes and has only been forced to tap against the welterweight legend, so his jiu-jitsu is certainly not lacking.
However, the titleholder is not one to risk position for submissions, whereas Diaz is perfectly willing to do so. As a result, Diaz has more submission wins than St-Pierre and is probably more capable of finishing this fight on the ground, having never been submitted himself.
Overall Grappling Edge: St-Pierre
Georges St-Pierre may have more experience inside the Octagon, but that probably won't give him much of an advantage over Nick Diaz.
Diaz is a former Strikeforce champion and has seen many big fights himself. It might not show in his media work leading up to title fights, but Diaz is not one to be negatively impacted by the magnitude of a fight once he's inside that cage.
Diaz has fast hands and can go for days, but St-Pierre brings a different level of athleticism to the table than almost any of his opponents.
The champion is very strong for a 170-pound fighter and has the explosiveness that the somewhat lanky Diaz lacks.
While St-Pierre isn't going to gas with all the experience he has in five-round fights, it's unlikely he'll be able to keep the same pace as Diaz for 25 minutes.
Diaz's triathlon training has turned him into one of the most well-conditioned fighters in all of MMA, and that could benefit him should he survive to see the later rounds of this fight.
Overall Intangibles Edge: Push
The gap in wrestling ability between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz is too great to lead one to believe this bout could remain standing for any significant amount of time.
While Diaz could conceivably shock St-Pierre with a submission on the ground, it's going to be incredibly difficult. St-Pierre has rolled with comparable grapplers to Diaz in B.J. Penn and Carlos Condit without being threatened with many submission attempts.
For all the anger St-Pierre has shown toward Diaz in the lead-up to this fight, he's too smart to risk his championship by putting himself in a bad spot just to inflict some extra punishment.
St-Pierre defeats Diaz by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45).