UFC 158: Keys to Victory for Nick Diaz
Come Saturday, Nick Diaz will attempt to dethrone one of the most prolific fighters of all time.
It's been a work in progress to actually get him inside the Octagon with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, but their feud outside of the cage has manifested itself in an uncontrollable blaze.
Diaz has more or less worked his way into GSP's head, making the champ more emotional entering a fight than ever before.
Taking that into consideration, it's understandable how hyped their showdown at UFC 158 is becoming.
Either St-Pierre's wrestling will stifle the challenger's elite boxing, or Diaz will put forth the recipe to end a six-year unbeaten streak in one of the UFC's deepest divisions, prompting GSP to make a move to middleweight and a run at Anderson Silva.
Here are Diaz's keys to victory as he finally gets his chance to prove he's the best in the world.
Maintain His Range
Despite a two-inch height difference, Nick Diaz and Georges St-Pierre share the same reach.
That equality isn't really going to help Diaz create a perfected game plan to stop GSP's takedowns and jabs.
Instead, the challenger is going to have to find his range early and maintain it into the later rounds. Diaz is one of the best fighters in the world at doing this, considering his overall boxing prowess, but it's going to be even more useful if he can comfortably throw head kicks.
As we've seen in the past, St-Pierre doesn't have the best of chins. If Diaz can find his range sometime before the third round, he could keep the champ's takedown attempts at bay with good footwork and timed kicks.
It's not the greatest of plans for a guy who likes to get in your face and exchange leather, but if Diaz gets too close, he'll get put on his head.
Utilize Knees in the Clinch
Nick Diaz really isn't known for throwing devastating knees, especially against the cage when he would rather utilize his boxing, but it could do wonders against the wrestling of Georges St-Pierre.
The bottom line is that this fight isn't going to stay in the middle of the Octagon for 25 straight minutes. These guys are going to battle within every inch of the cage, including alongside it.
Whether Diaz is pressing St-Pierre against the fence or vice versa, he should look to throw knees. That may sound generic, but when you entertain the notion that GSP has one of the best takedown arsenals of all time, making him pay when he drops down could deter him later on in the fight.
This is going to be tough for Diaz to do. After all, whenever he has an opponent pinned to the cage, he aims to step back, throw body punches, lure them into multiple exchanges and score points.
If he does that against Georges, the champion has all the tools on the planet to bring the fight to the ground.
Keep Busy off His Back
With one of the most active guards in all of mixed martial arts, Nick Diaz isn't going to have to improvise too much in order to prolong his success off his back opposite Georges St-Pierre.
Instead, he must make sure he protects himself from a swarming GSP. Furthermore, he must make sure he doesn't give up better positioning by attempting a submission too early and must realize that any shot landed—no matter the magnitude—is a good shot thrown.
Diaz needs to be prepared to fight a defensive fight. He's not going to be able to keep this title bout standing for too long, especially if he gets to St-Pierre early.
Therefore, bringing an exceptional game plan off his back into this fight is going to allow Diaz to defend when the pressure is on, use his length to land short elbows from the bottom and potentially catch GSP sleeping in the later rounds.
Outwork the Champ
It sounds simple, but actually outworking Georges St-Pierre inside the cage may be more difficult than winning the fight.
The two obviously go hand in hand but outworking the champion means Nick Diaz will be able to dictate the fight. That's something rarely seen in a bout involving GSP.
Usually contenders step up, get peppered in the face with jabs, can't find any openings on the feet and ultimately get smashed by the champ off their backs for 25 minutes.
In this instance, Diaz has the well-rounded skills to go along with the conditioning. He'll be able to get out of positions and flurries that other guys couldn't. He'll be able to maintain a pace deep into the fight and make St-Pierre pay at every turn.
It's going to be interesting to see who comes out on top if this goes five rounds, but if Diaz can outwork the champion when it comes to even the small things, he could pull off the upset.
Keep His Emotions in Check
This is the biggest fight of Georges St-Pierre's career. It's also the biggest fight of Nick Diaz's career.
On one hand, you have St-Pierre, a guy trying to prove a recent injury isn't going to derail his ascension in the UFC record books. A guy who needs to prove he's still the face of the welterweight division. A guy who has taken emotional distress and turned it into physical fuel.
On the other hand, you have Diaz, a guy who has dreamed of the opportunity to one day fight for a UFC championship. A guy who has accepted the role of the villain to assure his title hopes. A guy who has defied the UFC's image of a "professional athlete" while holding up a big middle finger along the way.
What these two men are going to bring to the Octagon this Saturday at UFC 158 in front of a sold out Canadian crowd is the fortitude, preparation, dedication, heart and will to do anything and everything to call themselves champion.
However, as skilled and battle-tested as they are, in a fight so tainted by personal battery, the warrior who finds the strength to suppress his emotions the most will ultimately leave victorious.
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