UFC on Fox 7 goes down this very Saturday in San Jose, Calif. And let me be the very, very first person to make this observation about the card: it's a stacked one.
There's a high level of quality all up and down the event, from Facebook to finale. As a result, the lightweight bout between Nate Diaz and Strikeforce transplant Josh Thomson—maybe the headliner on a cable TV card—finds itself at the tail end of the Fox TV lineup.
It makes for a great table-setter for the main event, though. Neither Diaz nor Thomson has done a lot of losing lately, but each man recently came up short against the two guys fighting for the UFC lightweight title. Diaz fell to UFC belt holder Benson Henderson, while Thomson lost to Gilbert Melendez, the Strikeforce lightweight titlist also making his Octagon debut on Saturday.
In any event, here's a full breakdown of this fight.
Nate Diaz has slowly evolved a pressurized, stalk-you-down boxing game ideally suited for the cage environment. He walks you back against the fence, gets in your face and delivers fast combinations. Diaz's five-inch reach advantage over Thomson will be a huge help.
Thomson has a pretty polished striking arsenal and likes to bounce around in there. He could stay clear of Diaz's stalking, but I'm not sure he has the power clinch game or perimeter weapons he would need to make a dent. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see him use leg kicks early to try to take some of the starch out of Diaz's stride and maybe set up a takedown.
Thomson won't be a babe in the woods in the striking phase, but it doesn't seem on paper to be an advantage against Diaz.
This is probably where the two are most evenly matched. Thomson has nine submission victories and has never lost that way. Every UFC fan is going to be familiar with Diaz's jiu-jitsu base, which is a threat from the top or the bottom.
Thomson has very good takedowns, while Diaz doesn't pay much attention to takedown defense. That could be a rich vein for Thomson to tap, trusting his position grappling game to stay out of Diaz's submission attempts and lather, rinse, repeat.
Then again, I thought the same thing about Jim Miller.
Slight edge: Diaz
I wonder if some of the bloom is off the rose with the whole Diaz Trash Talk thing. It didn't exactly work wonders for big brother Nick against Georges St-Pierre (or Carlos Condit, for that matter). Nate wasn't really able to get it going against Bendo, and Thomson is not exactly a stranger to the situation, having faced Diaz teammate Melendez three times in Strikeforce.
As for cardio, both men are good athletes, but Thomson is not on the Diaz level. Thomson will last a long time. Diaz will last forever.
Slight advantage: Diaz
So it's a clean sweep in my book for Mr. Diaz. I don't think it will be a domination by any stretch; Thomson has good takedowns, good wrestling, good cardio and good striking. He's good. He's a good fighter. He'll fight a good fight.
But in this case, his opponent is just a little better. Yes, Diaz lost to the great Benson Henderson in his last fight. But Bendo has unparalleled power and skill. It might be a while before he loses again (and Melendez, for the record, isn't the man to do it in my estimation). Before that, Diaz had bested some true warriors in Miller, Donald Cerrone and Takanori Gomi, among others. He'll get back to that form on Saturday night.
Pick: Nate Diaz def. Josh Thomson by Unanimous Decision