It's rather refreshing to see a fighter decide to move up a weight class as opposed to dropping down to take on fighters much smaller than themselves. So when Nate Diaz announced that he was testing the waters at welterweight, I was ecstatic. Instead of just cutting weight and dieting, Diaz was actually going to hit the weight room and attempt to fight guys his own size.
Unfortunately, it was the wrong move.
Diaz has looked absolutely stellar at 170 in his two fights at the weight so far, but I don't think he can make it much higher up the ranks. If you take a quick look at his previous fights, it's plain to see why.
You'll notice losses to Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, and Gray Maynard. All top-notch wrestlers. Who runs amok amongst the welterweights? Top-notch wrestlers.
Georges St. Pierre, Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Matt Hughes, Dong Hyun Kim. The list just goes on and on. For Diaz to ever seriously compete he would have to train his wrestling diligently for years upon years.
Yes, Diaz has awesome jiu jitsu that can cause anyone problems, but the guys above aren't only world class wrestlers, they are also elite jiu jitsu practitioners as well. St. Pierre is a black belt. Koscheck and Fitch have been training at AKA with some of the best partners in the world and it shows as Fitch has never been submitted in the UFC. Matt Hughes just submitted Renzo Gracie black belt Ricardo Almedia at UFC 117. These guys are no joke when the fight hits the mat.
Where should Nate Diaz fight at?
If you look at Cesar Gracie's camp, where Diaz trains at, it becomes even more apparent that Diaz will always lag behind in terms of wrestling. The team is primarily composed of the Diaz brothers, Nate and Nick, Jake Shields, and Gilbert Melendez. Melendez is an above average wrestler in his own right, but neither Diaz or Shields has picked up anything significant from him.
Older brother Nick isn't a takedown waiting to happen, but he doesn't exactly have stellar takedown's of his own. If you watched his fight with K.J. Noons, it became clear that his only option was to stand and trade with the former professional boxer. Noons shrugged off every takedown attempt from the elder Diaz.
Jake Shields is a fantastic jiu jitsu practitioner, one of the best at 170 pounds. But his takedowns are atrocious. He struggled to get a wheezing Dan Henderson, a guy who has always had porous takedown defense, to the ground in his final Strikeforce bout and could barley get Martin Kampmann there as well. Kampmann even allowed him to take it the ground multiple times just to try and sink in a guillotine choke.
At this point in his career, with the people he has decided to train with, it seems as if Diaz will always be in trouble when it comes to wrestling. Nate always comes to fight and always comes to entertain. His Stockton trash talking, gangster image leads to a fantastic scene when the cage door closes but that won't win him fights at 170. His jiu jitsu and striking simply won't be enough.
After Dong Hyun Kim out wrestles Diaz for three rounds on Saturday en route to an unanimous decision victory, I would like to see Diaz drop back down to 155. His last fight with Maynard was a split decision, one that many people thought Diaz won in the first place. I think he could do well for himself back down at lightweight, he may even put together a title run.