When Nick Diaz fights, the media acts as if some sort of world title is on the line. Mauro Ranallo screams hyperbole about Diaz being one of the greatest fighters in the sport. And Frank "The Legend" Shamrock praises Diaz to no end.
When it comes to Strikeforce's bottom line, Diaz in an important piece of the puzzle. He's an exciting fighter and a draw at the gate. He makes Strikeforce money.
Media people like to talk about Diaz because he says insane and inflammatory things, and is generally someone who can stir up some pseudo-controversy by calling out Georges St. Pierre, refusing to fight Jason Miller, or ranting incoherently about Josh Koscheck not facing quality opposition while he goes about beating on Hayato Sakurai and Mushin Corbbrey.
But is he relevant in MMA in a competitive context?
Last night's Strikeforce welterweight title fight with Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos was a highly entertaining affair, but hardly a relevant matchup insofar as the world welterweight rankings are concerned.
Heading into his bout, Santos had a paltry MMA record of 18-13, with a 1-0 record inside the welterweight division.
In his last fight, Diaz faced KJ Noons, who had a 10-2 lightweight record, but no fights inside the welterweight division.
Neither fighter was in the top 25 world divisional rankings.
How exactly do these wins classify as defenses of a world title?
Because Strikeforce doesn't have any other top welterweights for Diaz to face.
How is that?
1. Most of the talent in the welterweight division is located within the UFC.
According to most legitimate MMA rankings, the UFC has at least eight of the top ten, and 21 out of the top 25 fighters who currently fight at welterweight.
2. Most of the good welterweights outside of the UFC don't fight in Strikeforce.
Aside from recent Strikeforce signee, Paul Daley, the other two top-ranked welterweights, Jay Hieron and Ben Askren, are signed with Bellator.
And Your Point Is?
Some might say that it isn't Strikeforce's fault that there isn't anybody for him to fight.
But that didn't have to be the case.
Bellator's fourth season welterweight tournament contains a whole host of welterweights with decent to very good resumes.
In fact, I'll go as far as saying that whatever happens on this season of Bellator is going to be a lot more relevant than whatever happens this year in Strikeforce's welterweight division.
Jay Hieron in particular has been singled out by commentators as being a possibly bad stylistic matchup for Diaz.
Perhaps that's why Strikeforce didn't put forth a serious effort in retaining Hieron's services last year when they had the opportunity.
Diaz is most certainly a better draw then Hieron, and unlike in the case of Hieron, there isn't a UFC video of Georges St. Pierre blitzing Diaz in the opening moments of a fight.
But by failing to negotiate with Hieron and choosing Evangelista Santos as a challenger for Diaz instead, Strikeforce showed that when it comes to Nick Diaz, they're more interested in putting on entertaining bouts and selling tickets that they are in hosting relevant competition.
Much in the case with Hieron, Strikeforce also failed to retain the services of Joe Riggs, who has declined recently but, he once defeated Nick Diaz and is a relatively bad stylistic matchup for him.
Instead of putting Diaz against a wrestler who could exploit Diaz's biggest historical weakness en route to a less than satisfying decision, Strikeforce is once again placing him against a striker in Paul Daley, who should be an easy tapout if Diaz can drag him to the ground.
Daley does have legitimate knockout power, so there is some real danger for Diaz in that potential fight.
But even so, Daley is one of the few welterweights out there who isn't the kind of top-position wrestler who usually causes Diaz problems.
If Diaz was in the UFC, he'd be fighting great wrestlers like Georges St. Pierre, Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck.
Even comparatively low-ranked Jake Ellenberger could prove to be a horrible style matchup for Diaz.
Still, because Diaz is a marketable character for Strikeforce, he probably gets more media attention than anybody in the division outside of Georges St. Pierre.
Meanwhile, Jon Fitch, a perennial pound-for-pound fighter and probably the third greatest welterweight of all time, will probably just fade out of the collective MMA consciousness if he loses to BJ Penn next month.
So Diaz can keep fighting the Evangelista Santoses and KJ Noonses of the world. The media will cover it like it's an important event.
Until he fights the elite wrestlers of the division, his fights will remain only pseudo-relevant.
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