One of the biggest questions heading into tonight’s Strikeforce main event is whether Welterweight Champion, Nick Diaz, will stand with his challenger, Paul Daley.
A very technical and dangerous striker, Diaz has the potential to pick apart almost any welterweight MMA fighter in the world on his feet. He even did so in a recent fight against KJ Noons, who has experience as a professional boxer.
What’s even more interesting is that Diaz spoke out earlier this week against the “cage fighting” rules that seem to favor wrestlers, particularly those who “lay and pray” instead of trying to finish fights.
In the interview, Diaz even talked about the possibility of having future fights as a professional boxer. He doesn’t exactly look like a traditional boxer on his feet, but Diaz’s toughness and grit could help contribute to his success in that sport.
But Paul Daley is not just an average MMA fighter on the feet. While his technical boxing may not be the greatest, he boasts what may be the heaviest hands on a welterweight in the entire world of mixed martial arts.
Twenty of Daley’s 27 career wins have come by way of knockout, and he has never been knocked out himself. Meanwhile, half of Diaz’s 24 career wins have been by knockout, and he hasn’t been knocked out in nearly nine years.
No one questions that if the fight goes to the ground, it will be Diaz’s to win. As one of the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the sport, Diaz has the ability to finish his opponents anywhere the fight might take him. In fact, three of his last five victories have come by way of submission.
But with Diaz’s insistence on providing an exciting fight for the fans and not just grind it out to a decision, there is a very real chance that the Stockton, CA fighter may choose to stand and bang with his British foe.
Many would consider this a not-so-wise decision on the part of the Diaz camp, but he has shown in the past that his counter-punching is on par with the best in the division.
Certainly Paul Daley and his team are hoping that Diaz’s pride gets the better of him and he doesn’t make an attempt to bring the fight to the ground. Daley also commented earlier this week about how he feels that he has never truly been in a fight and he hopes that Nick Diaz decides to really fight him.
As a highly underrated Muay Thai expert, Daley would love nothing more than to stand and bang with Diaz for five rounds.
The heavy-handed Daley hasn’t had the best of luck when his fights have gone to the ground in the past. The most notable case of this was in his last fight in the UFC when Josh Koscheck wrestled him down and pinned him to the ground for nearly the entire, three-round fight.
Seconds after the final bell, Daley’s frustration showed as he got to his feet and struck an unsuspecting Koscheck with a late punch.
The punch was the end of Daley’s days in the UFC and has given him quite a bit of negative press ever since.
Daley went on the record with saying that he didn’t believe Koscheck did anything but stall. Whether or not that is true is essentially irrelevant, as Koscheck easily won the fight on the judge’s scorecards.
Since that night, Daley has been on a four-fight win streak with three of the four victories coming by way of strikes, including a violent knockout of Scott Smith which earned him “Knockout of the Year” in Strikeforce’s Best of 2010 Awards.
Most experts agree that Daley’s best chance of winning the fight is to keep the fight standing for as long as possible. Given Diaz’s submission skills both off his back and in top position, Daley will likely look to get back to his feet at every opportunity, if he does get taken down.
One has to assume that the Daley camp has been focusing on takedown defense to avoid putting their man at a significant disadvantage. Daley has shown some fairly solid takedown defense in the past against larger, stronger fighters than Diaz, so there is even a chance that he may be able to dictate that the fight stays on the feet for at least long enough to avoid being in a bad position early in the rounds.
Of course, the flip side of that argument lies in Nick Diaz’s takedown ability. Fellow Strikeforce fighter and long-time Diaz nemesis, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, told The MMA Hour that he believes Diaz’s weakness continues to be his wrestling.
Miller questioned whether Diaz is going to have the skills necessary to take Daley to the ground, even if he wants to. He referenced Diaz’s fight in October 2010 against KJ Noons.
In that fight, Diaz went for numerous takedowns on Noons but had trouble bringing him down and keeping him there. While he eventually won the decision and even outboxed Noons, one question is very relevant—was Noons’ takedown defense just that good, or was Diaz’s wrestling not good enough?
While KJ Noons has fought many times before at 155 pounds, Paul Daley often struggles to make the 170-pound welterweight limit.
If Daley can take something from what Noons did against Diaz in the area of takedown defense, this could turn into a very interesting fight.
It remains to be seen whether Diaz will attempt to keep the fight on the feet, but it will certainly stay there if Paul Daley has anything to say about.
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