Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz notched his third title defense—an organizational record—by getting the best of former Cage Rage Welterweight Champion Paul Daley in an all-out, one round main event scrap at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, Calif. this past Saturday night.
The out-spoken Stockton, Calif. native’s polarizing figure made his two Strikeforce bouts in 2010 the two highest rated MMA events on Showtime. Diaz sent a message to the MMA world by becoming the first to (T)KO “Semtex” in the Brit’s eight-year career, dramatically reminding fans why he is one of the world’s elite at 170-pounds. Here are 10 reasons why, if he’s not the best, he’s the most dangerous.
Dedication to the submission game taught to him at Cesar Gracie’s Pleasant Hill, Calif. provided the groundwork for the Diaz we’re seeing today. Unwavering in his jiu-jitsu study, he’s applied his finishing mentality on the mat to the rest of his mixed martial arts game.
Unprofessional or not, the reason for Diaz’s erratic behavior in the media is simple: He only cares about the bout, not the promotion of it. Like UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, he views PR as a side step on his direct line toward the next goal—winning the next fight. It may make him controversial, but it also makes him incredibly in-tune come fight time. ADHD is the reason Diaz is known for possessing a medical marijuana card. Fighting is his other cure for ADHD.
There is not much an opponent can do at the end of Diaz’s rangy, straight punches. The volume in which he attacks is overwhelming for opponents, and the same is true when the UFC veteran works on the inside, looping short hooks off his straight punches while closing the distance or digging to the body on the inside. Copious time in the boxing gym has given Diaz, a welterweight standing at 6’1", an understanding of range that is difficult to match.
4) Body Shots
While Diaz is known for his own stellar cardio regiment, he should also be credited for subverting his opponent’s endurance preparation. The body punch is still a developing technique in MMA and Diaz—like Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez—is at the forefront. Diaz won’t slow down, and body shots ensure his opponents will sooner rather than later against his damaging pace. This bolsters his finishing ability as he remains the fresher fighter.
5) Youth Meets Experience
At 20 years old, Diaz debuted in the UFC with nearly four years of training under his belt in a time where cross training was still not common practice. He captured the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship at 26 years old. At 27 years old and staking his claim as one of the world’s elite, he has over a decade experience to call upon going into his prime athletic years. Despite the impressive victory over Daley, it’s likely defining performances are still ahead for Diaz.
Not just any fighter can handle a “Semtex” explosion, but Nick Diaz did. Daley delivered on his promise to tag Diaz, momentarily sending the champion to the mat in danger. Diaz hones his cardio to peak condition and combines it with rare natural grit in order to recover and turn the fight in his favor quickly like he did. It was a repeat of his comeback ability versus then-the world’s top lightweight, Takanori Gomi, in February 2007, when Diaz submitted him via gogoplata. Diaz has been stopped once in his career, back in 2002 to Jeremy Jackson, an opponent he went on to finish twice.
7) Power in Accuracy
High volume, high accuracy punches translate to speed being power. Diaz is often criticized for a lack of punching power, but MMA legend Frank Shamrock has commented they hurt enough for him to contemplate retirement after their fight. A slugfest with Diaz is a gamble because most brawlers will eat multiple punches to land one, while Diaz lands multiple punches before an opponent can land one on his resilient chin. Four-ounce gloves don’t require the same technique as punching with 16-ounce gloves to damage an adversary, and Diaz has applied that concept perfectly.
8) Cesar Gracie Fighter
A large part of Diaz’s success can be attributed to the school of thought the Gracie Fighter moniker carries. Cesar Gracie imparts on his students a vale tudo mentality—superior technique in any fight no matter the circumstances—and tireless training approach. Rather than cycle through a revolving door of training partners, Diaz works with a core group consisting of his brother Nathan, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez, fighters he’s backed for a decade-plus. It finds him in the gym year round: A concern he voiced prior to facing off with Daley was getting back to prepare his teammates for UFC 129 on April 30.
9) Get Paid
Mixed martial arts is not a rags-to-riches sport like boxing. Many of the sport’s top fighters are celebrated for earning college degrees. Diaz is a throwback, employing fighting to better his circumstances. It’s why Diaz consistently cites money as a motivator. He has an urgency to collect all the wealth he possibly can for the numerous sacrifices required to reach the highest levels of MMA, because while he’s still incurring much of the same damage, he won’t be compensated comparably to a world-class boxer. Discrepancy drives him, and that is an X-factor as old as fighting itself.
10) It’s a Fight
Diaz does not fight for points. Diaz has dropped decisions—four in the UFC that haunt his ledger—within the confines of MMA’s unified rules, but in a fight, one would be hard pressed where Diaz appears have lost at the end. At the end of the day, this sport is still fighting, and few can excel at that like Diaz. Whether it’s fighting for money, respect or to demonstrate who has superior technique, Diaz’s motivations run deep enough to elevate him past any potential opponents.
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Follow him on twitter.com/acostaislegend