UFC 135 Results: How Nate Diaz Can Become a Contender at Lightweight

Michael MagoulisCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2011

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

After a disappointing and somewhat controversial split decision loss to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 20, Nate Diaz decided to jump up to the welterweight division in order to avoid cutting weight to make 155 pounds.

While at 170 pounds, Diaz started off with two impressive performances. In his welterweight debut, he battered Rory Markham and finished him in the first round via TKO. Diaz followed that by submitting Marcus Davis in a fight he completely dominated. Despite the professional boxing experience of Davis, Diaz easily got the better of him striking.

In his next two bouts, losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald, Diaz learned the importance of size as he was controlled very easily in both fights.

Nate Diaz finally returned to lightweight at UFC 135, utterly destroying Takanori Gomi. Diaz picked Gomi apart on the feet as the former PRIDE champion threw wild haymakers that missed their mark.

After "The Fireball Kid" got rocked on his feet, he attempted to take Diaz to the ground. Diaz showed his excellent guard, catching Gomi in a triangle. He was then able to chain submissions together until he transitioned into an armbar for the finish.

Diaz's performance proves not only that he belongs at lightweight, but that he has the potential to be a contender.

Nate's issue, similar to his brother Nick, is his lack of wrestling. In the past, both Diaz brothers have relied on their excellent guards to finish fights. The problem with that is, as the Dong Hyun Kim fight proved, simply threatening with submissions isn't enough to win fights. Judges will often favor the man on top, even if he isn't doing much damage.

Diaz has proved that he has the ability to pick apart great strikers on the feet, even busting up the face of Gray Maynard—the man currently fighting for the lightweight title. He also has the ability to submit people off of his back. In his 14 wins, Diaz has finished 10 of them by submission.

The biggest weakness for Diaz is his inability to deal with strong wrestlers who can maintain top position and avoid submissions—fighters like Clay Guida, who Diaz has lost to in the past. It'll also be helpful if he could diversify his striking game and include more kicks, especially if he doesn't mind fighting off of his back.

With any hope, Diaz can improve his wrestling with help from fellow Cesar Gracie fighter Jake Shields and make a run in the lightweight division. Despite his seven years of fight experience, Diaz is just 26 years old and his best days are still likely ahead of him.