Anthony Pettis vs. Nate Diaz: Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Nate Diaz hasn't been back in the Octagon since his second meeting with Conor McGregor at UFC 202, but that will all change in Anaheim at UFC 241 on August 17. First reported by ESPN.com's Ariel Helwani, Diaz meets Anthony Pettis in the evening's co-main event.
The bout will take place in the welterweight division.
Diaz's past two fights with McGregor both took place at 170 pounds. Pettis, the former UFC lightweight champion, returned to welterweight in March against former title challenger Stephen Thompson and was put on the Knockout of the Year shortlist with his win.
The fight now has potential title implications at welterweight. A win puts either man right in the hunt for a shot at Kamaru Usman. But first is a fight to settle long-standing bad blood. Pettis confirmed on Ariel Helwani's MMA Show that it is personal for him.
Can Diaz return from nearly three years away from the Octagon to jump back into the fray? Or does Pettis shine under the bright lights again to live up to his "Showtime" nickname just miles away from where the Lakers used to pull off their own legendary "showtime" performances?
It all starts with the stylistic matchup and who holds the advantages in each category. And let's not waste more time.
This is your preview for UFC 241's sensational co-main event between Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis.
Expect the majority of this, if not all of it, to take place on the feet. While neither fighter is opposed to working on the mat, these two love a good old-fashioned donnybrook.
We know what both men like to do on the feet. Diaz is a volume striker who breaks his opponents down over the course of time while Pettis is a dynamic striker who can end a fight out of nowhere with any number of spectacular techniques.
If you were to have this bout 10 straight times, you may come out with 10 different results.
But the edge will be given to Pettis.
The variety of Pettis' strikes and his movement gives him the edge. Diaz is primarily a boxer, but Pettis mixed it up. He isn't afraid to get creative. And that creativity has led to violent results, including his knockout win over Stephen Thompson in March.
Pettis will need to avoid getting stuck against the fence and will have to protect his body, but he has good movement. Diaz has to cut off the cage.
At range, Pettis has more options. His kicks can cause damage while Diaz presses forward. He also has the definitive edge in power. The fact that this is a three-round fight also assists Pettis' advantage. Diaz won't have the benefit of two extra rounds to work his boxing. Pettis holds the ever-so-slight edge.
This is perhaps the most difficult area to break down, as neither are noted wrestlers. Due to Diaz's jiu-jitsu background, many may gloss over the category and award him the edge, but it is Pettis who is the better grappler.
Diaz's ground game is fantastic, and we'll get to that soon, but getting the fight to the mat is a different story.
Per UFCStats.com, Diaz's takedown accuracy is just 30 percent, and his takedown defense stands at 45 percent. Neither are spectacular numbers. Pettis' stats check in at 54 percent and 58 percent respectively.
Pettis has better wrestling and is more explosive with his takedowns. As rare as they may be. His defense is also better to aid in his edge in this category. And he'll want to make sure his defense is on point to avoid being put on his back with Diaz.
"Showtime" is the more likely fighter to initiate a takedown attempt, and he is the most likely to complete one.
You're not surprised here. Diaz has the edge as the better submission stylist.
That is not to sell Pettis short. Pettis has quality submission victories against Benson Henderson and Michael Chiesa, and he caught Charles Oliveira in a guillotine as well. If you sleep on Pettis' submissions, he'll be the one putting you to sleep.
But technical advantages on the mat go to Diaz.
His length allows him to be deceptive and sneak in chokes. He is decent off his back, but from the top, he is dangerous. His ground-and-pound opens up windows for chokes, and he is quick to seize the opportunities. He has fantastic vision on the ground and can stay three steps ahead.
Will the fight even hit the ground? Who knows, but Diaz will be the one more at home.
Diaz's X-Factor: Starting Quicker
In his post-fight interview after beating Conor McGregor at UFC 196, Diaz mentioned he is a slow starter. It's something we have known, and he knows it, too. It takes him a few minutes to warm up. He'll want to try to find his rhythm quicker at UFC 241.
It is just a three-round fight, and Pettis can jump out to a quick lead on the scorecards.
Diaz doesn't have the ability to wait and ease his way into the fight against Pettis. He'll quickly give away the opening rounds and be in a dire position. Starting quicker will also put pressure on Pettis who has faded later in fights before.
Pettis' X-Factor: Don't Bite on the Talk
Diaz's trash talk can get into the head of his opponent, and Pettis' coach Duke Rufus knows it. That is why he plans to prepare Pettis for what Diaz will be saying inside the cage on fight day.
On The MMA Hour with Luke Thomas (h/t MMAFighting.com's Shaun Al-Shatti), Roufus said: "I’m a method coach—when he’s fighting one of the guys I’m fighting, I become that guy in the pads. I become that guy in training, so they get used to that mentality—a guy trash-talking, up in your face, howling and scowling the best way they can from the 209. So I’m going to integrate and get into that mindset. I’m going to be a homie for a while."
But having your coach try to emulate Diaz and dealing with Diaz are two different things.
If Pettis bites on the trash talk, he'll find himself in a brawl he doesn't want to be in. If he stays disciplined, Pettis can take this fight by being the better, more tactical, fighter.
Everything is telling me to pick Pettis. He's the more active fighter with more technical skills on the feet and can decide where this fight takes place. But there is something in my gut telling me to pick Diaz in this matchup.
And it comes down to bodywork.
Pettis has been susceptible to getting his ribs roasted at times, and he has faded before as well. Those lead me to think Diaz can work his volume, pressure-striking game plan to great success at UFC 241. He may even go down two rounds to none, but he'll score in those 10 minutes to make Pettis breathe heavy.
When the chips are down in that third round, Diaz finishes.
A broken Pettis will try to survive but be unable to get a breather as Diaz eats away at his body. The referee will save Pettis, and Diaz returns with a massive victory.
Prediction: Diaz defeats Pettis by TKO in the third round