Ranking the 6 Best Fights of Nick Diaz's Career

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor ISeptember 21, 2021

Ranking the 6 Best Fights of Nick Diaz's Career

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    It's Nick Diaz fight week. I confess that I didn't expect to ever write a sentence like that again. 

    The Stockton, California native—one of the most popular fighters in MMA history—has not fought since January 2015, when he battled Anderson Silva to a unanimous-decision loss that was later overturned when both fighters failed drug tests.

    Once we'd gone a few years without the fan favorite, many accepted we'd never see him fight again. By the time we hit the five-year mark in January 2020, it seemed a near-certainty that he was done for good. 

    Then, in July, news surfaced that Diaz would return to the Octagon for a five-round fight with former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler at this Saturday's UFC 266 event. The news was at once shocking and thrilling for Diaz fans, many of whom had accepted that his highlight reel was as close as they'd come to seeing him in action again.

    The fight announcement had extra oomph because of Diaz and Lawler's history: The pair engaged in a wild fight back in 2004, which ended with one of the best finishes of the Diaz's career. 

    As UFC 266 draws ever closer, there's a widespread feeling that he and Lawler could well produce another classic. If that's the way things go down, the fight will join a long list of classics on Diaz's resume.

    Keep scrolling for a few of our favorite fights from the Stockton, California legend.

Nick Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez

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    Over the years, Diaz has gained a reputation as one of the most effective boxers in MMA. His bread and butter has always been his grappling, though. That grappling was on full display in a 2005 war with another future legend, Diego Sanchez.

    Diaz and Sanchez's fight unfurled almost entirely on the canvas. For three hectic rounds, the two welterweights scrambled, scrambled and scrambled some more in a display that left grappling fans with their jaws on the floor. 

    Unfortunately for Diaz, the judges ultimately scored the fight for Sanchez, but it was the kind of fight with no real losers. It was that good.

Nick Diaz vs. KJ Noons II

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    Diaz and KJ Noons first fought in 2007, under the EliteXC banner. Diaz seemed to have all the tools to win that initial matchup, but unfortunately, it ended in disappointment: Noons opened up some bad cuts on Diaz's face, and the doctor stopped the contest between the first and second rounds. 

    Just shy of three years later, Diaz and Noons were booked for a rematch in the Strikeforce cage—with the welterweight title on the line. The buildup to the fight was fantastic, riddled with plenty of trash talk and sabre-rattling. The fight itself was even better.

    The two welterweights exchanged heavy artillery for five, frenetic rounds. Both men had plenty of big moments, as Diaz frustrated Noons with his range and volume, and Noons answered with a vicious, close-range attack to the head and body. Noons actually cut Diaz again in the second round, bringing back grim memories of their first fight, but in the end, Diaz walked away with a hard-fought unanimous decision win in an instant classic. 

Nick Diaz vs. BJ Penn

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    Nick Diaz entered the MMA limelight as part of the UFC roster, but after establishing a foothold with the promotion, spent many years outside it, competing for hallowed organizations like Pride, Dream, EliteXC and Strikeforce.

    After an impressive reign as the Strikeforce welterweight champion, Diaz returned to the UFC in 2011. He was welcomed back by one BJ Penn—a former two-division UFC champion and a man many fans consider one of the greatest fighters in MMA history. 

    For all of Penn's accolades and toughness, Diaz was the picture of dominance in this fight, pummeling his legendary rival en route to a unanimous-decision win. 

    It was a riveting performance, but more importantly, a statement-making one as Diaz looked to reassert himself among the UFC's top fighters.

Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi

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    In his heyday, Takanori Gomi was not a fun guy to fight. The former baseball pitcher was one of fiercest punchers in the sport, capable of shutting the lights out on just about anybody at any given moment. That didn't deter Diaz from stepping into the Pride ring with him in 2007.

    Diaz tasted Gomi's power early in the first round, as he was sent tumbling to the mat by a blistering right hook. He did more than survive that scare, promptly returning fire and rocking Gomi with some punches of his own.

    Once Gomi was hurt, all hell broke loose. By the time the first round concluded, the fight had devolved into a frenetic firefight. That trend continued into the second, until a desperate Gomi fought for an ill-advised takedown, and Diaz locked up a gogoplata—one of the rarest submissions in MMA.

    Unfortunately, as any long-term fight fan remembers, Diaz's win was overturned when he tested positive for marijuana, but that change took little away from his performance at the time and has become downright laughable in hindsight.

Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler I

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    As we covered at the top of this article, Diaz and Lawler's first fight resulted in one of the best victories of Diaz's career—maybe even the best outright.

    The pair's first fight occurred way at UFC 47 in 2004. It was Diaz's 11th pro fight, and Lawler's 10th. Heading into the matchup, most pundits agreed it was in Diaz's best interest to drag the action to the canvas as expeditiously as possible, as Lawler was already known as an extremely violent fighter, with six knockouts in his first nine fights—five in the first round.

    Amazingly, though, Diaz was more than willing to engage Lawler in a slugfest. Even when he tasted his rival's ferocious power, he didn't back down—and his tenacity ended up paying off. At the 1:31 mark of Round 2, he flattened his foe with a clubbing right hand to the chin. It was the first time Lawler had ever been knocked out—and it didn't happen again until 2016, 29 fights later, when he was nuked by Tyron Woodley. 

    Suffice it to say, it was a truly impressive triumph for Diaz.

Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley

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    Esther Lin/Getty Images

    You had to know this fight would be on our list. It's not only one of the greatest of Diaz's career, but one of the greatest in MMA history full stop. In fact, it's widely considered the greatest one-round fight of all time. 

    Diaz met Paul Daley, a prolific knockout artist from the UK, in the Strikeforce cage in 2011. Diaz's Strikeforce welterweight title hung in the balance.

    The fight was chaos from the opening bell. Diaz was hurling his trademark trash talk within the first 10 seconds and before the first minute had concluded, he was on his knees, desperately trying to weather Daley's furious assault. Miraculously, he recovered from that early attack and spent the next two minutes landing some solid punches of his own. 

    Things got wild in the final minute-and-a-half of the fight, when Daley sent Diaz crashing to the mat with a comet of a left hand. In an incredible display of toughness and will, Diaz clung to consciousness, only to return to his feet and send Daley spiraling south with a fight-ending volley.

    The action was waved off with three seconds left in the first round. The fight itself will live on for eternity.

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