Is Nate Diaz ready for a top opponent? He sure thinks so, here's what he said at the UFC 118 post fight press conference:
"Whatever (the UFC) want(s) to do with me, I’m fine. I’d like to get someone in the top three contenders at either lightweight or welterweight rather than against some tough guy that’s not as popular or not as high in the rankings. I want to try and get a belt here sometime."
He's definitely a talented fighter and has the confidence needed to be a top contender, but what road is better suited for him? At Lightweight he is bigger, taller and slicker of his back then probably every other fighter at that division. His stand up is average in my opinion, but is improving with every fight, and he just out boxed Marcus Davis, who happens to be a former professional boxer and who I picked to beat Diaz at 118. I'd say a fight with Kenny Florian would be a great test ay LW, both have great BJJ and the stand up is about even. Florian is a perennial contender and if Nate could get the win it would definitely put him in title contention. Now a fight with someone like BJ Penn may be fun too, but that would be like throwing a Chihuahua into a lion pit at the zoo, we already know the outcome, but he'd be getting what he asked for and we'd be able to see where he really stands.
WW is a different story. A guy like Thiago Alves is too big and strong for him, John Fitch is strong enough to nullify Nate's BJJ and to make a title run would also include a fight against teammate and good friend Jake Shields. I guess the fight that would make most sense, if he would take a fight with a guy in the top 10 instead of top 3 would be Matt Hughes. The aging Hughes has looked great as of late and is definitely back in the mix. His wrestling is great and his BJJ defense and offense is second to none. The only other competitive fight against a "name" I see being good is Matt Serra. Serra has BETTER BJJ than Diaz and also has very good stand up. He's fighting Chris Lytle at 119 so would be ready by New years for this fight.
Bottom line is this, the top dogs at WW are all wrestlers that are much bigger as far as body type goes than Diaz is. The other obstacle is that they all have great wrestling pedigrees. In my humble opinion, LW is the best shot for Diaz as he is slick of his back and would have a big reach advantage over all of the contenders in that division. Also the majority of contenders right now at LW would be willing to stand with him where Nate's Reach would be the deciding factor. I'm not convinced he's as talented as the other guys from Caesar Gracie's camp, but he looks better every time he fights and he is slowly making me a fan. I think his mouth is why he is the only fighter from Gracie's camp that I don't 100% support, but with post fight talks (with Rogan) like the one at 118, and his hard working never say die attitude every time out, it's really hard to not root for him. Who do you think and at what weight class do you think he has the best shot of making a title run?