Who doesn't like a great surprise?
Whether it be something as small as finding a five-spot in an old pair of jeans or having your friends and family hide in a darkened apartment on your birthday, getting something you didn't expect is one of life's simplest joys. It puts a smile on your face as unexpected as the surprise itself.
That's exactly how mixed martial arts (MMA) fans across the globe felt when they saw Nick Diaz take on Robbie Lawler at UFC 47. Diaz entered the bout as a highly-touted Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) purple belt who had won half his bouts -- including his Octagon debut -- by submission. Lawler had the reputation of being the kind of guy who would put his opponent to sleep if they were brave -- or dumb -- enough to trade with him.
Diaz should have tried to take Lawler down immediately. He should have started working towards a submission as quickly as possible. He should have avoided exchanging with his headhunting opponent entirely. The problem was no one mentioned any of this to Diaz.
The bad boy from Stockton steps inside the Octagon next Saturday (Oct. 29) opposite B.J. Penn in the co-main event of UFC 137. It's a fight that could determine if the former Strikeforce champ regains the welterweight title shot he lost for skipping out on a press conference when booked against Georges St. Pierre. But before he clashes with "The Prodigy," let's take a look back at Diaz's surprising victory against Lawler back in 2004.
The main event of the card was the long awaited bout between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. While that fight didn't disappoint by any means, it was the the undercard scrap between Diaz and Lawler that was the most impressive.
This was the first glimpse of the fighter that Diaz would eventually grow into. On full display was the middle of the fight taunting, the trash talk, and the pitter patter boxing that seemingly doesn't inflict any damage but puts opponents on the mat time after time.
Even more impressive than the performance itself is the fact that Diaz was only 20-years old when he faced off against Lawler.
Let's take a closer look.
Immediately, Diaz begins the verbal assault. He takes the center of the Octagon and pressures Lawler into circling around, something the young striker isn't used to. Diaz sticks his chin out and his arms up, taunting "Ruthless" and perhaps baiting him into entering an exchange Diaz knows he will win.
A punch from Lawler misses and gets countered before the two begin to trade punchs. Neither fighter is landing flush, though. Diaz is hesitant to commit himself completely knowing full well the power at Lawler's disposal. Lawler seems hesitant simply because he -- along with everyone else watching -- is completely caught off-guard by Diaz's strategy. All the takedown defense training "Ruthless" did to prepare for his bout with the BJJ wiz suddenly seemed pointless.
Midway through the first, Diaz attempts a half-hearted shoot that Lawler easily stuffs it and the two begin to grind against the cage. Diaz hits "Ruthless" with a few shoulder shots before breaking apart with 90 seconds remaining in the opening round. It was the first -- and only -- inkling of grappling in the bout.
Again, immediately upon the break, Diaz continues the mental warfare he's been waging since the opening bell.
Lawler finally makes his play and connects with a solid right hook that likely sent shockwaves through Diaz's body. A flying knee from the Miletich Fighting Systems product cracks Diaz in the sternum. Having weathered the storm, the BJJ player continues to keep the pressure up. Considering the blows he just took, it's incredible to see Diaz not backing off one bit.
The second round opens up almost exactly like the first did. Diaz pushes the pace, takes the center of the cage, and verbally taunts his opponent. For a minute and a half, the Stockton-native does this, never once hinting at a takedown attempt.
Then, Lawler wades in with a combination that Diaz mostly blocks. His head down but his eyes up, Diaz shoots a counter right hook that pops "Ruthless" right on the chin. He stiffens up before crashing down like a redwood Diaz's homestate are known for.
Tumbling around on the mat before getting to his feet and staggering backwards, "Ruthless" was the victim of a picture perfect counter. To this day, it remains Lawler's only knockout loss.
Lawler is visibly disappointed in the result while the Cesar Gracie fighter gets lifted by his corner which included a baby-faced Nate Diaz.
It was the biggest victory in the young welterweight's career up to that point and arguably remains his biggest inside the Octagon.
Will that change next Saturday?