The striking clinic: The coaching behind Nick Diaz




UFC 137(Oct. 29) could simply be called "UFC 137: SlugFest' as hands will be thrown by some of the sports best strikers. Matt Mitrione, Mirko Cro Cop, Denis Siver and our new main eventers Bj Penn and Nick Diaz will be slugging all sorts of 'bombs' in their pivotal welterweight clash.

Now if you take the aforementioned fighters and tally their KO/TKO wins in a total, you would endup with 49. The lead offender being 'right leg; hospital, left leg;cemetery" himself Mirko Cro Cop. In Matt Mitrione's short five fight professional career he has 4.

This brings me to my next conclusion that UFC 137 will go down as one of the most exciting shows this year even without Carlos Condit vs. Georges St. Pierre.  Two of the most dynamic personalities at welterweight and mixed martial arts alone will bring enough fireworks for the 'Sin City' audience.

In this article i will attempt to breakdown the good, the bad and ugly of each striker as they prepare to do what Lorenzo Fertitta loves WAR

Take a number as the striking clinic opens withthe boxing coaching behind Nick Diaz (For the 'Coaching behind BJ Penn click here)

Over the course of the past few years Nick Diaz has established himself as one of the ebst boxers in the sport. As MMAmania'sown Sergio Hernandez pointed out, this transition from well-known ground wizard to boxer emerged at UFC 47 versus slugger Robbie Lawler.

It's no surprise to most fans that Nick Diaz has had huge issues with wrestlers the likes of Sean Sherk and Diego Sanchez, He hasn't afceda dominant wrestler in quite sometime but has been impressive in his stints with PRIDE, Elite XC and Strikeforce.

What Nick Diaz hasn't shown against top teir wrestlers, he has shown against goo to elite strikers. With wins over Paul Daley, Evangelista 'Cybrog' Santos, KJ Noons and Marius Zaromskis his striking game has been top notch. Like his UFC137 counterpart, Nick has used his striking to work coinciding withhis amazing ground game.

A recent example was his ability to enforce his boxing, trip down 'Cyborg' Santos and near damn snap the arm of Santos for an armbar win at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Santos.

As we all know Nick has a pretty good relative in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) by the name of Nate Diaz. At UFC 135 we saw Nate beat the crap out of Takanori Gomi. At Pride 33 we saw Nick and Gomi fight a heck of a war themselves but Nick was 'too high' to keep a clean win.

Now both the Diaz brothers train alongside Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and former UFC number one contender Jake Shields at Cesar Gracie's academy in Pleasant Hill, California  Now Cesar Gracie is a Ju Jitsu wizard so, where do these guys get their striking?

Enter: Perez, Richard.

Richard Perez is a throwback to the old school trainer as he doesn't even look like a boxing trainer. Much like Diaz, Perez is a soft spoken man who truly devotes his time and mind to getting Nick better in all facets of his boxing-and it has.

Perez also trained Tony Dominguez and Rodney Jones in boxing before Nick and he hooked up. Rodney Jones was his most notable protege in boxing as he claimed the NABF and WBO/NABO light middleweight titles. Perez also trained Jones for his biggest fight, a losing effort to IBF light middleweight champion Cory Spinks.

Perez has been with Nick Diaz since 2002 and most notably was his boxing coach leading up to UFC 47 when Diaz stopped Lawler dead in his tracks. This fight laid the pavement for Diaz being highly regarded not only on the ground but equal on his feet.

Perez cleaned up Diaz' striking from looping hooks and sparse jabbing like he did so against Lawler. Diaz began to put his hooks into combinations as each fight went along. One of his most notable changes was his ability to place devastating body shots.

At UFC 53, Diaz fought a relative unknown in Koji Oishi who was in his first UFC fight since UFC 25 against Laverne Clark. Diaz essentially 'walked' through Oishi after landing a shot to Oishi's liver. The body shot would become an essential ingredient in Diaz' gameplan.

Perez also was able to exploit the fact that mixed martial arts uses 4 oz gloves unlike 10 or 12 oz. gloves used  in boxing. Perez started drilling to Nick that he didn't have to over-commit to power shots since an opponent will feel his hands everytime. Alot of people call this 'pitter-patter'but anyone familiar with boxing will call this punches in bunches.

The art is accumulating damage without exerting much energy. It also helps when you are defensive boxer like Floyd Mayweather Jr. Now i 'm not saying Diaz is Floyd but their objective is the same. In 49 bouts Floyd has never been knocked out and in 33 fights neither has Diaz.

Diaz  has some of the most fluid combinations in the fight game as you saw him brutalize Frank Shamrock in 2009 at Strikeforce: 'Diaz vs. Shamrock'. The two foes are alotalike, bothhave great ground games known by all but have good standup that gets overlooked. Shamrock showed his ever improved stand up against overrated striker Phil Baroni. Shamrock used body shots to empty the gas tank on Baroni and then finsih him off after breaking him down. Diaz copied the gameplan and ruined Shamrock on the inside and used his reach when needed. He would eventual throw a combination that ended in a liver shot.

The benefit of working with Richard Perez is that Perez is understanding of the ground game due to being at Cesar's academy. He gets to start building a gameplan which has his striking and ground converge. A great tool that Perez has given Diaz is that aforementioned body shot. The body shot crumbles people who try and clinch themselves in defense of taking another. As they keel over, they drop their hands and surrender position. This allows for back control which could lead to rear naked chokes.

Diaz' body shot also broke British slugger Paul Daley at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley. There's a famous picture of a grimacing Daley as he eats a body shot.  Diaz was able to use a highly effective jab to bring Daley's hands up to protect the head. When he does so then Diaz unleashes his more powerful shots to batter the ribs and liver of Daley.

Diaz has changed from swinging wild lopping fists to incorporating combinations, the underrated usefulness of a jab andbody shots that crumbles fighters. Since having Perez grow with Diaz the growth has been undeniable.

Diazhas also sparred with professional boxer Andre Ward and Perez' old protege Rodney Sparks. Ward has commented that Diaz is  alot better then believed prior to their sparring's. Perez believed so much in Diazthat it almost led to a fight with Fernando Vargas.

The Diaz brothers have expanded their fleet of boxing coaches in recent times by adding former WBA and WBC champion Luisito Espinosa. Espinosa left the boxing world to focus more on the burgeoning sport of MMA. The Diaz brothers also have brought in Jason 'Gumpy" Robinson who is a highly skilled boxer.

Diaz even made a stint in boxing on April 29th, 2005 at the Radisson Hotel in Sacramento, California. Diaz would beat Alfonso Rocha after four rounds by decision.

As good as Diaz has been in boxing for MMA his boxing still has holes. Nick has shown little to no head movement as we have seen him get dropped by the likes of Gomi, Daley and Katsuya Inoue. His saving grace has been his china ndthe fact that not many fighters want to go to the ground with Diaz. His Footwork is very basic as he seems planted in his position at all times. He slides his feet on the canvas without much bounce and this keeps him stationary. The fact that BJ Penn has power and good footwork maybe the biggest difference between these two come fight night. Diaz tends to stalk his opponents down but will he want to stalk down Penn who has a slick jab of his own?

(Here's a short clip of Diaz boxing as Perez watches from the outside in. This was taken prior to his bout with Cyborg Santos)


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