If success in mixed martial arts (MMA) was measured by the frequency and sternness of scowls, Nate Diaz would be the world's greatest fighter only behind his older brother Nick.
Thankfully, in addition to being able to mean mug with the best of them, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 5 winner is also one hell of a fighter. He steps inside the Octagon with the same ferocity that his brother does and has earned a legion of fans because of it.
He has a solid albeit unspectacular UFC record of 9-5 but two of those losses came at welterweight against men -- Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald -- whose only losses came at the hands of Carlos Condit who happens to be facing off against Nick Diaz in the main event of UFC 143.
What a tangle web we weave, indeed.
Fans who cheer Nate Diaz do so not only because of how he wins -- impressively and decisively -- but also how he comes up short. When he loses, he does so to some of the best and only by decision. He fought Clay Guida and Gray Maynard tooth and nail for 15 minutes and nearly pulled off the victory each time, losing to both men by split decision. He, like his brother, comes to fight. He doesn't step inside the cage for a sporting contest, he enters the Octagon much like he would a bar and fights his UFC opponents like he would a drunken patron during a brawl.
His next opponent is Donald Cerrone at UFC 141: "Lesnar vs. Overeem", a fight with the potential to be a last minute Fight of the Year candidate. It's also Diaz's second fight at lightweight since returning to the division in September. At UFC 135, he dropped back down to 155 pounds and took on Diaz family foe Takanori Gomi.
Let's dive right in.
The two meet in the center and begin pawing their jab out in an attempt to gauge the distance and find their range. Diaz snaps forward a quick jab that grazes Gomi who already is having trouble with the reach advantage his opponent has. Gomi has dealt with this before and more often than not, his opponent lay unconscious on the mat following an exchange.
A perfectly placed jab connects with Gomi's jaw as the former Pride Fighting Championships champion attempts a wild hook, dropping the Japanese fighter momentarily. He bounces right back up but has to deal with Diaz's newfound aggression. Back against the cage, Gomi is pressured relentlessly by Diaz. The Stockton fighter eats a solid punch to the body but it doesn't even seem to phase him. He continues the assault without pause, peppering Gomi with punch after punch.
Another body shot lands for Gomi but it seems to be the only offense he's able to mount. Midway through the round, Diaz has already started taunting the Japanese fighter like only a Diaz knows how. Hands down by his wait, chin sticking out, mouth spouting out who knows what. It's a scene that polarizes the MMA fanbase.
With a little over two minutes remaining, Diaz begins to connect with combinations rather than the single strikes he was serving up before. As the crowd begins to sound off, the TUF 5 winner throws a three-punch combo that drops Gomi before the third strike is even thrown.
The Japanese fighter is able to get back up but the barrage continues and Gomi is forced to revert to the early days of his career, dropping down for a takedown. Being the owner of a Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu brown belt and having won six of his eight fights inside the Octagon by submission, Diaz is more than happy to oblige his opponent.
Seconds into the groundwork, the American takes Gomi's back and hooks his legs in. He's in there for the long haul. Realizing the danger he's in, the former champ gets back to his feet forcing Diaz to do the same. There, the momentary lapse in the stand-up affair is corrected and Diaz goes immediately back to punishing his opponent with impressive boxing skills.
Gomi is then able to shove Diaz down onto the mat and drops down into the American's guard. For a brief moment, it appears as if fans might see some ground and pound from "The Fireball Kid." That thought is dashed when Diaz throws his legs up and cinches up a triangle choke before transitioning into an armbar.
It was a fight that many thought Diaz would lose. Gomi gave Nick Diaz all he could handle and most agreed that the elder Diaz was the better of the two brothers. But Nate proved those people wrong by not only beating Gomi but by doing it in a much more dominant fashion than his brother did.
While Nick is challenging for welterweight gold, a win for Nate next Saturday would definitely steer him in the right direction in his quest to earn his own division's title.
But first he has a "Cowboy" to deal with.