Lost in the hoopla of the second largest fight in UFC history is a tussle that most likely will garner a bonus by one, if not both, of the fighters involved. Nate Diaz and Donald Cerrone have combined for 15"of the Night" honors in their respective Zuffa careers. Both come from very respected MMA camps, both are very well-rounded with a focus on submission fighting and both have very long frames for the lightweight division. Even though this fight has been overshadowed by the main event, there is no reason to believe that this will not be the best overall fight on the entire card.
Hailing and fighting out of Stockton, California, Diaz is the second fighter under the microscope. The Cesar Gracie Brown belt and little brother of UFC interim welterweight title contender Nick Diaz has collected some impressive wins and equally impressive losses since winning The Ultimate Fighter 5. But how does he stack up against the rest of the UFC's 155 pound division when looking at his ability to affect the scoring criteria set forth by the unified rules? How does Diaz get the job done? Follow along after the jump for the full breakdown.
Nate Diaz (14-7)
Nate Diaz, currently ranked #13 in the consensus lightweight rankings, has had a rough road over the last 3 years. Since a very impressive split decision over an always difficult Josh Neer, Nate has gone just 4-5 in the octagon and even trying his hand, unsuccessfully, at making the move up in weight to compete at welterweight. Nate is a bit of an enigma. At times he looks every bit the fighter that dominated the likes of Gray Maynard and Manny Gamburyan in winning The Ultimate Fighter 5, and at other times he looks like a lost little kid that doesn't quite no how to change enough to get an impressive win against top competition. Let's break down his game.
Nate is a submission fighter and is most comfortable off his back. With 10 of his wins coming by way of submission, ranging from triangle chokes, guillotines, armbars and keylocks, Nate is a force on the mat in the UFC and a very dangerous opponent to take down. Nate is always looking for a way to submit his opponents. Whether it is a clinch transition to a kimura or a defensive step-over to ground and pound, Nate is a superb offensive-minded grappler.
However, Nate is a Diaz. And it seems the inherent flaw in being born a Diaz is their penchant for losing to good wrestlers. Nate got Humped by Huggybear, Layed by Gray, Stunned by Stun Gun, and completely demolished by MacDonald. Nate gets outwrestled in almost every one of his matches against top opponents and this is his biggest weakness to date. While Nates length helps him with crafty submissions and in his style of striking, his base being above most of the fighters he faces leaves him open for this:
If Nate shores up his defensive grappling, notably his wrestling and take down defense, he could be among the elite grapplers at 155.
Overall Grappling Score: 8
Nate fights like his older brother. Like Nick, Nate does not have true KO power. In fact I am hesitant to say that Nate has even average power. What Nate does have is very effective power. Nate like to throw a lot of punches, and those punches add up. His game is based upon great length, a very good one-two, and throwing punches from all angles. Nate also has cardio for days to make this style very effective.
Nate's bigest weakness when analyzing his striking is that with all the length that he has, he very rarely throws any kicks with purpose.
Overall Striking Score: 8
Nate Diaz is an aggressive fighter. Nate always moves forward. In this category, it is both his biggest strength and biggest weakness. While extremely effective against primarily stand-up fighters like Marcus Davis and Takanori Gomi, it is a huge liability againsty wrestlers like Clay Guida and Rory MacDonald.
If Nate did a better job of focusing his aggression, and not charging blindly at times, he would be better able to both negate some of his opponents takedowns more easily and also to be more in control of his fights. As one can see in the above gif with Gomi, Nate is learning. He hurts Gomi and does not charge in blindly looking to end the fight. He keeps his base under him and moves in carefully looking for another opening. It was nice to see that progression from Nate, but Nate needs to continue this advancement against a fighter whose prime was not 5 years ago for us to know how far he has progressed.
Overall Aggression Score: 10
As intimated in the previou category, Nate is not a fighter that is always in control of his fights. His aggression gets the better of him and his defensive wrestling liabilities lead to him being the one who is controlled, at times. Nate needs to do a better job of focusing on his gameplan, or creating better plans for his opponents, and then sticking to those plans. Nate has shoewn the tendency to showboat to try to get in his opponent's head, and at times when he does, he gets taken down for his trouble. Nate also needs to learn to drop his base when fighting wrestling-based fighters. Not the easiest thing to do for someone as comfortable off his back as Nate is, but under the current scoring system, working off your back, without finishing, will pile up the losses.
Overall Octagon Control Score: 7
Nate Diaz is still a very young fighter (Age:26). He has plenty of time to fix the holes in his game and be a force in the 155 pound division for more than a few years, as long as his body is able to make the cut to 155, this is his best option for getting into contention for a title shot. But first he has to get through Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 to even be "in the mix"
Who do you got?