This Saturday night (April 9, 2011) fight fans will be able to focus their martial arts attention towards Strikeforce in what will be the promotion's first Showtime event under the Zuffa umbrella since the groundbreaking news came last month that the sport's top two promotions would now be housed under one roof.
With irony in the bunches, the "Diaz vs. Daley" telecast will feature two former UFC employees in the main event.
First up is welterweight champion Nick Diaz, who had an up-and-down run in the UFC, racking up a 6-4 record with notable wins over Robbie Lawler, Drew Fickett and Gleison Tibau. He also had legendary fights with Karo Parisyan and Diego Sanchez; however, both were in losing efforts.
MMAmania.com's own Sergio Hernandez broke down the Diaz vs. Sanchez fight in his series "History in the Making" which can be found here.
Paul Daley on the other hand had a different sort of up-and-down scenario play out in his Octagon run.
After beginning his stint with an impressive showing against perennial division contender Martin Kampman, stopping the Dutchman with strikes in the first round, he would go on to beat up jiu-jitsu wizard Dustin Hazelett and set up his number one contender fight against Josh Koscheck.
Then things got interesting.
In the build up to their fight, both Daley and Koscheck exchanged plenty of not-too-pleasant words towards each other, setting up a very anticipated grudge match between the two. The powerhouse wrestler (Koscheck) would go on to smother Daley en route to a dominating decision victory and a title shot against division champion Georges St. Pierre.
However, the drama came after the match when "Semtex" tracked down Koscheck and landed a strike clearly after the official bell. The referee intervened to prevent it from getting any worse, the culprit Daley showed no remorse afterward, and UFC President Dana White chose to banish Daley from the organization.
Since his departure from the company, Daley is riding a four fight win streak, most recently stopping Yuya Shirai under the BAMMA umbrella back in February. Nick Diaz hasn't lost since a controversial doctor stoppage in late 2007 against K.J. Noons.
Since then, Diaz has racked up nine consecutive victories and two title defenses since he won the belt in the promotion's inaugural title bout against Marius Zaromskis in January 2010.
A lot of attention has been placed on the stand-up game in this fight.
Nick Diaz's head trainer, Cesar Gracie, has even made a statement to the media that he believes his fighter will do the knocking out on Saturday night while many (especially fans) are predicting the powerful strikes of Daley to be the deciding factor.
We all know where Daley wants this fight.
He wants to kickbox and use his highly effective boxing to dictate the outcome. Daley's woes over his career have come from his grappling shortcomings which currently account for over 50-percent of his losses.
Diaz on the other hand is much more well rounded.
Nick stood toe-to-toe with the enormous Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, who has been known to be one of the more vicious brawlers in all of MMA, and also with the highly acclaimed kickboxer Marius Zaromskis.
Diaz also went five rounds with K.J. Noons in a rematch that he won via unanimous decision. That fight saw Diaz consistently find success striking against the professional boxer and sure-handed challenger.
Not to mention he is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Santos, the last title challenger, has been in brawls in his career spanning from the light heavyweight weight class all the way down to welterweight. Brawls including epic slugfests against "Shogun" Rua and Melvin Manhoef. In this clip (above) you see the striking accuracy and diverse arsenal that Nick Diaz brings to the table.
While Cyborg was able to unleash his vicious leg kicks, Diaz was able to establish a very effective striking game.
What you see initially is the "pitter-patter" punches that Nick throws. While they may not look like hard punches they all make their presence felt on the face of his opponent. The advantage here is that Nick doesn't fully commit to punches which is effective because he rarely overextends if he happens to miss a strike.
He is also able to land more from short distances since his opponent has less time to see the punch coming to block them.
Next, you will see how no consecutive punch comes from the same angle. Mixing up shots to the head throwing jabs, hooks and overhands, he keeps it fresh and unpredictable by also mixing up body shots. No matter how hard you try it is nearly impossible to protect yourself fully without completely turtling up.
Diaz forces Cyborg into full defense mode, taking away his dangerous leg kicks and allowing him to pick and choose how he wants to attack without much fear of a counter.
The body shot.
For anyone who's read all of my FanPosts, you will know that one of my earliest posts was about my fascination with the body shot and my encouragement for fighters to use it more. That fascination still exists and my adoration for anyone that uses it is also still fully present.
Nick Diaz may throw soft, half-strength punches to the face but he unloads body shots with nasty power.
He folded Shamrock and Zaromskis with body blows. With so many punches coming towards your face at rapid rates it is easy to keep your face blocked, your guard high and your body vulnerable.
Nick Diaz targets that opportunity and crushes the liver and body of his opponents.
What body shots do are vastly underrated. Not only do they hurt and make you want to crawl into a little ball and give up but they also suck the wind out of your lungs, thus reducing the effectiveness of your cardiovascular endurance.
In other words, it makes you gas quicker. It takes power out of your strikes and the hop in your footwork. Taking away the speed and power of Daley would do wonders in a five round fight.
What Paul Daley brings to the table is dynamite for hands and world class precision in his punches.
Daley is easily one of the most dangerous strikers in the division. "Semtex" has plenty of victims on his list, a list that includes Dustin Hazelett, John Alessio and Duane "Bang" Ludwig.
But above we see probably two of his most significant displays of striking against two quality opponents. He outstruck a very good striker in Martin Kampmann with a violent flurry of left hooks that wobbled, dazed and stopped the tough Dane to earn a shot to be number one contender.
In the other, the tough and grizzled veteran Scott Smith chases the accurate striker to his demise as he walks right into a monster left hand that leaves "Hands of Steel" falling face-first into the canvas.
Needless to say Paul Daley has stopping power in his left hand.
What should be taken from this is that Nick Diaz cannot stand in the pocket with Daley absorbing punches because all it will take is one calculated left hand to end the fight. He does not throw haymakers or wild hooks, Daley is a precise striker that knows where to land his power shot.
As seen throughout his career, Daley does not get into sloppy brawls. Instead, he is very accurate and his well-timed punches come back with plenty of power.
Diaz has been prone to being tagged with punches: Noons, Zaromskis and Cyborg have most recently tested that iron chin in their fights with "The Whitemare" even dropping the champion to the mat.
If Nick would like to claim victory standing up, he will need to use his jab to keep the fight away from a slugfest. On the other hand, if Daley wants to take over the stand-up game he needs to use good head movement to negate the constant action from Diaz and pick and choose his shots as patiently as possible.
But this is where I see the fight taking a turn in favor of one fighter.
Nick Diaz owns eight submission victories including wins over Hayato Sakurai and "Cyborg" Santos. He also owns a submission win over Takanori Gomi that was later overturned. In the above clip on the right, Diaz uses his Cesar Gracie trained jiu-jitsu against another black belt fighter.
What is the most impressive part of the clip to me is that while he throws high guard and establishes arm control with the left arm, he immediately hooks underneath Cyborg's leg to prevent him from escaping.
He then uses his legs and that arm underhooked to completely take away balance and control from Cyborg to secure the submission victory.
Of Paul Daley's nine defeats, he owes five of them to submissions. Many opponents have found that if they take away Daley's world class striking he is mediocre on the mat. Above we see world class grappler and Nick Diaz teammate Jake Shields executing an armbar on Daley.
Shields slides into mount on Daley fairly easily and then jumps to grab the arm. I am sure he will be more than happy to share any information with his teammate as to the strength of Daley, his technique and any preferences Shields may have picked up during their fight.
If the fight hits the ground I have no doubt in my mind Nick Diaz wins it.
What do you think Maniacs? Will Nick defend the title three times in a row or will Daley make a statement in his first fight back under the Zuffa banner?