Tonight (April 9, 2011), Nick Diaz defends his Strikeforce welterweight title against dangerous British striker Paul Daley. The fireworks will surely be going off in what may very well end up the fight of the year when all is said and done.
Diaz has faced elite strikers before: men like Robbie Lawler, KJ Noons and "Cyborg" Santos. In those fights, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) specialist put his considerable grappling skills to the side in favor of standing and trading punches.
And he held his own against all three, knocking out Lawler, battering Noons for a full five rounds and standing toe-to-toe with Santos before submitting him on the floor.
So why is that Nick Diaz doesn't get the respect he deserves? The respect that should come with the record he's accumulated?
The Ceasar Gracie product is currently riding a nine-fight winning streak against some truly dangerous fighters. Are they the best in the world? Maybe not, but what he's been able to do is impressive, nonetheless.
When you look at that list, you will see elite MMA and K-1 strikers. He stood up with each one and even knocked out arguably the most decorated striker of the bunch in Mariuz Zaromskis. He stopped Santos and Smith with beautiful submissions set up by excellent use of his considerable boxing skills.
The best pure boxer, Noons, was beat standing up for five very long rounds leaving him battered and bruised.
The Nick Diaz of today is an entirely different animal, however, and may very well avenge each one of those losses. Let's look at why that is and how he got here to today.
The Diaz we see today started at the ripe age of 20 against Pat Miletich fighter Robbie Lawler at UFC 47.
The weeks leading up to the pivotal fight in the welterweight division, were a war of threats and promises of fireworks.
Diaz, a known BJJ wizard, was telling anyone who would listen that he was going to stand and trade with Lawler, regardless of how "Ruthless" Robbie's hands really were.
UFC ring announcers Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan were "shocked" at how well Diaz was doing in the boxing department. Lawler was visibly thrown off by the pittar-patter onslaught that was rocking him left and right.
Diaz's chin was also showing it's worth by eating as many heavy shots as he was delivering. And then:
BOOM! at 1:31 of round two, Diaz ended the fight with a hard left sending Lawler crashing face first to the mat. The Stockton fighter stuck by his word, knocking his foe out and delivering a hell of a fight to boot.
This new edge for Diaz, however, made him prone against some of the better wrestlers, as he would go 2-4 in his next UFC fights and fell behind the 8-ball of title contention.
The final nail in the coffin was a ridiculous night in Las Vegas when, after losing to Joe Riggs, he would fight Riggs again later that night ... in a hospital.
He would fight for Dream and EliteXC for the next years but before he got back on track he fought in the fading show that was PRIDE.
At PRIDE 33 he engaged in a war with Japanese superstar Takanori Gomi for two explosive rounds.
The fists flew and the two brawlers were on zombie legs when Gomi knocked Diaz to the ground and followed suit. That was his biggest mistake that night, as we saw a very rare gogoplata submission.
Inside Fights named it their fight of the year and many fans go so far as to call it the greatest fight in the glorious history of PRIDE FC.
Nick Diaz would eventually venture into the San Jose based Strikeforce. The promotion fit perfectly, as it was close to home for the Stockton native.
His first big challenge was a legend in Frank Shamrock back in 2009.
The weeks leading up to the much hyped fight were fueled by a determined Diaz who wanted to prove something by beating Shamrock. A famous picture came at the press conference when Shamrock reached for a handshake and found the accepted Stockton greeting:
The world now had their hero vs. villain angle to create some added heat for the bout. Diaz was spectacular com fight night, dismantling the once highly-praised Shamrock and crumbling him with excellent body shots.
The fight showed exactly how good Daz had become but were his hands good enough to hang with some of the top strikers in the world?
As you can see in the gifs above, Nick Diaz is starting to become one of the best strikers in MMA. For all the talk of Paul Daley and his dynamite hands, this is what he'll have to contend with tonight in San Diego.
Yes, he's a jiu-jitsu king but he has 12 knockout stoppages compared to eight submissions. He's an exciting fighter who never seems to let anyone down when they plunk down their cash to see him compete.
Daley may come into tonight with the edge in power, just as "Cyborg" did before him. But if Diaz has shown us anything over the past few years, it's that if he wants to stand and trade, no matter who is standing across from him, he can hold his own.