Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight standouts Nate Diaz and Michael Johnson came to blows last night (Dec. 19, 2015) at UFC on FOX 17 inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
Diaz's recent career has been plagued by inactivity, injury, and difficult losses. However, none of that matter when he stepped into the Octagon, as Diaz had a chance to take out a top five-ranked contender.
Meanwhile, Johnson should've been closing in on a title shot. Instead, a controversial decision loss landed him in the cage with Diaz, a dangerous if overlooked opponent.
Johnson opened the fight with a lot of speed, firing off punches and landing a couple hard low kicks. For the first couple minutes, Diaz didn't throw a whole lot, allowing Johnson to bounce in-and-out with strikes, although nothing to powerful besides the low kicks landed.
Diaz turned on at about the halfway point of round. Once he began throwing, he landed a pretty high number of right hooks and left crosses. However, Johnson kept his volume higher and continued to dig into land kicks.
All in all, the first round was fairly close, but Johnson likely won it.
Johnson started the first round off well with a hard overhand and low kick, but Diaz didn't back down. The Stockton native hun around in the pocket and made the most of his reach advantage, which allowed him to connect more frequently with his punches.
By the halfway point, the tides had really turned for Diaz. Suddenly, he couldn't miss with his left hand and went into full taunt mode. While Johnson was able to use his occasional speed to land some big counter punches, Diaz really put it on him in the second round.
Despite getting pieced up in the second round, Johnson came into the third willing to trade. Though he threw a ton of shots and some landed cleanly, Diaz successfully blocked a lot of them. On the other hand, Diaz's strikes landed right on the button each time, and his shots definitely shook Johnson up a couple times.
At the end of the round, Johnson ended up in the clinch with Diaz. Diaz tried to jump on a guillotine and was briefly on his back, but the two scrambled up into the clinch. Literally on the final bell, Diaz rolled into a knee bar position and raised his hands, pissing off Johnson.
It was a classic Diaz moment.
While the third round was a bit closer than the second, the judges unanimously awarded Diaz the victory. To capitalize on his win, Diaz went on a long, entirely censored, and curse-filled rant (watch the uncensored version here) about Conor McGregor while on FOX TV.
This was the best Diaz has ever looked. He was in phenomenal physical shape, as he looked like he employed a strength coach for the first time in his career. Additionally, Diaz did make some effort to check and adjust for his opponent's low kicks, though many still landed.
Still, after years of ignoring the problem, it's nice to see the Diaz brothers developing their kick defense a bit.
Furthermore, Diaz's striking was on point. His punches were sharp, and once he found his range, Diaz continually connected with nasty shots. It really is a testament to Johnson's chin that he never went down, because he took some serious shots.
This is a massive victory for Diaz, who returned from a long layoff to brawl with one of the top lightweights in the world. Following this win, a match up with Al Iaquinta would surely be an entertaining war.
On the other hand, this is a very tough loss for Johnson. He's genuinely one of the best Lightweights in the world, but he ran into a very difficult style match up for him and failed to make the right adjustments.
That's a recipe for disaster.
Really, Johnson's failure to pace himself was costly. Early on, he relied too heavily on his natural speed advantage and threw a ton of shots at high-speed that never landed. Then, as the fight wore on, he could no longer rely on his speed as commonly and began absorbing lots of strikes.
It's a rough time to be Johnson right now, who could very easily be fighting for the title if the judges had rightfully awarded him the decision over Beneil Dariush. Instead of contending, Johnson is now officially on a two-fight loss streak and will need another lengthy win streak to earn a shot at the strap.
Last night, Nate Diaz made a successful return to the Octagon in a war with Michael Johnson. Where does the Stockton-native go from here?
For complete UFC on FOX 17: "Dos Anjos vs. Cerrone" results and play-by-play, click HERE!