I may have had just 24 hours to imagine, but Nate Diaz vs. Tony Ferguson lived up to my wildest hopes and expectations.
For as long as it lasted, the fight was a ton of fun. Clearly, Diaz and Ferguson really respected one another, which was nice to see given their generally disagreeable reputations. Each man also showed off some of their talents, some of the skill that made them great.
Ferguson landed a lot of shots in the first three rounds. “El Cucuy” remains the only fighter I’ve ever seen to purposefully blast his opponent’s shin with his own shin. He’s an innovator in that realm, even if no one else is tough enough to copy him! It didn’t take long for Ferguson to destroy both Diaz’s lead calf and his own shin, which bled wildly. Between the low kicks, Ferguson also managed to land well with some creative combinations, including some nice left hooks to the liver.
As usual, Diaz did most of his work with his hands. Still, it’s worth-mentioning that Diaz’s addition of punctuating combinations with a heavy right low kick of his own was a pleasant change! When Diaz landed his left, Ferguson clearly didn’t like it one bit.
Two things really struck me in this match up. First and foremost, Ferguson looked slow. Just a few short years ago, Ferguson was frighteningly dynamic, able to really explode into brutal offensive combinations. His spins looked less goofy and more deadly. Again, a lot of Ferguson’s brilliance was still on display, but he just looked so much slower.
Nate Diaz also looked slow, but Diaz has looked slow since his professional career started. That brings us to the second of two observations: Diaz has adapted his game well to being an old man. That’s something of an art from really, but it’s made easier by the fact that Diaz was never much of an overwhelming athlete in the first place.
Truthfully, Diaz doesn’t overwhelm opponents with volume anymore — not since Anthony Pettis three years ago at least. He certainly didn’t try to put dozens and dozens of punches on Ferguson. That sounds exhausting, particularly when one’s lead leg is so thoroughly battered.
Instead, Diaz has really excelled at making his shots count. Diaz has never been known as a one shot knockout artist, but when he whipped his left hand into Ferguson’s jaw, it was clear that “El Cucuy” really felt those blows. Similarly, Diaz didn’t fire combinations meaninglessly, he waited to catch Ferguson with his back turned or in a vulnerable position along the fence.
That’s how he set up his guillotine choke, still his greatest weapon on the canvas. Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush couldn’t submit Ferguson, but wise Nate Diaz managed it.
Diaz’s patience and acceptance of his age seemed to be the deciding factor. Ferguson still tries to fight like he’s always done, but he no longer has the physical tools to make his style work consistently. Diaz, however, has managed to refine his game and grow more efficient, and that skill allowed him to leave UFC on a win.
It will likely be invaluable in the boxing ring as well.
For complete UFC 279: “Diaz vs. Ferguson” results and play-by-play, click HERE!