UFC 263 blew the roof off Gila River Arena this past weekend (Sat., June 12, 2021) in Glendale, Ariz., leaving several fighters feeling the post-fight blues, including Marvin Vettori, who came up short in his bid to dethrone Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya (watch highlights). And Deiveson Figueiredo, who coughed up his Flyweight title to Brandon Moreno after getting submitted via rear-naked choke (see it) in what was a history-making performance by “The Babyface Assassin.”
And of course, Nate Diaz, who was picked apart by Leon Edwards for five rounds, ultimately leading to a clear-cut unanimous decision win for “Rocky” despite a last-minute scare. Diaz nearly pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in recent memory, rocking Edwards with a clean shot that had him on wobbly legs in the closing minute of the fight.
And who knows, had Nate went in for the kill straight away instead of mocking Edwards for a few seconds before pouncing, he could have secured a Hail Mary victory. In the end, “Rocky” managed to hang on and survive.
But if you think Diaz’s stock took a hit, you are wrong. If anything it went up because fight fans — and Dana White — just can’t get enough of the Stockton slugger. When Edwards was announced the winner by Bruce Buffer, the crowd inside the arena booed. When Nate gave his post-fight speech, the fans went crazy and showered him with applause.
While scrolling Facebook shortly after the fight, I noticed ESPN had three consecutive posts in this order: Congratulating Adesanya on his title defense, praising Moreno’s historic championship win and welcoming a bloody Diaz back to the cage. And there was no mention of Edwards whatsoever.
It’s the “209” effect.
Only Nate (and perhaps big brother Nick) can lose and still demand (and get) a big fight after. Why? Because he’s fun to watch, both during and in the lead up to the fight. And everyone will tune in to watch, even his biggest critics who say he isn’t worthy of such praise given his less-than stellar record inside the Octagon.
Diaz is 1-3 in his last four fights, has dropped two in a row and is 4-6 since 2012. He’s also not ranked in the Top 15.
In the end, it doesn’t seem to matter. Diaz is a needle-mover and will continue to get paid and will pretty much get any fight (championships excluded) he asks for. How long he can keep this up for without actually securing a big win remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, Diaz will keep riding the train until the wheels fall off because the fans will never willingly jump ship on their own.
And no one will blame him for taking advantage of his drawing power.
As for what’s next, now is as good a time as any to book a rematch between Diaz and Jorge Masvidal. “Gamebred” is coming off a knockout loss at the hands of division kingpin, Kamaru Usman, his second straight loss. Like Diaz, Masvidal has enough star power to make fight fans tune in regardless if they have had their hands raised recently or not.
Masvidal defeated Diaz in Nov. 2019 to win the made-up “BMF” title. While it may not have the same box office success as their first encounter, a rematch could still be big business for all parties involved.
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