UFC 118 Preview Part One: Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis

The UFC makes its Massachusetts debut with UFC 118, headlined by World Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar facing former champion BJ Penn in an immediate rematch of their controversial April title fight and Hall of Famer Randy Couture taking on champion boxer James Toney in what is being billed as the “UFC vs. Boxing”. In the coming days, Inside Fights will be previewing all the fights on Saturday’s PPV, starting today with Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis.

Welterweight Match: Nate Diaz vs. Marcus Davis

This is Nate Diaz’s official debut at 170Ibs, with the former winner of the TUF 5 lightweight tournament having his planned welterweight debut turned into a middleweight match when Rory Markham failed to make weight in March. Having gone 1-3 in his last three fights at 155Ibs Diaz obviously needed to make a change and the move up in weight will allow him to fill out his 6ft frame which should give him the power standing to make the most of his improved boxing technique. That certainly seemed to be the case when he dismantled Markham at UFC 111.

His opponent is no stranger to the standing game, with former pro-boxer Marcus Davis (17-6, 6 KOs, 8 Subs) having entertained fans with an all-action style that befits somebody with the moniker “The Irish Hand Grenade”. Like Diaz, Davis is at something of a career crossroads, having lost 2 out of his last three fights.

It would be easy to label this as a pro-boxer vs. grappler fight but in many ways this is a counterpoint to the “UFC vs. Boxing” co-main, with both Davis and Diaz having worked hard to break out of their comfort zone. The Cesar Gracie trained grappler Diaz has worked hard to improve his boxing. Davis has moved beyond his boxing background to develop a fully-rounded MMA game, with both his wrestling and submission game having shown tremendous improvement over the past four years.

Diaz weakness has been his poor takedown defense and Davis has the wrestling ability to exploit this. However with Diaz’s excellent ju-jitsu and the ability of Dan Hardy to steal rounds off his back against Davis at UFC 99 one would assume that Davis will want to keep the fight standing. He is the more accomplished striker but may find it difficult to engage given that Diaz will have a two inch height advantage and a six inch reach advantage. Davis has criticized Diaz’s standup for being based on quantity not quality, but he would be foolish to rule out the possibility that the move up in weight has indeed given the welterweight debutant newfound punching power.

It’s because of these factors that I think that Diaz will win the fight as he simply has more routes to victory than Davis. I think his improved technique, physical advantages and extra power will surprise Davis on the feet and should the fight go to the ground he certainly has the skills to exploit Davis’ poor ground grappling and ground striking defense. Should the fight stay on the ground long enough I fully expect Diaz to finish the New England native, probably by submission.

It may be a battle between two fighters who are trying to turn their career’s round after a poor run of recent results, but sparks should fly when Marcus Davis and Nate Diaz square off in the Octagon. Both have a history of exciting fights, being involved in five ‘Fights of the Night’ between them and their styles should mesh well. I wouldn’t be surprised if together they earn a sixth Fight of the Night award.

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