Nate Diaz has had a fairly unique career in the UFC since winning “The Ultimate Fighter.” With a terrific run through the lightweight division that included a handful of wins over top fighters, and two contested split decision losses to title contender Gray Maynard and top fighter Clay Guida, he moved up to welterweight and had mixed results. Moving back down after a humiliating effort against Rory MacDonald, Diaz has found a home back in the lightweight division.
And in retrospect he never should’ve left it in the first place.
With an absolute dismantling of Takanori Gomi, a win that would’ve meant a lot more back when Gomi was the best lightweight in the world, Diaz’s dismantling of Donald Cerrone instantly vaults him into title contention. It’s the only way it can be viewed in light of a dominant decision victory over Cerrone.
When we look back at Diaz’s record, he’s been remarkably competitive amongst what is now the top tier of the division in recent history. He even has a submission victory over Gray Maynard, albeit in an exhibition on “The Ultimate Fighter,” as well as the split decision losses to two guys considered amongst the top five fighters in the division. Cerrone seemed poised to join them, a win over Diaz being the final touch in what could’ve been a title shot for him, until he ran into the younger brother of welterweight title contender Nick Diaz.
The next fight Nate Diaz needs is a title eliminator, perhaps against the winner of Joe Lauzon and Anthony Pettis while Frankie Edgar defends the belt against Ben Henderson, because the lightweight title picture is cleared enough that another victory against a contender should vault him ahead of the line. And in the scheme of things lightweight is the proper division for him because his abilities lend itself to that division and not welterweight.
Diaz is slightly built, like his brother, but he doesn’t have the body type to carry the proper muscle structure for the division. It was painfully obvious against MacDonald, who looked a full weight division bigger than Diaz, and back at lightweight his body type fits in. He doesn’t look like a massive lightweight like Maynard but he fits in despite his skinnier frame. And with two straight decisive victories, one against a top tier fighter, Diaz has really found his home at the top of the lightweight division.
One can see why a welterweight move would seem attractive for him. Cutting weight to get to 155 had to be tough and an easier weight drop to 170 probably looked more attractive on paper. With GSP the standard bearer in the division, bigger fights and potentially bigger paydays could await him that weren’t available at lightweight. But at welterweight he’s a middle of the pack journeyman at best. If the MacDonald fight taught us anything it’s that he’s just not big enough to compete at that weight. Against other fighters with similar builds he’d suffer the same fate; someone like Josh Koscheck, who cuts from close to 200 lbs or so to make 170, would be monstrous in comparison.
You could say the same about many of the top fighters in that division as well. Diaz isn’t designed to be a welterweight like his brother despite having the same genetics and same style. Lightweight may not be quite the glory division for Nate Diaz in terms of paydays but it’s where he belongs. Being a journeyman welterweight is one thing but he has the potential to be a UFC champion at lightweight.
Tags: Donald Cerrone, Mixed Martial Arts, Nate Diaz, UFC 141