With his victory over the hard-hitting and accurate-punching KJ Noons on Saturday, a lot of MMA fans and media are left wondering exactly where Nick Diaz stands in the welterweight rankings, and if he has the skills to compete in the UFC’s shark tank of a 170-lbs division.
We’ve seen Diaz’s boxing technique and striking displays steadily improve over the course of time to now, when he went toe to toe with a former professional boxer for five rounds, outpointing the undersized Noons via Fightmetric for a unanimous decision. Over the course of Diaz’s last few fights (Smith, Zaromskis, Shamrock, and now Noons) that he has the striking capabilities to hang with the best and overwhelm the overmatched.
But just where does Nick stand within the overall rankings at welterweight? I’m an unabashed Nick Diaz fan- I love his fighting style, his approach, and his attitude. This being said, I think that Nick’s greatest weakness- his wrestling- would still be his downfall in the world’s premier organization. The UFC’s WW division is chock full of wrestling-centric fighters who have the chin to withstand Diaz’s initial attack and the BJJ sensibility to avoid his long limbs and diverse grappling attack on the ground. In Nate, who at this point has become a doppleganger for his older brother, we see that matchmaking would be the only way to keep the entertaining Diaz’s in the forefront of the division.
Nate’s first fight after moving up in weight was a blown up Rory Markham, who’s only claim to fame would be getting KTFO by Dan Hardy. Nate overwhelmed Markham and was able to finish early. His next opponent was Marcus Davis, who, while having a reasonable record of wins in the UFC and a good amount of gatekeeper talent, is no wrestling world-beater and has little to offer except crisp (and declining) boxing technique, and what was once an iron chin. Davis was able to stun Nate early, but could not capitalize, and was battered by Diaz’s length and unorthodox striking technique in the final two frames. Can we equate the Davis and Noons victories? Yes, I believe so. Noons, while quicker, does not have the significant background in boxing that Davis has, and is also not as large.
So what is next? Diaz probably faces Paul Daley, a hardworking and not explosive in the least kickboxer with a mean left hook, especially after the final bell. If Diaz beats Daley, he will probably be given creedence as a top 10 WW in the world. As much of a fan of his as I am, I think Diaz’s ranking will be a mansion built on a sand dune. I will go out on a limb- I think Nate and Nick are at comparable levels in terms of talent. Both have the exact same strengths (chin, boxing, length, jiu jitsu), but neither has faced a wrestler who tried to wrestle with them. Gray Maynard inexplicably avoided going to the ground with Nate in their LW bout, probably lessening the risk of a quick submission. However, we have Jon Fitch and a plethura of Fitch clones in the UFC WW division- iron jaws, good cardio, enough striking technique to be game in attacking towards their strength- the takedown and round steal, avoiding submissions. If matched up against the Diaz brothers, would these fighters have the ability to exploit the Diaz’s possible weakness, or have the brothers rounded their game training with Jake Shields and Gil Melendez to the point that they can now counter-wrestle and keep the fight where they want it to be? I guess, like the cliché says, time will have to tell. Until then, I don’t think we can gather an accurate picture of either’s relevance to the overall rankings with the 170 lbs division.