In welterweight action, The Ultimate Fighter season five winner and Cesar Gracie jiu-jitsu student Nate Diaz (13-5, 8-3 UFC) will hope to extend his winning streak to three as he battles South Korean judo player Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1-1, 4-0-1) in a highly-relevant battle for positioning in the upper-echelon of the division. Diaz has enjoyed success in the higher weight class after suffering a decision loss to Gray Maynard back at UFC Fight Night 20 in January. Wins over Marcus Davis and Rory Markham resulted in talk that Diaz may be more of a factor with the added pounds, but his well-rounded skill-set is the more likely factor when weighed against those opponents.
Kim remains undefeated despite losing to Karo Parisyan at UFC 94 in January of last year. A positive test for banned painkillers during the post-fight drug test caused the commission to overturn the decision to a no contest, maintaining Kim's unblemished record for the time being. But that isn't to say Kim isn't a successful and effective fighter. His Judo background has worked well in the clinch, but his strength and ground abilities have been his means to winning fights consistently.
Diaz should be the more well-rounded fighter in this match-up. He has the lengthy limbs in tandem with his boxing to be very dangerous on the feet, and those same appendages can be tough to wade through in the grappling department. The difference here is that he won't have that advantage as Kim is 6'1" to Diaz's 6'0" frame. We've seen on multiple occasions that Diaz can threaten in either area of a fight, but he lacks the tactical knowledge on the ground to avoid being smothered in wrestling or held down by stronger combatants.
Kim may be able to embody that type of opponent. He's very strong in the clinch, and he has effective tactics in bringing fights to the floor that Diaz may not be expecting. While I highly doubt Kim is going to be a dangerous threat in the striking department, I have no doubt in my mind that the South Korean will endanger Diaz in a clinch war against the fence. Huge height can be a tremendous asset, but we've seen many times that strength and technique can topple even the tallest giant.
This is by far one of the most underrated bouts on this card that needs to be spotlighted as a great fight for fans to watch. Both Kim and Diaz are battling for a potential berth into the upper reaches of the division. Relevance is on the line, and the style match-up is very intriguing when you consider Diaz's loss to Stevenson as evidence that he may have some trouble trying to escape the clutches of Kim.
By default, I'm bound to picking Dong Hyun Kim as my South Korean ancestry would smite me in my sleep if I went with the Stockton, California-bred fighter. But I'm a huge fan of Nate Diaz, and I've shown evidence in past previews that he does have a fighting chance when many thought he would fail. To be perfectly honest, I'm taking the easy way out. This is one of the toughest fights to call, mainly due to the questions surrounding Diaz's defense to tactics like that of Stevenson and the strength and technique that Kim has shown in the clinch. This fight will be won along the fence, it's just a matter of whether Diaz can avoid being thrown to the canvas when he gets there.