BOSTON - AUGUST 28: Nate Diaz (R) connects with a right hook to the face of Marcus Davis during their UFC welterweight bout at the TD Garden on August 28 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Nate Diaz isn't your ordinary fighter. Walking in the shadow of his brother Nick and possessing the surname of Diaz within the context of mixed martial arts certainly brings about high expectations, but Nate has lived up to those expectations. He's a scrapper, a survivor, willing to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime, over anything. He fits the mold of a Diaz perfectly with great jiu-jitsu and boxing skills, and he has that unique gameness that only the Diaz brothers embody.
He's also inherited family weaknesses, relying on punching prowess and offense over defending counter punches and takedowns. Those weaknesses, however, seem to be disappearing for both himself and his brother, and we may be on the verge of seeing the Diaz name in the spotlight.
Success may be on Nate Diaz's doorstep sooner rather than later. In his second performance at welterweight, Diaz looked nearly unstoppable against the aged former boxer Marcus Davis. Battering him from a distance, it became almost comical as the fight went on. Davis had no answer, and his bob and weaving only planted his head on a more steady pedestal for Diaz to punch. After two rounds of action, Diaz seemed content with the damage he had done on the feet, and quickly worked Davis to the floor and submitted him. It was vintage Nick Diaz, but now his brother is putting those skills on display in dominating fashion inside the Octagon.
Following the fight, Diaz hinted that he may want to try his hand at battling back at lightweight, probably because he feels he won the bout against Maynard. In retrospect, I also felt Diaz got the better of Maynard slightly, and Diaz certainly presents problems for everyone at lightweight with his reach and improving boxing skills. Unfortunately, he's never been able to crack the upper echelon of the division -- most notably because he couldn't defend the spladle against Joe Stevenson.
I suppose the better question is whether or not he can continue his success in the UFC's welterweight division, and if so -- will he stay there in order to attain that success? Marcus Davis doesn't even rank on our USAT/SBN rankings, but I believe Diaz could give guys like Ricardo Almeida, Mike Swick, and countless others scattered throughout the division a run for their money. The problem for Diaz lies in his wrestling defense. Fights aren't five rounds unless they're championship battles, and perhaps he could outlast wrestlers in that format. Unfortunately, guys like Jake Ellenberger and Mike Pierce may prove to be roadblocks.
So, where does that leave Nate, a fighter with a lot of potential who's only 25 years old? I think Cesar Gracie's team is solid, but I wouldn't mind seeing the camp bring in powerful top control wrestlers that are a bit beefier for him. His length is a huge advantage when he's on the bottom, and I've been a big fan of the active guard that Diaz can implement. But strength in the top position is a problem for almost any jiu-jitsu fighter, and Diaz is included in that group.
Furthermore, I'm sure fans will argue that Davis and Markham weren't overly challenging match-ups for him, and perhaps the gun is being jumped as to whether Diaz is actually as good as he's looked against sub-par competition. The losses to Stevenson, Maynard, and Guida point to an entirely different opinion.
Fortunately, Nate has a lot of time, and he has one of the best camps in MMA behind him in his progression to become a top fighter. With every performance, he's becoming one of the true fan favorites, and that should, at the very least, earn him solid paydays and great stylistic match-ups. But he can fight at a much higher level, and I expect we'll see some match-ups that will prove whether or not he's improved enough to be a force near the top of one of these divisions.