There is no denying that the depth of Strikeforce's welterweight division is nowhere near the depth of 170 in the UFC. Still, the idea that there are no legitimate fights for Nick Diaz in Strikeforce is a reach. It's also a line of thinking based on a willing ignorance of the constantly changing landscape of mixed martial arts.
Currently Strikeforce has the following options for Diaz:
- Evangelista Santos - Not really an option so much as a fight that is happening Saturday. Santos makes for an exciting fight and is a great option for Diaz to stay active while the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
- Paul Daley - The option most want to see. Daley has won 8 of his last 10 fights and currently sits at #10 in the USA TODAY / SB Nation Consensus Rankings. He just has to get through Yuya Shirai to make the fight happen.
- Tyron Woodley - Woodley is 8-0 and has knocked off a pair of Strikeforce's top welterweight prospects in Andre Galvao and Tarec Saffiedine. His wrestling game presents a challenge that Diaz has not faced in years.
- KJ Noons - Noons and Diaz have split their first two fights with both being highly entertaining. Their 2010 bout was one of the best fights of the year and one of the most interesting technical stand-up fights I've seen. A rubber match between the two is far from unappealing.
- Jason Miller - Mayhem and Diaz is a fight that will happen eventually. It's simply too big of a fight to not happen.
Assuming Diaz fights on his regular schedule, those five fights would be enough to get him through 2012. That is plenty of time for new challengers to emerge and new fights to become appealing. In the 2009-2010 period Daley went from a guy who was losing to Nick Thompson to a top 10 welterweight. Two years ago today Woodley had yet to have a single professional fight.
Just take a quick look at the UFC at the start of 2009 to see how fast things can change. Cain Velasquez was 4-0 coming into 2009 and had yet to claim his place as a top contender, let alone an unstoppable champion. Frankie Edgar and Mauricio Rua went from flawed contenders to highly regarded champions. Chael Sonnen lost to Demian Maia to kick off the year and wasn't considered by anyone to be near being one of the top 5 middleweights in the world. Jon Jones? Just 1-0 in the UFC.
Two years is a long time in MMA and with 4-5 interesting fights for Diaz out there, that is plenty of time for the landscape to change and present new challenges to Diaz. Is that to say that I wouldn't rather see him in the UFC? Not at all, but to act as if there is nothing out there for Diaz now nor will there be in the future is to ignore the realities of the sport.