Judo Chop: Nick Diaz's Ground Game

Nick Diaz will forever be a love ‘im/hate ‘im fighter due to his stunning combination of skills, bad boy persona, exciting fights and the unpredictable and often violent moments of surrealism that seem to follow him around.

To show our appreciation for highly entertaining fighters with highly developed skills, I present to you a Judo Chop that focuses on Nick Diaz’s ground game. Below the jump, we'll see a few Judo Chops from the archives on Nick Diaz and some of his favorite tactics from his fights and as seen through the fights of his brother, Nate Diaz. We also break down Nick's submissions of Josh Neer and Cyborg Evangelista, while showing some unorthodox tactics he chose to employ against Frank Shamrock.

Being a Cesar Gracie black belt means quite a bit, even in the relatively undiluted world of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, as names like David Terrell and Jake Shields are on that short list of Cesar black belts. Nick too has some serious ground game, despite being known primarily for his stand-up battles.

Gomidiaz13_medium_medium

via assets.sbnation.com

Nick’s finest grappling moment on the MMA stage is likely his amazing gogoplata on Takanori Gomi at Pride 33 in 2007. Despite the victory being overturned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for Diaz’s post-fight positive drug test, the unusual submission capped off a barnburner of a fight and entered into the record books as the second ever gogoplata we saw in high level mixed martial arts. KJ Gould and Patrick Tenney analyzed the Gomi gogoplata in this lovely Judo Chop from earlier this year.

The Diaz brothers train in the same gym and have developed similar strategies and tactics. One of their favorite things to do in a fight – particularly against an opponent seeking to take them down – is to work for the kimura while the opponent works the takedown. This tactic often leads to a situation where Nate will offer his back and then launch into a diving roll forwards to better isolate a trapped arm for a potential fight-ending kimura. If the kimura fails, it often leaves the opponent unwilling to stay tight and allows space for the scrambles that serve the Diaz brothers well. That tactic did not serve Nate so well against Joe Daddy Stevenson, but as we see in the Ishida/Wilcox Judo Chop, the kimura roll can be brutally effective.

Another particular favorite of Nick is to hunt for a figure four armlock or kimura from side control. In quite a few fights, you’ll see him set up position in a way that leaves the armlock at least as a contingency and sometimes, he gets it like he did against Josh Neer at UFC 62.

I24645_diazneer2_medium

via Grappo.

Here you see Diaz isolate Neer’s left arm from side control, keep top pressure on so that Neer cannot bring any other limbs to bear, pin the arm down in preparation for a kimura and then step over Neer’s head to finish the kimura. This is one of many examples that show Nick’s surprising top pressure and control – many kimura attempts end up with the opponent powering their way out, but Neer goes nowhere.

Nick’s unorthodox striking, with its pawing, unusual angles, rib roasters and gaping defensive holes, has been a subject of much discussion and study. It seems to work for him and he’s delivered some spectacular knock-outs of fighters like Mariusz Zaromskis, Paul Daley and Frank Shamrock. In the latter fight, Diaz displayed some unusual ground tactics as well.

I24646_diazshamrock1_medium

via Grappo

In this gif, we see Diaz in a position where he could move into side control, as Shamrock’s left side is relatively undefended. However, Nick chooses to move his left knee to pin down Shamrock’s right thigh, while maintaining the underhook on Shamrock’s left arm/allowing Shamrock to keep the overhook. The resulting position contorts Shamrock into an awkward position where his head is twisting in the opposite direction from his legs and Nick’s good top pressure allows him to stay there. As the gif shows, Nick takes the opportunity to punch Frank a few times in the head before Frank later regains guard (not show in the gif).

I24647_diazshamrock2_medium

via Grappo.

In the same fight, Nick displayed a rare takedown. As Shamrock came in looking for a few good strikes, Diaz baited him into throwing a body kick and once it was in the air, Nick was ready to catch it and launch into a low single-ish takedown. As Diaz drives forwards and slightly to the left, he keeps the leg just high enough to prevent Shamrock from hopping backwards and successfully regaining his balance. Once they hit the ground, Nick quickly withdraws his arms to a safe place in preparation to throw some more leather. It’s unorthodox, but it worked then. If the unthinkable happens and B.J. comes out with a kick-heavy gameplan, this shows that Nick may have the right instincts to make something happen through countering the aggression.

And now for Nick’s most recent MMA submission – the Cyborg Evangelista armbar. Thanks to Grappo’s brilliant gifs, I can break this down for you in three parts.

I24648_diazcyborg1_medium

via Grappo.

After a leg trip takedown by Cyborg after Diaz was aggressively coming forwards with strikes, Cyborg is on top in guard and looking to do damage to Diaz. To alleviate the forearm pressure, Nick turns his head towards the elbow of Cyborg’s arm (wonder if it was bloody…). Cyborg is in a strange middle ground in terms of posture: neither low and tight nor upright and far away. Evangelista goes to hammerfist Diaz in the face and leaves his right arm in a place that most grapplers will recognize as armbar territory. It is possible that Cyborg knew this and was trying to bait Diaz into swiveling his hips up, diving the right arm underneath Cyborg’s left leg and going for the armbar. The idea of the baiting attempt is to shuck the arm free just before the armbar becomes truly dangerous and to take advantage of that to move into side control or control a turtled-up opponent. That potential bait opportunity disappears because Cyborg reacts a beat too late in his pull-out attempt and Nick traps Cyborg’s arm unusually well. Towards the end of this gif, we see Cyborg realize that his arm is stuck in there and both fighters scrabble for better control of the trapped arm.

I24649_diazcyborg2_medium

via Grappo.

With the arm trapped, Diaz wants to extend it to complete the submission. Because Cyborg has him sort of stacked up, Diaz’s best option is to roll over his right shoulder, while rotating into Cyborg, and flip him over to the classic top-side armbar position (or posish). Cyborg resists this and tries to shift his balance, but Diaz picks up Cyborg’s right foot and brings it to the other side. With so much of his body on the other side, Cyborg has no choice but to follow and Diaz has kept his forearm in the crook of Cyborg’s right arm the entire time. That arm has never left Nick’s control. As they roll over, Nick comes to a sitting position, his feet are almost crossed and the back of his left thigh is firmly on top of Cyborg’s face. Cyborg is going nowhere soon.

I24650_diazcyborg3_medium

via Grappo.

The arm is trapped, the legs are controlling Cyborg’s upper body, Diaz is sitting up and all that is left is the extension of the arm. Cyborg is holding onto his trapped arm with his other hand and Diaz must break the grip to extend the arm. Diaz bops Cyborg in the stomach to distract him briefly and takes advantage of that momentary lapse in defense to rip the arm out from the grip. His strength is augmented by his core, as he hugs the arm to his stomach, lies back and elevates his hips to hyperextend the elbow. Unlike Vinicus Magalhaes against Fabricio Werdum, Cyborg has to tap. All in all, it was a beautiful armbar finish and Cyborg’s exhaustion only detracts slightly from it.

Going into UFC 137, the betting lines are close and the questions are looming large. Will we see this fight play out on the ground, where both have highly polished skills honed with years of sweat, blood and tears? Does one of these two fighters have the grappling chops submit the other? Or will we see this battle be decided on the feet? What do you readers think?

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