Nick Diaz punches his ticket to a title shot with Georges St. Pierre. Photo by UFC.com
Nick Diaz may not show competence when it comes to his obligations to hype a fight. In fact, it has become an assumption that Diaz will either show up late, or not show up at all to conference calls or press conferences without someone holding his hand. When it comes to stepping into the cage, however, there is no doubt in Diaz's resolve.
The former Strikeforce welterweight champion proved once again that he always shows up to fight, bombarding the defenses of UFC legend B.J. Penn from the second round on to win by unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Penn was supposed to provide a technically superior striking game to thwart Diaz's stubborn, aggressive stand-up game, and in the first round -- Penn was proving his superiority.
By the second round, however, the dominance we've come to expect from Diaz began to show. Penn's shots from range couldn't counter the constant pressure from Diaz, and it became more apparent as seconds ticked off the clock that Penn's conditioning was faltering in the face of adversity. The third round was more of the same, and the only consolation that Penn could extract from the loss is that he survived to the final bell.
Surprisingly, very few people predicted that Diaz could walk through a legend like B.J. Penn similarly to how he defeated Paul Daley, Evangelista Santos, and KJ Noons. Those fighters don't possess the offensive prowess of Penn, yet Diaz made it look easy, barreling through Penn's power without taking a step back or slowing his output.
The question that arises from such a dominant win is whether Diaz can compete with an overpowering champion like Georges St. Pierre. Most fans gave Diaz slim chances against the wrestling-centric champion when they were previously matched against each other as the UFC 137 headliner. Strangely, the circumstances that led to Diaz being pulled from the main event gave him the opportunity to prove he's more dangerous than people believed.
UFC President Dana White seems to agree, pushing Carlos Condit aside and pitting Diaz against St. Pierre for the UFC welterweight title. After Diaz's win at UFC 137, the intrigue in a title showdown is even higher. Despite the lessened pay-per-view presence UFC 137 will have due to the absence of St. Pierre, Diaz has undoubtedly created a buzz around himself that we've never seen before. The event's main event shake-up, in all its confusion and disappointment, has put Diaz in a better position.
Diaz punched his ticket to the opportunity of a lifetime on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Not only does he have the chance to solve his perceived financial problems, there is evidence to suggest Diaz could become a household name among the UFC's casual fanbase. Diaz has been away from the UFC for roughly six years, yet he became somewhat of a phenomenon that fans went out of their way to watch when he fought under the Strikeforce banner. Those fans have long been staples of the UFC's fanbase, perhaps more of a hardcore base than casual.
With the UFC's marketing behind Diaz and performances like the one he put together against Penn, who's to say Diaz, despite his strive for obscurity, can't reach the newer generation of fans? The Nick Diaz who failed against Sean Sherk, Joe Riggs, and Diego Sanchez isn't the Nick Diaz of today. Will the more matured skills of Nick Diaz finally help him achieve the moniker of undisputed world champion? We can't look past the possibility now.