I suppose in a situation like this, it's best to get the disclosures out of the way early. I am this site's biggest, most unapologetic Paul Daley mark, and I also come down on strongly on the WAR209 side of the never-ending Diaz brothers debate. From literally the week that Daley was cut from the UFC, I was calling for Daley and Diaz to meet in the cage, and I like to give myself credit for predicting that such a meeting would be chock full 'o awesome. So it is safe to say that I am the teensiest bit biased.
With that out of the way, I would like to say, categorically that Diaz-Daley not only deserves to be on the short list for fight of the year, but also deserves your vote for the very best fight of the year.
At core, this position shouldn't be all that controversial. Immediately following the fight, and in the months that have followed, a plurality of MMA fans and journalists have agreed that the first and only round of the fight was a leading contender for the best round of the year, an assertion that is difficult to argue. While not the most technique-heavy fight on record, the four minute, fifty-seven second brawl featured two of the best (if not the best) strikers in the WW division standing toe-to-toe from the opening bell. Both fighters landed brutal shots, both scored legit knockdowns, and both fighters came within moments of finishing, before Nick Diaz sealed the deal with a TKO stoppage with only three seconds left in the round.
I have seen little, if any, objection to the assertion that the round was one of the very best of the year. Because the fight only went one round, and because that round was superlative, it would seem to follow that the fight itself should be propelled into immediate consideration for fight of the year. But that simply hasn't happened. Most of the short lists I've seen have been topped by Henderson-Rua, Edgar-Maynard 2 and 3, Bendo-Guida, and Alvarez-Chandler.
If you notice, the one unifying feature of all of those fights is that they went a minimum of three full rounds. Edgar-Maynard 3 and Alvarez-Chandler both ended in the 4th round after wild back-and-forth wars, and the other fights on that list all went to decisions.
Which brings me to a larger point about how the MMA community (fans, journalists, etc.) rank fights. In general, we seem to take the approach that a fight has to be long in order to even be considered in the pantheon of greats. Paradoxically, even though we claim to love exciting finishes, the great majority of fights that earn our highest honors go to decision (Griffin-Bonnar being the standard bearer).
Some of this is pretty easily explained. To be great, a fight should be a close contest, and one could argue that the closest of contests are those in which no fighter can establish a significant edge (one of the favorites for this year -- Edgar-Maynard 2 -- ended in a draw). But surely finishes and close contests are not mutually exclusive. Diaz-Daley was incredibly close right up until the finish (as was Alvarez-Chandler, which is my second choice for FOTY).
I would argue that length should not be a determining factor in greatness. If a 5-minute fight is perfect from start to finish (as I would argue Diaz-Daley was) it shouldn't be compared unfavorably to a great 15- or 25-minute fight. Indeed if a longer fight is great as a whole, but drags in parts, one could reasonably argue that a completely action-packed one-round fight is actually better.