Ranking Nick Diaz Against the UFC's Best

Photo by Esther Lin for Showtime Sports.

In the aftermath of Nick Diaz' title defense against Evangelista Santos, aka Cyborg, there's been a bit of debate about where the man ranks in the welterweight division.

E. Spencer Kyte of UFC content partner Heavy.com says the guy isn't in the top five:

Can a player who is lighting up the American Hockey League really be considered one of the best despite the fact that he's dominating second-tier talent?

Of course not, and that is the same reason why Nick Diaz cannot possibly be considered a Top 5 Welterweight.

Before you go arguing that MMA and team sports shouldn't be compared, just go with it and focus on what is being proposed.

Following his win over Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos on Saturday night, many social media users, both MMA industry members and non-members alike, were trumpeting Diaz's place as one of the five best 170-pound fighters on the planet. Some went as far as to claim he was a top three talent, a stretch that is beyond ridiculous to me.

Don't get me wrong: the Strikeforce champion is on a nine-fight winning streak and has proven to be one of the best welterweights competing outside of the UFC, but a top 5 talent he is not.

Michael David Smith of MMAFighting (and an illustrious member of our rankings panel for the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings) has a more nuanced take:

7. Nick Diaz (8): So this is where I have Diaz: Moving up one spot after a solid victory over Cyborg, but still not up there with the truly elite in the UFC. Unfortunately, as long as Diaz is fighting under the Strikeforce banner, we're not going to know for sure how he'd match up with the other nine guys on this list.    

Our panel as a whole has Diaz ranked at #7 in a tie with Martin Kampmann

Personally I'm not losing any sleep over the issue. Diaz had a UFC run and it became pretty clear that his fighting style is heavily penalized under the unified rules and modern commission judging systems. He lost three back-to-back decisions against Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk and Joe Riggs to end his first UFC run. I'd say he only lost the Parisyan fight as a fight, but would have scored the Sherk fight against him as a judge. The Riggs fight was very close and IMO was a questionable decision. 

But the point is that we've seen Diaz in the UFC and he struggled against strong grapplers who could put him on his back and grind out decisions. 

Diaz has doubtless improved a great deal since then, but he has elected to be a big fish in a small pond rather than going for UFC gold. That's fine with me, his Strikeforce fights have been incredibly fun to watch and I'm curious to see how he fares in a professional boxing bout later this year too. Trying his hand at boxing is not something he'd have been able to do while on a UFC contract. 

As much as I'd like to see Diaz try his luck against Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, we'll have to settle for Paul Daley and possibly Jason Miller, aka Mayhem. In all likelihood, the Diaz-Daley fight will be more entertaining than watching Diaz get smothered by the AKA boys anyhow. 

Diaz is a human being who's free to make his own choices. Those who wish Strikeforce would go out of business so they could see all their dream fights come true in the UFC are hopelessly naive. There is no guarantee that Diaz would even continue an MMA career under those circumstances. 

Rankings are fun for conversation, but the only thing that really matters is how many eyeballs a fighter can draw. To the extent that rankings help fighters in their careers they matter, but no more than that. 

The important thing about Nick Diaz is he's very fun to watch fight and all indications are that we'll get to see him against some dangerous foes this year. That works for me.

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