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At UFC on Fox 3, Nate Diaz beat everybody: professional MMA analysts, betting odds, and even his past weaknesses. After turning in one of his best performances to date against Jim Miller, the young Stocktonian has finally achieved the "Number 1 Contender" status that he never earned during his first run in the lightweight division. But with such a dominating victory on top of an impressive-looking three-fight win streak, has Nate finally surpassed his older brother Nick Diaz?
No. Not quite yet. But he's close.
Although the core argument itself is a bit of an "apples and oranges" comparison, some people are saying that Nate Diaz is the better of the two brothers. After all, he's fought in the UFC consistently since winning The Ultimate Fighter in 2007, for which he deserves credit. Nate's also won fights at both lightweight and welterweight, another hard task.
But the reality is that Nick Diaz is the far more accomplished fighter.
That's not to say that Nate isn't close to surpassing his brother. 'Quite the opposite, in fact. If all the fights line up just right, Nate Diaz will be fighting for the UFC Lightweight Championship before year's end. Such a thing alone would mean a lot for his career. But when you look at the complete history of both careers, it's clear that Nick Diaz is still the bigger and better of the two brothers.
Nick Diaz: 26-8 (1)
Nate Diaz: 16-7
Although some people point to Nate Diaz's long, consistent UFC career as proof that he's better than his older brother, Nick Diaz has actually been fighting (and winning) for a lot longer. Despite the level of opposition, having an extra 10 wins and an 11-fight winning streak to your name isn't anything to sneeze at, either. And while most knowledgeable MMA fans know not to take stock in raw numbers, the fact remains that on paper (and to casual fans watching a Fox broadcast), a fighter with a 26-8 record is more impressive than one with a 16-7 ledger.
Most Defining Victories
Once you look at their defeated opponents, the argument for Nick Diaz as the better fighter becomes a little clearer. Although Nate has submitted and outboxed very good opposition along the way, Nick has made a habit of absolutely crushing high-profile opponents with little more than bull-headed punching power.
Moreover, the men that Nick Diaz has defeated have all come with vast amounts of hype and intrigue. Former UFC Champion B.J. Penn returned to the welterweight division after almost toppling Jon Fitch — and Nick Diaz beat the Hawaiian senseless, retiring him. Paul Daley was supposed to have the one-punch knockout power to stop Nick, and wound up losing a thrilling one-round battle by strikes. Scott Smith's gusty heart couldn't keep up as Diaz walloped him for three rounds. MMA Superstar Frank Shamrock hung up his gloves after getting beaten into the ground by a kid from Stockton.
While Nate Diaz has excellent wins of his own, each of his last three being more impressive than the one before it, he hasn't quite had the watershed moments that his brother has had. On the other hand, Nick has successfully put away both famous personalities and pound-for-pound elites. (And although it's technically a "No Contest," the Takanori Gomi fight at Pride 33 might still be Nick Diaz's best win, and the one that propelled him into stardom.)
Nate Diaz: N/A
While you'll most likely never hear this on an episode of UFC Primetime, Nick Diaz has actually held three MMA championship belts in his 35-fight career. Of course, the most famous of which is the Strikeforce Welterweight Championship. Although the San Jose-based promotion was (and still is) often ridiculed for their ridiculously thin divisions and unimportant championships, Nick Diaz was the rare kind of star that made the belt important, defending it three times with increasing brutal savagery each time.
Even if you ignore the IFC and WEC belts, the Strikeforce title carries a significant amount of weight thanks to Nick Diaz and his tendency for delivering "Fight of the Year" performances.
Fame & Popularity
Nick Diaz: Nine events headlined in past five years (UFC, DREAM, Strikeforce)
Nate Diaz: Four events headlined in past five years (UFC on Fox, UFC Fight Night)
Somehow, Nick Diaz is a fighter who's almost more famous when he loses than when he wins. One only has to look at his last fight with Carlos Condit at UFC 143 to see that the older Diaz is a superstar, as fan outcry and a supremely marketable personality almost led to him getting an immediate rematch for the UFC Interim Welterweight Championship. Added to multiple crowd-pleasing victories in Strikeforce that only built up his stardom, Nick Diaz has a name and a persona that moves per-view-buys and TV viewers.
Nate Diaz is almost there, but not yet. Right now, he's certainly more famous for being the younger Diaz brother than anything he's done in the UFC — which isn't so bad, considering that both of them are equally feared and hated/liked within the MMA community. But even if Nate Diaz is never as popular as Nick, being a better, more accomplished fighter might be within his grasp this year.
All Nate has to do is win the UFC Lightweight Championship.
For all of Nick's accomplishments, he's never been recognized as the best fighter in his weight class. If Nate Diaz can accomplish that much at lightweight, then we can (and should) have this same discussion a few years down the road. For now, let's just hope that one Diaz gets his title shot, and the other Diaz gets back into the Octagon at all.
[McKinley Noble is an MMA conspiracy theorist and former writer for GamePro, PC World, and Macworld. Follow his Twitter account for crazy talk, 1990s movie references, and general weirdness. Or you could just stalk him on Google.]