In the second bout of the evening for the UFC on FOX 7 at the HP Pavillion, two lightweight contenders look to bounce back into the win column for potential (re)cracks at the belt in the foreseeable future.
This fight feels like it's been brewing for awhile, and to be sure, the staredown between these two will make it feel that way.
Nate's career has suffered from being somewhat directionless. There was a time when his brother Nick was struggling with guys like Mike Aina, and KJ Noons that Nate might surpass his bigger, more famous brother. Then he started playing with weight fluctuations and never seemed to find his bearing. Nate has come a long way from his stint during the loaded season 5 of TUF. He's developed into the successful version of his brother, essentially, miming Nick's standup, and jiu jitsu.
His performance against Benson Henderson was somewhat forgettable. He was content to strike at a distance, which he's not very good at, and couldn't get anything going on the ground. However, his victories over Gomi, Jim Miller, and Donald Cerrone should not be so quickly forgotten.
Thomson, like Nate, has looked rejuvenated late in his career. He looked fairly sharp in his last outing against Gilbert Melendez, who won by split decision.
What both men can do: Thomson's strength is his speed. He punches fast, strings them together for searing combinations, and whips those leg kicks when called upon. He's also a pretty good wrestler and grappler. He's never been submitted, and I'd expect that trend to continue against Nate.
Perhaps the strength that will be the biggest factor in this fight will be his ability to take the fight to the ground, which he's good at, in part, because of his striking.
He'll have some trouble against Diaz, who will be looking to measure, and brawl his way to victory. Nate, like his brother, looks to stalk only to really unleash until his opponent is backed up against the cage. It's a tall task for Nate, who will be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to agility, but as we saw with Cerrone, Nate can sucker you into a brawl, and a fighter like Thomson who has expressed guilt when it comes to "giving the fans what they want" may just find himself on the wrong side of a firefight if he's not careful.
What both men can't do: The question is, however, will that be likely?
Thomson has very few true weaknesses if you don't count his political musings. In fact, there's no real blueprint to speak of. His bout with Tatsuya Kawajiri was probably his most convincing loss in recent years. His fights with Melendez have been mostly wars, but other than exchanging too wildly, nothing stands out from a strategic point of view.
Josh loves to put on a show. However, even getting suckered into a brawl doesn't entail defeat. Nate is flat footed, and likes to plod his way into the corner of the cage. A guy like Thomson who will be bouncing around with combinations is likely a terrible match for Diaz. Nate's hope is to catch Josh with one of his patented guillotines.
Outside of that, I don't see how Nate wins. The Diaz bothers are hindered by two things in life: their peers, possibly too much marijuana, slowness of foot, impatience, and the lack of a ring. I'd add 'explosivness and lack of power' but then that wouldn't be two things. In other words...Nate's fighting an uphill battle. But they win battles by emphasizing how important an 'intangible ' really is in MMA.
Doggedness will benefit Nate in this one, but Josh has the gas tank to go seven rounds in necessary, so I've gotta go with Speedy Gonzalez on this one. Some nice exchanges, and a good grappling encounter or two would make this one FOTN if it weren't for the main event.
Prediction: Josh Thomson by Decision.