I've been thinking about why I misjudged the Shamrock vs. Diaz bout and I'll get to that, but first let's establish some context:
At just 25 years old, Nick Diaz has been a pro for seven years. He has battled bigger opponents regularly and won fans even in defeat. But there was no question who the better fighter was Saturday, with Frank Shamrock getting a potent dose of Diaz at his best in the main event of Strikeforce’s Showtime-televised card at the HP Pavilion.
Diaz outlanded Shamrock 129 to 42, cleverly working his range while peppering his foe with a mix of stiff punches and the occasional kick mixed in.
"That’s just how I fight," Diaz said at the post-fight news conference. "He’s got a shorter reach than me. I was just trying to get him to throw the right hand (and counter), then get in his face. The key was to get out there. I felt good."
Often misunderstood given his penchant for straight talk and sometimes-abrasive moods, Diaz still feels he’s on a mission to help illustrate what mixed martial arts should be. With Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker saying that fighters from Japan’s Dream organization could be brought in for cross-promotional bouts, the Stockton-based battler said he likes the Japanese rules that encourage a more sportive feel.
"It’s a more technical fight," Diaz said of the rules in Japan, which give yellow cards for inactivity and prohibit elbows to the head on the ground. "It’s more my game. (In America) if the guy is holding on, you have to either figure out what to do or hold on tighter to win. Plus I like the ring aspect. It helps the technical aspects of a standup fighter."
A couple of issues struck me in listening to Diaz talk post-fight (when he's sober and openly communicative). First, I admit to forgetting what a healthy respect for technique Diaz keeps. Even if you disagree with some judgment calls he makes in the name of improving or testing his technique, Diaz revels in the idea that the more technical fighter can overcome physically daunting obstacles. That his size has naturally kept expanding with his skill set only makes his more physically daunting. As for his toughness, I get the sense he recognizes it's helpful and he tends to lean on it a little too much for my comfort, but I also contend he prides himself more for what talents he's developed than his natural gift of tolerating punishment to lift him through violent battles.
Second, it turns out Diaz ran a triathalon just weeks out of the fight. Such a draining experience can and did force Diaz to physically reset after the event somewhat disrupted his progress in camp. Clearly getting in shape to even run a triathalon is probably beneficial, but I wonder if the inconsistent performances from Diaz over the last couple of years (poor performances, mind you, that seemed to involved Diaz's physical ability on fight day as well as now two weigh-in issues) are the result of Diaz's inability to properly regulate what appears to be substantially demanding athletic hobbies during fight camp. There's no doubt physical issues aside, he was far too skilled for Shamrock on the ground and the effective use of range helped him win, but I'm curious to know if despite Diaz's considerable MMA experience he hasn't been able to refine his peaking during training given his many hobbies and responsibilties.
When Diaz is firing on all cylinders (as he seemed to be last night), one gets a fresh reminder of what a physically intimidating, clever, experienced and talented competitor he can be. Set up the rematch with Lawler already.