For years, young Nathan Diaz has lived in the shadow of his menacing older brother - Stockton's prodigal son, Nick Diaz. At UFC 196, however, a legend was born. A legend that perhaps transcended the reputation of MMA's original bad boy.
In many ways, the UFC 196 main event was a culmination of all of Diaz's hard work and effort. Years of heavy sparring with his brother, professional boxers, and kickboxers. Years of triathlons and mega-endurance events that break even the most tested of athletes. Years of hardship and struggle on the rough streets of Stockton, California.
"Conor McGregor, you're taking everything I worked for, mother f*cker," Nate yelled down the mic after cruising to victory over Michael Johnson at UFC on FOX 17.
For Diaz, UFC 196 was personal, but everything always is with a Diaz brother. Conor McGregor was the lucky Irishman stealing the riches Diaz had longed for. But, when lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out of his main billing with "The Notorious" on March 5th, McGregor provided the perfect opportunity for Diaz to cash in a heavyweight check and whoop some ass in the process. Stockton style. The stars were aligned for Nick's little bro and, when the time came, Nate proved that his star could burn just as bright as his longest mentor and best friend.
Nate Diaz just became a bigger star than his brother for at least one night.— Mookie Alexander (@mookiealexander) 6 March 2016
Who'd have seen that coming?
UFC 196 was vintage Diaz: Taunts, blood, slaps, and a dash of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. With a chin forged from the mines of Moria, Nate weathered McGregor's onslaught of left hands -- left-handed shots that have crumpled many men before him -- and returned with a 209-infused barrage of his own. Bloodied, battered but not beaten, Diaz was just getting started where McGregor had left off.
Midway through the 2nd round, Diaz landed a swift 1-2 combination and sensed fatigue from his opponent (Lay off the steak and eat your vegetables, Conor!). Fatigue to a Diaz brother is like the fresh scent of seal meat for a shark. The eyes of McGregor rolled back. The legs wobbled. The brain cells rattled. A rejuvenated Diaz poured it on - lefts, rights, curse words, and slaps. Before long, the Californian had turned McGregor into the panic grappler he'd always mocked. A quick reversal leading to a rear-naked choke signaled the end of McGregor's welterweight aspirations and, perhaps, the beginning of a new era for Nate Diaz.
While Nick had developed a cult-like following from his years under the Strikeforce banner and PRIDE, accumulating brawls with the likes of Shamrock, Gomi, Smith, Cyborg and Daley, his younger brother's hard work had paid off in just one night. A night that is now etched into the history books and will forever remain one of the most iconic moments in UFC history.
(Hat tip to Mookie Alexander for article inspiration)