When 2012 is over, it may be remembered as the year of the Diaz brothers, Nick and Nate, who have created news inside and outside of the cage this year.
It has been only a month since Nick Diaz fought Carlos Condit for the UFC interim welterweight title, losing a controversial decision, subsequently retired in frustration and then was found to have tested positive afterward for marijuana use, putting his career on indefinite hold, if it isn’t completely over because he simply no longer has the motivation.
It will be interesting to see how his younger brother Nate moves forward in his own career, which is currently at its highest point following a stunning win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 141 on Dec. 30. Nate will be in the main event with Jim Miller for the UFC on Fox 3 card, May 5 in New Jersey, with the winner receiving a title shot, according to UFC president Dana White. The shot at the title won’t come for months though, as current champion Benson Henderson is scheduled to have a rematch with the man he just beat, Frankie Edgar, sometime in the summer.
Miller is currently the betting favourite at a price of between -215 to -250. Diaz is +170 and as high as +190 underdog. Miller and Diaz have solid striking and are both excellent on the mat, so it’s an interesting style matchup.
Miller, who was born and raised in New Jersey, is buoyant about the opportunity to fight in his hometown state, admitting earlier this week at a media conference that he has to rein in emotions because the bout is still two months away.
Nate Diaz was asked at the media conference if he felt he was finally getting respect as a fighter.
“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug. “It comes and goes depending how your fights go.”
If Diaz isn’t as ebullient as Miller, it’s because that’s just his nature, similar to his brother. They aren’t into these promotional events, which Nick once referred to as beauty pageants. The Diaz brothers are all about the show inside the cage, not the politics or business aspects leading up to it.
In his bout against Cerrone, Nate set a record for a three-round MMA fight, connecting on 238 out of 362 significant strikes and completely taking his opponent out of his game. There had been plenty of animosity going into the fight as both combatants clearly had a hate-on for each other, exchanging in a war of words that escalated at the weigh-ins. Nate didn’t take kindly to Cerrone’s behaviour and knocked off his trademark cowboy hat. He continued his surly demeanour into the fight, striking early and often and completely overwhelming Cerrone, who tried to mix it up in close rather than moving in and out, which is more of his game. Heading into the third and final round, Diaz stood up and flipped Cerrone the bird with both of his middle fingers. Psychologically, Diaz was in a different zone, having physically and mentally worn down Cerrone.
After the fight, both fighters congratulated one another, showing mutual respect. Diaz knew he had won and so did Cerrone. Everything that led up to it didn’t matter anymore, and if Diaz showed a lack of class before and during the fight, he apologized in the post-fight press conference.
But everything before, during and after the fight made for great drama.
It’s quite possible Condit’s camp studied the tape of the fight to tactically decide the strategy of how to fight Nick Diaz, who fights much like his brother. Condit did the exact opposite of Cerrone, refusing to engage in a slugfest, which clearly frustrated Diaz. He was mocking Condit, which has been part of his fight demeanour against other opponents but this time it didn’t work. Condit had been programmed to stick to a style that would work for him and frustrate Diaz, who had multiple chances to change what he was doing and force Condit to fight by bullying him with more brawling or at least getting right in his face. The opportunity was there if he had wanted it, but he allowed Condit to dictate the pace and strategy.
Sometimes it takes a willing opponent, as Diaz had in his previous fight against B.J. Penn in the main event at UFC 137 in October. That certainly was the case in the Diaz-Cerrone bout. In retrospect, Cerrone may have erred, but at least he went down swinging in defeat. Even though Condit won the decision, his methodical strategy left some fans wanting more, particularly with a belt on the line.
Nate had been there that night, backing his brother, who became a far bigger focal point going into the fight than Condit. His private world became opened up as cameras followed him around on a daily basis to assemble footage for a provocative UFC Primetime feature. Diaz created a stir after beating Penn, calling out champion Georges St-Pierre, saying he had been afraid to fight him. St-Pierre had to bow out because he had a knee injury, which would turn out to be far more serious than originally thought and required major surgery that will sideline him for much of 2012.
Maybe following a suspension, Nick will have a change of heart and want to fight again. To be sure, St-Pierre will still want to battle him and it would be huge for business, although the UFC may not be willing to give Diaz another chance because of his multiple missteps.
But moving forward, the future of the fighting Diaz brothers rests with Nate. It will be interesting to see if Nick is in attendance for the fight, supporting for his brother. If Nick is truly done with the sport, then why would he bother to be there, particularly if he has been officially suspended by then? Then again, the two brothers have always been there for one another and that is unlikely to change regardless of where their MMA careers go.
At a time when one of the Diaz brothers may have fought for the final time, the other is moving toward the biggest fight of his life.