Current number one Strikeforce welterweight contender KJ Noons finds himself challenging Nick Diaz for a world title for the second time in three years. Noons and Diaz will meet this weekend to dispute the Strikeforce welterweight belt in a rematch of their 2007 EliteXC lightweight title fight (which Noons won via doctor stoppage due to cuts). Noons took a two-year hiatus from the sport to focus on his career as a professional boxer but has gone 3-0 since returning to the game in 2010, racking up victories over Andre Amade, Conor Heun and Jorge Gurgel and is confident in his chances in a second bout with Diaz.
“I think in the first fight he was the best fighter at the time in the lightweight division and we fought for the title,” Noons said of their 2007 meeting. “It got stopped because of cuts. If he had [a problem with the stoppage], that’s why we’re gonna do it a second time.”
Diaz and Noons have cultivated a bit of a rivalry since that fight, mainly due to Diaz’s vehement and aggressive disagreement with the stoppage. The two have been mellow leading up to the second fight, however, and Noons says that he is just looking to defeat a top fighter to win a prestigious belt.
“What’s more important to me–both are important to me,” Noons said of whether he is looking forward more to defeating Diaz a second time or winning the belt. “I want to defeat the guy who has the belt at 170, which is him. He’s the best at 170 in Strikeforce so I want to win that belt. I think he’s a good fighter and I want to be the best. I want to beat him.”
When it comes to strategy, Noons predicts that Diaz will rely on his overall skill-set (one of the best in the game by most accounts) and his marathoner’s conditioning but that his main focus will be getting Noons to the ground in order to work his vaunted submission skills.
“I think he’s gonna do a little bit of everything,” Noons said. “This is mixed martial arts. I think he’s gonna try to take it to the ground, use a little jiu-jitsu, draw me into the deep rounds, use his conditioning, and use his boxing. I think he’s an unorthodox fighter, he has a different style and it works for him. I think he’s definitely gonna try and take it to the ground though. I think he’ll stand but not as much as other people think he’s going to.”
Regardless of his respect for Diaz’s skills as a competitor, Noons predicts that he will be walking out of the cage Saturday night with his hand raised and the belt around his waist.
“When it’s all said and done my hand will be raised as the winner.”
Noons and Diaz will face off in the main event of Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Noons II which is going down tomorrow night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.