Nate Diaz – who will be headlining the TUF 18 Finale opposite Gray Maynard – has stayed relevant in the UFC since winning his season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2007. Not many Ultimate Fighter winners after Nate have been able to have as much success as him, and only one other winner after Diaz did what the 209 native has done, challenge for a championship. Staying relevant and being one of the best fighters in the division are two entirely different things though, and here are the reasons why Nate Diaz will never be a champion.
Nate Diaz is not a bad wrestler, and doesn’t do too bad of a job at stuffing some great wrestlers in the division. The problem for Nate is that the division has a lot of amazing wrestlers, and if he wants to compete at the top, he will have to learn that his striking and jiu-jitsu aren’t enough to stifle an amazing wrestler. His loss against former champion Ben Henderson was a perfect example of this. Henderson took Diaz down at will, and never allowed Diaz to get comfortable pulling guard. Most of Diaz’s wins are against fighters known to throw down and trade shots. His losses are against fighters with spectacular wrestling:
- Ben Henderson (NAIA All-American)
- Clay Guida (Landed 7 Takedowns On Diaz In 3 Rounds)
- Joe Stevenson (Black belt in Judo)
- Dong Hyun Kim (Black belt Judo)
- Rory MacDonald(Landed 6 Takedown On Diaz, Including 3 Suplexes)
- Gray Maynard (NCAA Division I Wrestler)
Hopefully his recent experience with Team Alpha Male has strengthened his wrestling, as well as continued work with teammates Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez. If Gray Maynard wrestles Diaz to a decision at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, then Diaz doesn’t have the wrestling necessary to be a champion.
Style + Experience
Though many would consider these two to be a reason why Diaz could one day be champion, I see both these things as indicators of an eventually downfall. Even though Nate is only 29 years old, in fighting years, he is turning nine years old. To give a little bit of perspective, Chris Weidman is four years old in fight years, though one year older than Diaz. The older a fighter gets in fight years, the more damage accumulates. Many would point to fighters like Anderson Silva and GSP who were champions past their 10th year of fighting. Their style of fighting was to not get hit. Nate Diaz’s style of fighting is to hit you harder than you hit him. He has been in multiple slug fests, and over time those shots add up. Just recently he was knocked out for the first time in his career by a head kick from Josh Tompson. Gray Maynard holds heavy hands, and if Diaz gets hit a couple times, it could knock his chances of a title even further away.
Nate Diaz might be tamer than his brother Nick, as well as more responsible when it comes to attending press events, but in no way would the UFC be happy with having Nate Diaz as champion. The last thing that the UFC would want is to have their champion on free TV flipping off his competitors during weigh-ins, press conferences and especially during fights! This is not the image that the UFC would want, especially when trying to crack into the mainstream market. The UFC holds a lot of power for deciding who gets the title shots. Unless Diaz cleans out the division, it isn’t likely that the UFC will give him another title shot anytime soon. Also, when it comes time to defend his championship, his High School Reunion might hinder his ability to show up on fight night.
Past Five Fights
Nate Diaz has always been ranked within the middle of the division. Even when he fought Ben Henderson for the title, he was ranked underneath fighters such as Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard, Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis. Nate Diaz is a great fighter, but he has never been the best. You look at the people he has beat in his past five fights, and they are all at the bottom or not even in the top 10 at lightweight. Donald Cerrone, Jim Miller and Takanori Gomi are all decent lightweight fighters that hover from the middle of the lightweight division to the bottom. His two losses in his past five fights are from guys near the top of the division, Ben Henderson and Josh Thompson. In both those fights Diaz didn’t come close to winning, and showed that he can beat the good in the division, but not the best. Gray Maynard is not one of the best, but he is near the top, and a win over Maynard could give Diaz another shot at a top fighter. When you look at the top five fighters in the division though, Diaz might not stand a chance, and with new lightweights like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rafael dos Anjos taking up the middle division spots, Diaz might soon find himself at the bottom of the division’s top 10, surpassed by the new breed of fighters.