GRINUPS: With the pending return of Nick Diaz, here are the top five opponents UFC should consider

By Nick Grinups, MMATorch contributor

Nate Diaz (artist Grant Gould © MMATorch)

The MMA world got some great news last week. As of Aug. 1, 2016 Nick Diaz is a free man.  Now that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is allowed to compete in the UFC again, fighters did not waste any time trying to pick a fight with the former Strikeforce champion.

On July 31, one day before Diaz’s suspension was over, Tyron Woodley captured gold at UFC 201. The new welterweight champion Tyron took the mic to call out his next opponent.  Many analyst and fighters assumed he would call out number one contender Stephen Thompson; instead, Woodley went another route. The new champion was calling for the money fights against former welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre and Stockton’s own Nick Diaz.

Some fans may find it strange that the new welterweight champion would call out a fighter whose last win in the octagon came in back October of 2011 against B.J. Penn.  But Diaz is one of the most controversial yet exciting fighters to ever grace the sport of MMA. 

That is why even after not winning a fight for almost five years, Diaz is right back in line to participate in the biggest and best fights.  The last time we saw the Stockton-born fighter compete was at UFC 183 where we saw him turn his back, lay down in the octagon, and continually taunt one of the best of all time, Anderson Silva. Although Diaz would go on to lose the fight by unanimous decision, the fight would be overturned to a no contest after Silva tested positive of banned substances. 

A lot has changed in the 18 months since the Cesar-Gracie trained fighter has graced the octagon.  Diaz will be walking into a UFC with new owners, USADA drug testing, and maybe the most importantly, Reebok will be on his chest and paying his check of $10,000.

Although the sponsorship money is low, the Diaz brother stock has grown exponentially since Nick left the sport. That is all thanks to his little brother Nate Diaz. Since older brother Nick was forced to leave the sport, Nate has gone on to beat Michael Johnson in one of his best performances and then topped it off by submitting Conor McGregor on short notice at UFC 196.

It seems as though the Diaz brothers have always been chasing the money fights in their careers and now, after a combined 66 fights between them, they are the money fight.

With no opponent announced yet for Nick Diaz, here is my list of the top options:

Tyron “The chosen one” Woodley

Woodley, who was recently made a short night of work to win the UFC Welterweight championship, is currently the best fighter in the world at 170 lbs. The new champion seems to have no interest in fighting number one contender Stephen Thompson because he wants more of a draw and obviously more money.  But this fight with Diaz may not just be about the money.  Woodley and Diaz were both elite fighters in the Strikeforce promotion and seemed to miss each other for a potential showdown. This is a great matchup between athleticism vs. technique. Woodley has said he wanted to always fight Diaz and now, with the belt around his waist, people are listening. 

Donald “The Cowboy” Cerrone

If Cerrone can pull of a fantastic finish against the gritty Rick Story at UFC 202, he could find his way into a big name fight at welterweight.  Cowboy is known for his saying “I know a guy” whenever a fighter pulls out of a fight.  Cerrone is always willing to fight anytime, anywhere, and anyone.  The Greg Jackson trained fighter is currently ranked in the top 15 and on a two fight winning streak at his new weight class.  Cerrone vs. Nick Diaz could be an intriguing storyline since Cerrone is a former title contender at 155 lbs. and had a short rivalry with younger brother Nate Diaz when the two fought at UFC 141. 

Demian Maia-Carlos Condit winner

These fighters are set to battle on Aug. 27 on Fox to possibly determine the next number one contender.  Maia hasn’t lost in two years and has beaten the likes of Matt Brown, Gunnar Nelson, and Neil Magny.  A win should give the Brazilian a title shot, but the way the welterweight division is going, who knows anymore.  This could be Maia’s opportunity for a big payday against Diaz and a very interesting style matchup between two top notch jiu-jitsu warriors.  I don’t I need to convince anyone on a Condit vs. Diaz rematch.  Stylistically and timing it makes sense.  The only thing that would keep these two rivals from fighting each other is Condit’s judgments on only fighting for the belt and the amount of preparation it took to fight and beat Diaz the first time.  But as some people say, “Diaz 1,2,5”

Georges “Rush” St. Pierre

The greatest welterweight of all time has been teasing a comeback for the last few months now and has stated he is willing to fight anyone between 155-185 lbs.  Diaz has been talking to the media telling the MMA world that Silva was drugged for their fight and he did not enjoy fighting in “cold ass Canada.”  A lot of claims for both camps have been made about what happened at UFC 158, but the fact is GSP was the better fighter that night.  Both fighters are enjoying long layoffs and the hype for St. Pierre possible comeback and the excitement that Diaz’s suspension is over would generate enough hype for a major PPV bout.  I do believe Diaz is looking for this fight because he believes it would be his biggest payday and that USADA’s stringent testing could benefit the triathlete in a five round fight. 

“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler

In my opinion, this is the fight that makes the most sense for Nick Diaz.  Lawler is coming off a knockout loss at UFC 201 which cost him his welterweight belt.  This was only the second time in 39 professional fights that Lawler lost by KO.  The first time Ruthless got the lights turned off was in 2004 at UFC 47 against Nick Diaz. Between the clash of styles andtheir history, the winner of this fight would be the number one contender and could be in line for a title shot.  This is a fight that the fans want to see and a fight I would believe Lawler wants to get back since their first fight is still talked about today.

(Nick Grinups of Philadelphia, Pa. is a new contributors to MMATorch. He wrestled 15 years including Division 1 at Drexel University, where he graduated with a degree in Finance and Marketing. He wrote for the Drexel school newspaper. He has also been a student of MMA since 2006. He grew up boxing and doing judo to stay in shape for wrestling and has done some BJJ training as well. He is also a stand-up comedian in Philadelphia. He has previously written for Sherdog.con and Follow him on Twitter @nickgrinups.)

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