Who should Nick Diaz face in his return from suspension, and why?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Robbie Lawler is the only answer to this question that I will accept. If anyone else on this page suggests differently, just stop reading and move on to the next.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Oh this is easy. This is obvious. Conor mother#$&@ing McGregor. Assuming that the Notorious one beats little bro Nate. Assuming the King of Ireland doesn’t take that crack at the Lightweight Title. Assuming that the temperamental Nick Diaz can feel respected enough by whatever money is thrown his way to lay of the ganja for long enough to make it into the cage. Yeah, that will do nicely.
What’s the huge pro in making this fight? It will sell like hotcakes, which sell well enough to have an expression named after them. Diaz is a big draw. McGregor is a huge draw. Which leads us to one, fairly big, stupid con in setting up this meaningless fight that everyone wants to watch just because: Diaz and McGregor are individually huge draws. Why have one monster PPV card, when you can split these guys up and have two? If McGregor drops back down to defend his featherweight title, people will buy it. If McGregor fights Alvarez for the 155 pound title, people will by it. If McGregor showboats and decides to fight the ghost of B.J. Penn at 185 pounds for reasons unknown, people will buy it and the UFC will make millions.
While not quite at the same level, people want to see Nick Diaz as well. He can headline a PPV and give it a nice buy rate boost with his presence. There’s only a few fighters that command that type of attention in the UFC. So yeah, the Diaz-McGregor fight will always be there for later, so let’s prop up twice as many cards with these two bigtime MMA names.
So why did I just waste all this time talking about Conor McGregor (and Nick Diaz)? Because it’s Conor mother#$&@ing McGregor, that’s why. Just like people are more inclined buy PPVs when he’s the subject, you’re more likely to have actually read to this point of this piece because he’s the subject. Also, it’s not out of the realm of possibility, albeit with only a slightly better chance of happening than B.J. Penn winning another title in the UFC (of course if you live in Rich Hansenville, that means McGregor vs. Diaz is guaranteed).
Diaz has as big enough name, that the fight doesn’t have to make perfect “sense” from an MMA rankings perspective. This is a good thing, because where Diaz should be ranked among the elite 170 pound fighters is somewhere between “nowhere” and “I have no damn clue.” He last fought at 170 pounds in March of 2013, against Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight Title. He last fought at all in January of 2015 at middleweight against Anderson Silva. He hasn’t won a fight in over four years, but he’s probably better than a bunch of guys in the current top 15. Diaz is really only looking for big name (money) or championship (money) fights, so that narrows the pool a bit. There’s a couple of names that jump out right away, and most of them are at 170 pounds. Diaz is really only looking for big name (money) or championship (money) fights, so that narrows the pool a bit. In descending order of makes sense/I want to see, here we go.
4. Anderson Silva – A rematch between these two fan favorites would draw again, despite how the first, rather boring, fight played out. Outside of making some money (not a bad thing), this doesn’t do anything at all for the rankings. We can do better.
3. Carlos Condit – Both fighters have talked about wanting this fight again. This would be a pretty big, non-championship fight that could work both guys toward a title shot (assuming Diaz actually cares enough to get there, even off of a victory). After his “loss” to Robbie Lawler, most fights are a bit of a step back for Condit if they aren’t for the title, but Diaz is an opponent almost anyone would face given the chance.
2. Georges St-Pierre – A rematch between these two fan favorites makes a bit more sense than having Diaz fight Spider Silva again. If for some odd (stupid) reason, you don’t want to put GSP back into a title shot right away, a Diaz fight is a safe fight, a big seller, and it would be easy to put him back into a championship fight again if he were to win. Likewise, on the off chance that Diaz wins, a title fight with him in it would also be a big seller. It’s not necessarily the fight that makes the most MMA or rankings sense, but fans want it enough that they’ll buy into whatever the UFC is selling to try to justify that it is.
1. Speaking of Ruthless Robbie Lawler, we have a winner. Well, okay, not exactly in Lawler’s case. Before getting knocked out by Tyron Woodley last month, Lawler went 12 years between knockouts. The guy that knocked him out previously? One Nicholas Robert Diaz. Lawler’s a fan favorite that presses the action. Diaz is a fan favorite that presses the action. The former champ deserves a big fight after delighting fans for so long. They have history. There’s no reason not to make this fight, and there’s no reason not to watch it. Even if you’re Conor mother#$&@ing McGregor.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Anybody but a champion. I like watching Diaz fight, but it would be absurd to have him face UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley. Diaz hasn’t won a fight since 2011. Have him rematch Georges St. Pierre, Carlos Condit, or even Anderson Silva if he wants. Have him rematch Robbie Lawler after 12 years. Have him fight Matt Brown, or Demian Maia, or Rory MacDonald. I would love to see any of those fights. There’s a part of me that would love to see the Maia fight the most, though, just because I’d love to see the ground battle between those two. I’d be happy if he fought any of these guys, though. Just as long as he’s not fighting for the title.
NICK GRINUPS, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This is a fun question. Personally, I would like to see Nick come back and fight GSP or Robbie Lawler. Both fights make sense to me. On one hand you have GSP vs Diaz, a great rivalry with both fighters having long layoffs. This fight could be a main event on any fight card. Robbie Lawler vs Diaz 2 makes the most sense to me. Lawler is coming off a loss and a win against Diaz would put him back in line for a title shot. If Diaz beat Lawler, he could bump the line for a title shot or the next big money fight.
JOEL WIELENGA, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
If I am the UFC I want to give Nick a big fight, but I also want to give him a fight he can win. He has not won a fight since 2011 and that was against a then already over the hill B.J. Penn. If they can give him a fight that he can win then it opens doors for title shots (Even though he already fought for the title after a loss). It also might begin to be harder to promote him as a top guy if his losing streak continues to grow. If they try and give him someone he can most likely beat some fun options would be Matt Brown, Johny Hendricks or Jake Ellenberger. With all that being said though I think the most likely fight will be a rematch with Robbie Lawler. I think it will be a harder fight for him but I also think it will be a great fight.
MATTHEW PETERSON, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
There are two clear cut opponents that Nick Diaz should face on his return to the cage. The first is Robbie Lawler, who is coming off the loss of his title to Tyron Woodley. Lawler and Diaz fought for the first time all the way back in 2004 with Diaz scoring the underdog win by KO. With both fighters still active in the division twelve years later, it is primetime for a rematch. The other fight for Diaz would be a rematch with Carlos Condit. These two fought for the interim title at UFC 143 with Condit winning a somewhat controversial decision. Condit is set to face Demian Maia on August 27 and regardless of the result, the gridlock at 170 pounds might set up another fight between the two strikers.
ROBERT STAAF, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I envision and would advocate for Georges St-Pierre to get the next title shot at Tyron Woodley and, despite his drawing power, do not feel Nick Diaz is worthy of a title shot upon his return. If GSP leap-frogs #1 Contender Stephen Thompson for the next title shot, I would love to see ‘Wonderboy’ take on Nick Diaz. Their styles should make for a wildly entertaining fight and it would serve as a tremendous FOX main event or PPV co-headliner. Thompson gets the chance for a star-making performance over one of the biggest names in the sport and leave no doubt regarding his spot as the #1 Contender, while Nick Diaz could prove his worthiness of a title fight with a win over the top ranked Welterweight contender.
[Photo (c) Jayne Kamin-Oncea via USA Today Sports]
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