SAN DIEGO -- When asked whether he expected Nick Diaz
to put his dangerous, but rarely seen ground game to work on Saturday night, Paul Daley
had a simple response: "I expect Nick Diaz to fight. ... It ain't going to be no lay-and-pray b--ching out. We're going to be in a fight, and that's what I do best."
It was the kind of statement that made for a good sound byte, but it was hard not to wonder whether it was meant for the media's benefit or for Diaz's.
It's no secret that, if the fight goes to the ground, the edge will almost certainly belong to Diaz. The thing is, lately he's showed very little interest in getting fights to the mat even when he holds a clear advantage there. His willingness to stand and trade has helped make him a fan favorite, but against a slugger with one-punch power like Daley's those same tendencies could make him an ex
-champion, and Daley knows it.
It's little wonder then that Daley has spent much of the pre-fight hype period encouraging the striker in Diaz with compliments that, while they may be genuine, are also self-serving.
During the pre-fight press conference Diaz said he tried to prepare for Daley's punching power by getting different looks from sparring partners. After the presser, Daley seem unconvinced that that approach might have actually prepared Diaz for the force of the blows coming his way on Saturday.
"It's definitely a new thing for him," Daley said. "No one in the welterweight division can knock someone out with one punch the way I can. I think if you look through other people's fights, there's not somebody that consistently does what I do. I think that's a threat to anybody."
And yet, it would sure make things easier on Daley if Diaz decided to keep it standing and take his chances there anyway. Praising his opponent's willingness to brawl it out is one way to bait him into a certain kind of fight, but isn't Daley a little concerned that Diaz might change his mind about standing and banging once he feels that power for himself?
"Of course," Daley said. "But it's not only the power, he cuts easily as well. Getting punched a lot and getting punched hard is not good for someone with thin skin."
In other words, by the time Diaz realizes that engaging in a kickboxing match was the wrong way to go, it might already be too late.
For his part, Diaz couldn't seem to get worked up at all when the conversation turned to his opponent. Talk about his standing with Strikeforce or the careers of his training partners and he comes to life, but when asked to explain why he maintained silence on the trash talk front in the lead-up to the fight with Daley, Diaz shrugged and replied, "I didn't really have anything to say."
Diaz, unlike Daley, doesn't have any particular need to talk his opponent into a certain type of fight. If he's committed to getting the fight to the ground, he probably can. The question is whether he can make the mental leap required to do it. Can he admit to himself that, no matter how highly he might think of his own boxing skills, they might not be enough all on their own this time?
That part, Daley said, is Diaz's concern and not his. All he knows is that he's hoping for a specific type of fight. Not surprisingly, from his description it sounds an awful like the exact opposite of the fight he had with Josh Koscheck, where a decision loss and a night spent on his back angered Daley to the point of a post-fight blow-up that cost him his UFC career.
"I just know Nick Diaz is going to come to fight," Daley said. "That's what he does, and that's what I do."
Exactly what kind of fight that will be, and whose strengths it will favor, remains to be seen.