Over the last five years, few fighters competing at the major organization level have been as successful as Nick Diaz
, who has been beaten just once in 15 fights over that span. Diaz though, remains as well known for controversy as he does for his considerable skills in the cage. Though he's had a few spectacular wins, he remains a bit under the radar, partially due to his customary unwillingness to deal with the media, and partially due to spending most of his recent years in promotions that could not command the attention that the UFC could.
With serious fans, though, Diaz's style has always resonated. Once primarily a submission artist, Diaz has worked his hands to a level that he has considered a try at high-level boxing. He's never shown an unwillingness to trade with anyone, and he has an assassin's instinct, finishing 20 of his 24 wins.
In Paul Daley
(27-9-2), he is facing the most dangerous striker he's fought. Given Diaz's propensity to go strike-for-strike with anyone (in reality, it's more like two-strikes-for-one-strike since no one can keep his pace), it's very likely that Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley
closes with a crowd-pleasing main event. For all Diaz's complaints about how little he gets paid to put himself in danger, it seems he just can't resist the lure of a good fight, and there is little question Daley will bring one to him.
Let's get one thing quickly out of the way: there is a school of thought that Diaz (24-7, 1 no contest) will win easily and by submission. The theory is based on the belief that Daley will be simply overwhelmed by Diaz's ground game. While the tap out finish is certainly very possible, you must ask yourself one question: how is Diaz going to get it there? For all the great skills he has in the cage, wrestling is not one of them. According to Compustrike
, he's only been successful on nine of his last 32 takedown tries, just 28 percent. Particularly early in the fight when Daley's still fresh, it will be even harder, so a first-round sub seems quite unlikely.
Daley is no wrestling machine, but don't let yourself be overly influenced by his disastrous wrestling performance against Josh Koscheck last year, when Koscheck took him down on four out of five attempts. Koscheck is a 99th percentile wrestler, and when he truly sets his mind to putting someone on their back, they are going down. He is, after all, one of the very few to ever put UFC champ Georges St. Pierre on the mat. GSP's only been taken down six times over his last 15 fights; two of those are via Koscheck.
While Diaz's wrestling skills have improved in the last few years, the reason most of his fights go to the ground is due to body strikes that fold his opponent or general exhaustion due to the fight's pace. Still, even during his amazing five-year stretch, only three of his wins have been finished inside of the first round. So, while eight of Diaz's wins are by submission, and most of his fights go to the ground, they don't often get there in a hurry.
You can't go on too long discussing this fight without mentioning Daley's crushing power; he has the kind that isn't often seen at lower weight classes. It is the type of power that makes opponents hesitate, re-think their strategy and plot a more careful course. It's fight-changing. It's hard to know how or if that will affect Diaz, who in true iconoclast style, usually makes his own way regardless of who's standing in front of him.
At times, Diaz likes to counterstrike, waiting for his opponent to open holes before exploiting them. At others, maybe when he senses fatigue in his foe, he moves forward at a blistering pace, almost daring his opponent to keep up with him. As a result, Diaz owns Compustrike records for most arm strikes thrown (220) and landed (117) in a single round.
When it comes to their attacks, however, Daley is actually the more varied striker. While nearly 89 percent of Diaz's standing strikes are punches, Daley has a closer to normal 82.5 percent. But with Diaz, perhaps the pace is more important than the techniques; he averages 114 thrown strikes per round, a significantly higher number than Daley, who averages 39. Should he keep that usual active pace, it will be interesting to see how it affects Daley, who has had weight-cutting issues in the past, though he insists he's on weight for this fight since it comes just six weeks after his most recent.
Daley's left hook is his power punch, but he has finishing potential with both hands, even against Diaz, who hasn't been stopped due to strikes since 2002 in just his fifth pro fight. Even if he doesn't catch him, Daley can win rounds on points with effective striking. Unlike many heavy hitters, he's not a wild brawler.
As always, there are a couple variables in the fight. At some point, nearly every fight ends up on the ground, whether through a scramble, a slip, a takedown or something else. Even from the bottom, Diaz is dangerous, but we also need to remember that with Strikeforce now operating under the unified rules, Daley has elbows at his disposal, and Diaz has cut easily in the past. Even though he had surgery to address the scar tissue damage that caused the problem, it's still something to consider. If Diaz ends up on top, Daley's going to have to play the stall game and hope to get stood up. Diaz has the clear edge on the ground.
Standing, it's more open. Diaz throws more volume but Daley has the power edge. Those types of matchups are not always easy to score for judges, because if the finesse fighter lands more, but the power fighter lands heavier scoring blows, who do you score it for?
The more indirect effect of those rounds is that Diaz always tends to wear opponents down. No one fights at a pace like him, and the amazing thing about him is that he can keep it up the entire fight, even in a five-rounder. Daley is no lock to keep pace.
Daley may try to conserve himself for the long war, but Diaz always manages to goad his opponents to fight his tempo, and this fight is unlikely to break that mold. With that, I expect Daley to have a strong first round, but with each passing minute from the second round on, the fight swings towards Diaz. With their fun styles, this has the potential to be a thrilling fight, but Stockton's finest has the stamina to take over the fight late. Diaz via fourth-round submission.