This past Saturday, Nick Diaz unsuccessfully bid for the UFC’s welterweight strap, and lost a clear cut decision to welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre. The decision was decisive, the takedowns emphatic (on the part of St. Pierre), and the pre-fight trash talk nullified and put away. Diaz may have opened his mouth again after leaving the ring, but the fact of the matter is this: as long as GSP is still the champion, he probably won’t be getting another title shot anytime soon.
This is the latest in a trend for high profile fighters who train under Cesar Gracie. Being good enough to rocket to the top of the line, but not good enough to capture the gold, the consensus number one spot. It started back in 2005.
David Terrell, Cesar Gracie black belt, rocketed onto the scene. An explosive fighter with ground prowess, he rode a four fight win streak, all finishes, into his UFC debut against established middleweight Matt Lindland. Terrell blitzed him, knocking out the Team Quest product in less than 30 seconds. Naturally, the UFC sought to capitalize on his momentum, and set him to fight for the vacant middleweight title against the late Evan Tanner. It couldn’t have turned against him any worse.
Tanner survived an early blitz, used patience and ground control to establish a dominant position, and pounded out Terrell toward the end of the first round. David Terrell went on to fight one more time after the title loss, and hasn’t been seen in action since mid-2006. A fizzle out.
The next high profile fighter to fall short so close to the finish line from Cesar Gracie’s training camp was Jake Shields. Having a far greater winning streak going into his welterweight title fight with GSP than Terrell did Tanner, Shields had greater, more credible, hype behind him. Unbeaten in his previous 15 bouts across two weight classes, there was no doubt Shields had skills. Unfortunately for him, GSP was far better. Shields greatest moment in the fight was an inadvertent eye poke that slowed GSP’s momentum. Certainly not the challenge many thought it would be, and undoubtedly a stumble for the Cesar Gracie black belt and fighter.
The final high profile example I’ll present to you is Nate Diaz. The lightweight winner of season five of TUF looked impressive heading into his championship fight with Benson Henderson. He’d finished former Pride champion and top 10 lightweight Jim Miller, and won a three round war against WEC standout Donald Cerrone. That didn’t faze the champ.
Benson Henderson pitched a shutout and dominated Nate Diaz throughout the fight. Diaz got dropped, taken down at will, and forced to result to verbal assault when his fists just couldn’t connect with "Bendo."
The man to correct all of this would be Cesar Gracie trained Gilbert Melendez. He has a chance to win the big title, and can keep his training camp’s title bid from being a shutout. He’ll do it against the man that shut out the younger Diaz, Benson Henderson. Honestly, I don’t think he’ll succeed. The Strikeforce debacle seemed to have sapped the energy from Melendez, and made him a target for the supremely motivated Henderson. If the Melendez that dominated Tatsuya Kawajiri shows up though, expect a fight.
If the fighters under Gracie are ever to win the world’s most recognized MMA titles, they’ll need to go back to the drawing board, invest in a wrestling coach, and hope that the current champions aren’t in power anymore because even the best of the best in the group have proven to not be enough.