Once you've been in the sports journalism business awhile, you realize the age-old industry adage is true: You don't root for teams or players, you just root for the best story on any given night.
And any mixed martial arts reporter who tells you that they haven't paused to contemplate that the best story that could come out of UFC 158 is Nick Diaz winning the UFC welterweight title is probably lying.
Can you imagine, for a moment, a world in which Stockton's finest controls one of the UFC's championships, and UFC president Dana White had no choice but to play ball?
A fighter who flouts the way the UFC wants its fighters to behave and routinely veers off the script? One who can't even promise he'll be able to pass his post-fight drug test?
The headlines would never stop.
Keep in mind the UFC has already enabled Diaz's sense of entitlement. Diaz lost his last fight and was suspended for a year, but still was handed a main event title shot. He's gotten away with blowing off Countdown shoots and open workouts. White's even gone on defense for him: At Thursday's press conference, he shut down Ariel Helwani's valid line of questioning to Diaz about his Wednesday no-show, which was going to be the first question at the press conference regardless of who had the mic.
At every turn, Diaz's bosses have demonstrated that he can play by his own set of rules at a time. And that's at a point he didn't have much in the way of leverage. What will happen if Diaz gets his hands on one of the company's most prized titles, the one Matt Hughes and GSP have spent over a decade building?
It would mean plenty of clicks for our web site, that's for sure.
Georges St-Pierre is rightfully the favorite on Saturday night, but I think Diaz has a better chance of winning at the Bell Centre than most give him credit for. The idea is that St-Pierre will get him to the ground and dominate him there, like he has so many other opponents. But Diaz is so rarely on the floor that we forget what he's capable of once he's there. Remember when a prime Takanori Gomi broke Diaz's orbital bone with a knee, and Diaz's response was to keep his cool, take it to the ground, and finish him with a gogoplata? That could make things a lot more interesting than when GSP usually takes his opponents down.
Chances are, though, that GSP wins. Which is probably what the UFC is hoping for: Get one huge buy rate out of Diaz while he's still a viable headliner, then move on. But if Diaz actually wins, this is one gamble that could backfire.
With that, on to a UFC 158-heavy edition of Fightweets. If you'd like to be considered in a future edition, hit me up on Twitter.
@DE_rek_XC: How much fun is it to cover a guy like Diaz?
Every bit as fun to report on as it is for you guys to read and comment on the stories. I said last week that guys like Diaz, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping make our jobs easy. Here's the difference: Someone like Sonnen, while entertaining, is always working some angle. Bisping comes across like you're having a beer together at a bar.
Diaz, though, is a whole different breed. Nick Diaz actually believes he's fighting for truth and justice. His worldview is a mix of spot-on (if oddly worded) analysis blended with generous helpings of paranoia and a king-sized persecution complex. That's how you end up with interviews like the one Diaz gave a Toronto radio station on Thursday, in which he was asked if the UFC wants him to lose on Saturday, and he went on a rant about advertising and marketing by food corporations and somehow then tied that into Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin. I don't know about you, but I'll take a response like that over the 200 or so robot/fighters who answer everything with "I'll fight whoever the UFC wants me to fight" every single time.
Another Diaz scenario
@dpop2: I got another one. What happens if Diaz wins decisively then fails drug test?
Well, White has already said that if Diaz flunks another drug test, he'll have no choice but to cut him. If Diaz wins and fails his test? The UFC would have to fill a vacant title knowing that St-Pierre lost, and Diaz will have forever validated the notion in his head that he's better than any fighter, but the world is out to get him and keep him from attaining what rightfully belongs to him. And we'd also, incidentally, have our ultimate proof that commissions have their heads up their backsides for treating marijuana as no different than PEDs or hardcore drugs of abuse.
Can GSP be goaded?
@Ivy_League_CAN: Does GSP fight with emotion now? Fighting smart is GSP, but with all the emotion, does that play into Diazs game?
The Ivy Leaguer comes through with the million-dollar question. Can Diaz goad GSP into a brawl? At first glance, the idea seems preposterous. B.J. Penn and Josh Koscheck went out of their way to taunt St-Pierre before their fights, and St-Pierre never lost his focus. But Diaz is clearly getting under his skin. St-Pierre slammed his microphone off the table after one answer on Thursday. After another, St-Pierre looked like he was about to cry. Will Diaz finally be the one to get in GSP's head and take him out of his game when they meet in the Octagon? My head tells me to expect the same old GSP in the cage, but then, I never would have expected GSP to react to Diaz the way he has over the past week, either, so who knows?
UFC's biggest year?
@christoper_kit: This is shaping up to be ufc biggest year I reckon, what you say
I doubt it will be their biggest year. The 2009-10 peak is going to be hard to top. But you have tapped into something I've noticed recently.
For each event of note the UFC has put on this year, there have been loud detractors in the buildup to the fight. And each time, without fail, they've been wrong. Before UFC on FOX 6, it was "Flyweights can't headline!" Then the ratings came in and the haters were silent. Then it was "Jose Aldo can't draw on pay-per-view!" And Aldo-Frankie Edgar drew. Then the most laughable claim of them all: "Women can't headline on PPV!" And you saw how Ronda Rousey-Liz Carmouche did. Oh, and even on a smaller scale, there was criticism of Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, and that fight drew the highest rating in Fuel TV's history.
This time, all we've been hearing is how the UFC is trying to force the storyline between GSP and Diaz, and how it won't work. When that proves to be false, the focus will shift to how no one wants to watch Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen, then a new wave of criticism about making a Cain Velasquez-Antonio Silva rematch, then ... well, you get the point by now.
Herschel in the UFC?
@RuckerYeah: I sorta like Herschel Walker in the UFC, but, isn't he getting too old?
That was my reaction. He just turned 51. But, then Thursday, Dana White wouldn't dismiss the idea, so there you go.
It doesn't take much to figure out why, either: Walker was a ratings smash who brought unprecedented attention to Showtime and Strikeforce. A Walker novelty fight could be just what the UFC needs to draw the casual fans who abandoned UFC on FOX in May and August.
Just for the fun of it, I checked in on the two opponents Walker beat in Strikeforce. First, there was "Dangerous" Greg Nagy. Walker TKOd Nagy in the second round of their Jan. 2010 fight. That dropped Nagy to 1-2. Three months later, Nagy lost to someone named Jose Santa Maria, for Santa Maria's only career win. Nagy hasn't fought since.
Walker's second fight was against Scott Carson. Carson went 4-0 in 1999-2001, including the first submission win in WEC history at WEC 1. After a nine-year break, Carson lost to Lorenz Larkin in 2010. Then Carson fought Walker and was TKOd in the first round. He likewise hasn't fought since.
The question is, can the UFC find someone who isn't as obvious a sham as Nagy or Carson, who also won't knock Walker into the middle of next month? If they can, I wouldn't be surprised to see Walker in the Octagon after all.
Title shot for Hunt?
@Dpop2: if mark hunt beats JDS is he a lock for a title shot?
Zombie vs. Lamas
@BreadandWater94: Will Lamas use same ground and pound game plan he against Koch on The Korean Zombie? Or is the zombie's sub game too strong?
God, do I love the fight between Chan Sung Jung and Ricardo Lamas. This was the one I wanted to see immediately after Lamas' win over Eric Koch on UFC on FOX 6. As impressive as Lamas has been, he simply doesn't have a clear-cut case over the Korean Zombie in the pecking order, not with the way Jung has won his past three fights. And isn't this how it's actually supposed to work in building up contenders in the various divisions? As for the fight itself, you've hit the nail on the head, BandW. Part of me thinks Lamas pounds Zombie, part of me remembers how much of a beating Zombie can take and still keep ticking, and thinks he finds the way to get the sub. Either way, you and I will both be watching.