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Nick Diaz Beats KJ Noons to Retain Strikeforce Belt

<! mediaid=3452815 Jeff Chiu, AP: img hspace="4" border="1" align="right" vspace="4" alt="Nick Diaz keeps his Strikeforce welterweight belt with a win over KJ Noons." src="" />Three years after being bloodied and beaten in their first fight, Nick Diaz got his revenge against the last man to defeat him, KJ Noons, winning a unanimous decision and retaining his Strikeforce welterweight title on Saturday night.

Diaz was bloodied this time, too, but he was also the more effective fighter for 25 minutes of hard-charging action, weathering some hard punches from Noons and landing plenty of punches of his own. At the end of the fight, which was billed as a grudge match, Diaz and Noons exchanged a hug. They had earned each other's respect.

"I beat this guy on the ground or standing up," Diaz said afterward. "I'll beat this guy in a boxing match but I'll also tap him out on the ground. ... I just want to display my skills to the world because I can do it all."

Noons said afterward that he accepted the judges' ruling.

"He beat me fair and square -- that's it," Noons said. "Good job, Nick. ... He was the better man tonight. Congratulations, Nick."

Diaz got things started with a leg kick, ducked a Noons punch and then landed a punch of his own. Diaz got the better of the stand-up exchanges in the early going and then, a minute and a half into the first round, put Noons on his back and got on top of him in side control. But although everyone agreed heading into the fight that Diaz would have the advantage on the ground, Noons managed to shrug Diaz off and get back to his feet without ever being in any real trouble on the ground. Noons did land a couple of hard left hands once he got back to his feet, but it was clearly Diaz who won the first round.

Early in the second round Noons landed a couple more punches with his left hand and opened up a cut on Diaz's face. That appeared to have Diaz frustrated, although Diaz did manage to hold his own in the stand-up and start to bloody Noons' nose midway through the second round. The second round was fought entirely standing up, where Noons had the advantage, and it was a round that Noons won just as clearly as Diaz won the first.

Diaz finally attempted a single-leg takedown at the start of the third round, but Noons had no trouble pulling his leg free and staying on his feet. But while the third round was also fought entirely standing up, this time Diaz was more effective, bloodying Noons' face and avoiding Noons' power punches. It was a back-and-forth round that could easily have been judged either way.

By the time the fourth round started, it was the longest fight either man had ever had in his career: Neither had heretofore been past the third round in his career. In that round Diaz, who competes in triathlons and has legendary cardio, appeared to be the fresher of the two fighters. Diaz was throwing punch after punch after punch while Noons seemed to be fading, and it was a round that Diaz definitely deserved to win.

At the start of the fifth Diaz had another unsuccessful takedown attempt, and then he went back to work with his high-volume punching attack. Noons landed a couple of hard punches to Diaz's chin, but Diaz shook them off. And Diaz landed a lot more punches to Noons' head, doing enough to win the round and win the fight.

The judges all scored it for Diaz, with the scorecards coming it at 48-47, 49-47 and 49-46. In the moments after the scores were announced, Diaz said he'd be open to a third bout between the two of them.

The first time these two fought, in 2007, Noons won the EliteXC lightweight title by beating up Diaz for five minutes, opening big cuts over both of his eyes that the cageside doctor said were too serious for Diaz to continue fighting. Diaz and Noons have been rivals ever since, and their rematch has been a long-anticipated grudge match.

This time around, Diaz made it clear that he's the better fighter -- and still the champion.

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