The Strikeforce April 9 main event in San Diego between welterweight champion Nick Diaz and challenger Paul Daley isn’t an easy fight to call, given Daley’s vicious striking ability and Diaz’s fairly average wrestling skills. So if you read Kelvin Hunt’s argument that Diaz will “outclass” Daley, here’s the other side of the argument.
Now Kelvin is right, Diaz has a seemingly impenetrable chin, but he’s wrong in assuming Diaz’s ability to absorb punches from the likes of K.J. Noons, Marius Zaromskis, and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos guarantees that he can handle Daley’s stand-up skills. And that’s exactly why it’s such an intriguing match-up.
Diaz hasn’t faced someone with Daley’s power probably since 2004, when he went toe-to-toe with Robbie Lawler in a memorable slugfest at UFC 47. Also, Daley brings more to the table than his big left hook — though that probably is his best finishing punch. Diaz will also have to worry about Daley’s accuracy. Scott Smith and Martin Kampmann didn’t fall to the mat because Daley hit them; they got knocked out cold because Daley tagged them right on the chin.
Although Diaz has a rather unique boxing style that probably catches his opponents off guard, it’s effective. He has a surprising amount of power on the end of his punches and keeps you off balance by landing a few set-up blows and then finishing a flurry with a bang. As for his body punches, those are some of the best in the business.
But everything that makes Diaz’s striking style unique and quite effective against others will play into Daley’s strength. The longer Diaz waves his hands around and leaves his chin open, the more chances Daley will have to land a big counter-punch.
If you watched Diaz’s title defense against Cyborg, you also saw how susceptible he is to leg kicks. Yeah, he’s tough as hell and fought through them, but if Daley can do anywhere near that amount of damage, Diaz won’t have much left to get the fight to the mat.
To be fair, there are plenty of reasons to think Diaz will take this one. Daley’s had trouble making weight before and doesn’t always do well when he can’t impose his will in a fight — losses to Josh Koscheck and Nick Thompson come to mind. If the fight goes to the ground, Daley is in a world of trouble. But Diaz doesn’t have a great takedown game, so unless he can wear Daley down and frustrate him, the fight should remain on the feet for a good amount of time barring Daley making any mistakes. Also, thanks to the purchase of Strikeforce by UFC-parent company Zuffa, Diaz will have to worry about eating some elbows, and Daley has nasty ones. Those will play a role in the clinch or if Daley somehow ends up in Diaz’s guard.
It’s a great fight on paper and a chance for Strikeforce to hold a marquee bout between two top-ten fighters. A lot of things could happen, but the outcome won’t involve Diaz outclassing Daley. If this analysis is any indication, Saturday will give us the rare chance to see the immovable object against the irresistible force, when MMA’s best welterweight striker meets the sport’s hardest chin.