At the UFC on FOX 3 event Nate Diaz became the first person to stop highly ranked lightweight Jim Miller. He did it relatively easily, and I asked if Nate Diaz was an elite lightweight afterwards? It was a fair question in that Diaz had finally beaten the type of fighter that he and his brother Nick have had problems with their entire careers.
A fighter with the ability to put them on their back and avoid their submission attempts had provided the blueprint to victory. It looked as though Nate had finally lit a match and set that blueprint ablaze when he smoked Jim Miller in May.
A lot of fans and pundits gave Diaz an excellent shot to beat a similar fighter in UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson. He was a slight betting underdog to Henderson, even though Henderson had also put a thorough beating on Miller himself.
In my Henderson/Diaz preview I wrote:
He [Diaz] will need to check legs kicks better as past opponents have really taken it to him with those, and Henderson does possess very heavy leg kicks. Henderson will probably be able to take him down, but Diaz certainly has the submission game to give Henderson fits because of his length. However, I would say he chances of submitting Henderson drop quite a bit when compared to his chances of winning while keeping the fight standing.
Henderson landed leg kicks( 49 out of 56) at will and took Diaz down eight out of 12 times according to Fightmetric. He landed (91 out of 135) strikes on the ground to the head and body of Diaz with Diaz only able to go for one legitimate submission attempt. He punished Diaz in the clinch and basically dominated the fight wherever the fight went for 25 minutes.
I don’t know whether it was that Jim Miller was just off that night against Nate Diaz, or Diaz was able to simply put it all together for just one night. Nevertheless, it’s clear that Diaz still doesn’t have the strength or the takedown defense technique to beat good wrestlers with submission defense on a consistent basis.
Where does he go from here?
Diaz had competed as a welterweight with limited success, but was forced to return to the lightweight division after Rory MacDonald tossed him around like a ragdoll for 15 minutes at UFC 129. His body type will not make it easy to pack on significant size, nor will he ever be able to gain the strength/power needed to compete as a welterweight. The other problem for Diaz is that he doesn’t really work too hard to defend takedown attempts against him because of the confidence he has in his jiu-jitsu game. Will he be able to change that mindset and really work on defending takedowns in the future? Another problem is his stance:
His lead leg is a perfect target for leg kicks, and certainly an easy target for a single leg takedown attempt. It also allows fighters to come forward and put him against the cage where they can dominate him in the clinch because of his lack of power and strength. He’s going to have to make adjustments if he wants to beat the mold of fighter’s that have beaten him consistently throughout his career.
There are some interesting fights out there for him to bounce back and make a statement. However, if he fails to make the proper adjustments it’ll just be more of the same for a talented fighter.