Among two heavyweight battles and plenty of quality action at the lighter weights, too, Nick Diaz made a pretty powerful statement at UFC 137. Even if you believe, as I do, that BJ Penn’s lack of cardio was the biggest factor in the fight, you still have to hand it to Diaz for persevering through a challenging first round and continuing his unbelievable pace as Penn started to wilt in the second round.
Diaz earned a (second) title shot against Georges St. Pierre with his performance, but he may have done the UFC a much bigger favor than he did for himself with the impressive win. He provided the UFC with a marketable challenger to the Welterweight Championship; he has given the fans a challenger that many think can actually beat St. Pierre.
I don’t remember many people other than big Diaz fans (and of course, GSP haters) that were calling for a Diaz upset before he was pulled from the title fight with St. Pierre. However, the buzz has increased significantly since Saturday night, both because of Diaz’s demeanor and the hope that his performance have given those that desperately want someone to challenge GSP in a significant way.
First, let’s talk about the attitude. Diaz didn’t just call out St. Pierre, he insulted him in the brash, testosterone-fueled way that he has taken to addressing opponents throughout his career. In doing so, he did something even more unlikely than beating the great St. Pierre- he got under the champ’s skin.
The importance of Diaz’s attitude isn’t just about selling the fight, though. It’s also about doing something that nearly all of St. Pierre’s opponents fail to do: it’s about Diaz fighting his own fight. Fighting St. Pierre, like fighting Anderson Silva, has become more than just another fight. It’s an event. Just as people act and dress a certain way at the Academy Awards in comparison to say, the MTV Movie Awards, fighters just fight differently in a title fight with GSP. They forget what got them the title shot in the first place.
All of GSP’s title fights recently have had a slightly different theme, but with one thing in common: they all look like GSP fights. St. Pierre decides what he’s going to do, and that’s that. Whether he was spamming overhand rights like a 12-year old playing UFC Undisputed against Jake Shields, jabbing the crap out of Josh Koscheck’s face or engaging in a surprisingly ground and pound-less mat battle with Dan Hardy, he does what he wants to do. In that way, he has become more and more like Silva.
The question is, can Diaz do what Chael Sonnen did in his fight with Silva, and make a great champion fight outside of his comfort zone? Can Diaz fight St. Pierre like he fought Penn? I don’t see any chance of him not doing so, which is what makes Diaz-St. Pierre such a great fight. We’re going to see two fighters who will doggedly stick to their game plans, and only one will be able to do so throughout the fight. Also, while I don’t know who (if anyone) will be the next to beat St. Pierre, I know that the first step required is to stop giving the man so much respect.
Something tells me that Diaz won’t have a problem with that part.
Kongo and Nelson: There can only be one
I hope that both Cheick Kongo and Roy Nelson got a good look at one another at UFC 137. After all, it seems that the best logical matchup for both after their respective wins last Saturday is…each other.
The heavyweight division is starting to sort itself out, and while there will be a need for fresh contenders (if Alistair Overeem can beat Brock Lesnar, he’ll obviously be next on the list after Junior dos Santos), it would seem that there’s only room for one of UFC 137’s heavyweight winners to step into that elite category.
To be honest, I’m not sure that either guy really belongs in the upper echelon, but I know that the next step in deciding whether or not they fit the bill should be a fight against one another.
I don’t think Georges is hurt, I think he’s scared…- Nick Diaz.
Really? I mean, I know that Diaz likes to talk some trash, but has St. Pierre not proved at this point that he’ll take on any challenger? No disrespect to Carlos Condit, but are we to really believe that St. Pierre would duck Condit, but happily face Thiago Alves or Jon Fitch?
The Bob Seger “Beautiful Loser” Award
While both Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and BJ Penn had their moments in their (career ending?) losses, Matt Mitrione gave a more consistent effort throughout his fight than either of the two MMA legends did. Mitrione even won the fight two rounds to one on the scorecards of many MMA fans and journalists.
Movin’ On Up Award
This one goes to Donald Cerrone, who was very impressive while blasting the tough Dennis Siver on the undercard. It could have been Kongo or Nelson, but Siver is a better fighter by far now than Cro Cop is, and Cerrone looked better than Kongo. Get this guy a title shot sooner rather than later. Honorable mention to Bart Palaszewski, who hurt former top ten lightweight Tyson Griffin in their featherweight showdown, then never let Griffin recover en route to a round one stoppage win.
Holy $#!% Award
This has to go to both Diaz and Penn. Diaz for once again setting a new organizational record for most significant strikes landed (first in Strikeforce, now in the UFC), and Penn for giving a gutsy performance while getting punched hundreds of times in the face, particularly in round three. I thought Penn was done when he stopped answering Diaz’s barrage of strikes in the second half of round two, but he came out for round three and made the fight competitive once again. He showed huge heart as a battered fighter who looked to be running on fumes at that point. Diaz never ceases to amaze me with the sheer volume of strikes he launches at his opponents, and I can’t wait to see what St. Pierre comes up with to counter such an effective style.