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Nick Diaz has been cleared for a return in August. Against whom should that return fight come, and why?
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
There's no doubt the grudge match between Nick Diaz and Pat Lundvall would be one for the ages. Now granted, Lundvall has absolutely no MMA experience, so it's unlikely any commission would sign off on this being a competitive bout. She's also a woman, so yeah, there's the whole problem of seeing a man punch a woman, which isn't good for anyone. Maybe we can just pit Nick Diaz against all the male members of the Nevada Athletic Commission at the same time, Battle Royal style. Oh, this sounds unprofessional? Maybe it's because you'd have a bunch of childish, unprofessional, goofballs engaging each other, much like they did over the past year.
The above proposed fights are highly idiotic, but it points to the spectacle that is Nick Diaz anymore. Diaz is a talented fighter and a fierce competitor. He trains hard and has a surprisingly exceptional work ethic when it comes to preparing for the Octagon. But he also may be on the cusp of falling out of the top 10 welterweights in the division at this time, as I'm not convinced he can beat the top fighters at 170 pounds or be a serious champion contender at this juncture in his career.
Diaz has the benefit of being Nick Diaz. Regardless of how good of a fighter he is, people watch him because he's the type of trainwreck personality you just can't take your eyes off of. And that not only gives him great earning power, it enables the UFC to give him both "competitive" fights, and "fun" fights, knowing that either will sell. What you don't want to do is waste Diaz's popularity on someone who has either zero name recognition or no beneficial ranking to the former Strikeforce champ (sorry Patrick Côté'). That does however, leave us with a slew or potential opponents for our favorite pothead.
If you want a competitive fight, give me any of Rory McDonald, Matt Brown, or Benson Henderson. While all over the place in the rankings, each of them carry a big enough name, and enough relevance to sell a good fight with Diaz. Who wouldn't want to see the Diaz potentially jump to around the top of the rankings with a fight against MacDonald? The violent aggression in a fight against Brown is one that hardcore and casual fans alike could appreciate. Fighting Henderson gives Diaz a chance to avenge his brother for the one sided defeat that Smooth handed Nate Diaz a few years back.
If you want to give Diaz some "fun" fights, how about Dan "I just won't retire" Henderson at middleweight? Watching Diaz continue to come forward while Hendo tries to load up on the H-bomb may just provide some edge-of-your-seat excitement. A fight against Donald Cerrone after he wins or loses to Tim Means, would provide us all with a lot of talk and two fan favorites that put on a show. For a nice payout for both, Diaz could float back up to 185 and go toe to toe with Michael Bisping. Can you imagine the promotion (assuming Diaz shows up) for these two? Between Diaz's existential nonsense and the Count's analytical and targeted venom, the buildup itself would be half the fun.
If I was making the call, I'd match Diaz up with Matt Brown. It's stylistic fun, and still a meaningful fight for Diaz. Whatever route he wants to go, there's plenty of ways for him to collect a paycheck, and I guarantee you I'll be watching whatever it is.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Well it sure as f*** shouldn't be against Patrick Cote. And even if it should be, good luck selling that idea to Diaz.
"Hey Nick. We want you to fight this French speaking welterweight..."
"GEORGES? GEORGES? WHERE YOU AT GEORGES?"
"With a great physique..."
“Georges St-Pierre was on steroids when I fought him.”
"Who the f*** is Patrick Cote? Get the f*** out of hear with that shit and bring me a name, bro."
So yeah, good luck, Patrick.
Look. Nothing against Cote. I'd favor him to beat Diaz. But do you REALLY think Diaz went through all the hassle of getting his suspension reduced just so he can fight Patrick F***ing Cote? Get the hell out of here. Here's the entire list of guys he'd be willing to fight in his return:
Anderson Silva. Carlos Condit (but only if he promised to fight). Georges St-Pierre (but only if he promised to fight). Luke Rockhold. Robbie Lawler. Rafael dos Anjos. Conor McGregor (Noticing a trend here yet?). Matt Brown (doesn't follow the trend, but at least he'll fight). Michael Bisping (money fight).
Did you know Nick Diaz is 0-2 (1 NC) since he returned to the UFC from Strikeforce? I could have sworn he had a fourth fight, but apparently records only go back so far and my memory is a bit hazy. Did you know Diaz hasn't beaten a top 15 fighter since he beat Paul Daley, and I think history has proven Daley shouldn't have been that highly rated even back then. Diaz will have gone more than five years without a single victory when he does return. Wikipedia shows he has a win on October 29, 2011, but Wikipedia is especially unreliable and you can't believe some of the s*** they try to sell as fact.
Why am I pointing out all of this? Because that much of a case needs to be mounted just to show how ridiculous his sense of self worth is if you think he's going to fight Rockhold, Lawler, dos Anjos, or McGregor. He'll get a money fight (as he should), but it will NOT be against a sitting champion. If Bisping loses to Anderson Silva next month, don't be surprised at all if that's the way they go. A big money fight that will sell, and will keep both of them miles away from their incessant begging for undeserved title fights.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Patrick Cote says he wants to fight Diaz, and that's as good a fight as any. Diaz isn't close to a title shot, but that's secondary to who Diaz is now. Just about anybody in the welterweight or middleweight divisions would be an interesting choice to face Diaz. I just want to see someone who is going to stand and fight with Diaz. I'd love to see Chris Weidman vs. Nick Diaz. I'd love to see Diaz fight Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. What about Rory MacDonald? Johny Hendricks? Stephen Thompson? I'd love to see Diaz fight Matt Brown? To be honest, I'd be interested in watching Diaz fight anyone. He's an interesting matchup for anyone.
BRAD WALKER MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Come on, is this really a question? He should absolutely fight Conor McGregor for the welterweight title that neither of them will ever have. Imagine the smack talking! Imagine McGregor being scared, homie! Imagine Rich Hansen in a packers jersey! The insanity! No I don't believe this should happen (sans the Hansen/Packers match) but imagine how much fun that would be to watch unfold?
But I digress, I really want to see Nate come back in and fight Johny Hendricks after how hard he trolled him at the weigh-ins for the Lawler rematch. It was funny as hell. I love Diaz talking smack, it's awesome, and Hendricks has about as much personality as Kenny Florian does originality. Let's see what Nick can bring out of Johnny in a lead-up to a fight. Besides, we all know Diaz isn't going to be in title discussion ever again.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I've never been a huge mark for Diaz. For some reason though, I find myself excited for his return as there isn't a fighter who brings entertainment in and out of the cage in one complete package better than he does. I'm looking forward with great interest to see what the next chapter in the Diaz saga will present.
Diaz has been unable to pick up a win in his last three fights, so I've got to believe that he is out of the title picture, which would be rightfully so. As much as it pains me, that eliminates the possibility of a rematch with Robbie Lawler. That doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of other potential fights that intrigue. The first one that comes to mind is Michael Bisping. Can you imagine the the crap that would spew out of the mouths of these reputed trash talkers? The in-cage action would be awesome as well, as they are both high volume boxers for the most part. Matt Brown is another option who would probably stand and trade with the Stockton representative. Brown doesn't do much talking leading up to the fight, but he does get riled up fairly easily. I can only imagine what Diaz would be able to draw out of him.
If Carlos Condit doesn't get a title rematch and doesn't retire, I wouldn't mind seeing that rematch. Tim Kennedy seems to be holding out for a high profile fight, and Diaz would seem to fill the bill with great potential for some fun trash talk in the lead up. I don't think Lyoto Machida would do much talking, but that would be a hell of a fun fight. If Diaz were to really want to get back into the title picture, a fight with Rory MacDonald would be the best way to do that.
There are a lot of options, but I'm maintaining that Bisping would be my favorite choice by far. We'll have to see what happens.
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