Nate Diaz is looking more and more like his brother, Nick Diaz. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
It has always amazed me how closely Nate Diaz’s development and career have mirrored that of his older brother, Nick Diaz, which is why I think he will be a better fighter in two years or so than he is now.
Consider the parallels of the Diaz brothers, other than those genetics supplied in height, southpaw stance and identical frames. Like Nick, Nate had limited standup early in his career, yet has developed into a fighter consistently able to dictate the standup or at least stay even on it. Both have incredible chins and proven ability to recover, with a stifling jiu-jitsu game that makes opponents think twice about jumping into their guards.
Both have also been cleanly stopped inside the distance only once, early in their careers, and have been nowhere near being legitimately put away since; Nick’s second stoppage loss was on cuts vs. K.J. Noons. Like Nick, who drifted between the specially created 160-pound and 170-pound weight classes for a while, Nate seems caught between lightweight and welterweight.
However, as his standup ability continues to improve, consider what he might have done differently. Dropping a close decision to Gray Maynard at UFC Fight Night 20 in January 2010, Nate gave the No. 1 lightweight contender an exceptionally close fight, one defined by Maynard’s complete -- and ultimately correct -- refusal to engage on the ground. Nate, after all, had submitted him with a guillotine choke on Season 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Nick was also deluged by a streak of tough matchups, as skilled wrestling-based fighters put him on his back and outworked him to decisions in fights he never felt he cleanly lost. Nate suffered his own setbacks of this nature at lightweight and then dropped two more at welterweight, where he felt more comfortable.
Consider the improvement in Nick’s standup that occurred when he left the UFC in 2006 as compared to now. I suspect Nate’s rising confidence in his hands, which was neatly showcased in a precise blowout of Takanori Gomi at UFC 135, will play the same role in increasing his effectiveness against future opponents, just like Nick’s did, post-UFC.
One can also make the argument that Nick’s standup improved while taking on lesser competition, but that’s an argument that should be resolved on Oct. 29 when he squares off against wily former two-division champion B.J. Penn. If there’s anyone with the wiring and tools to give Nick a standup fight, it’s the Hawaiian.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.