Nate Diaz has won UFC fights in two different weight classes. | Photo: D. Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nate Diaz (16-8, 11-6 UFC) vs. Josh Thomson (19-5, 2-1 UFC)
The Matchup: Although Thomson is a former Strikeforce champion, one still must wonder how much more accomplished he could be had his career not been plagued by so many injuries. At 34 years old, “The Punk” still has plenty left in the tank, as he demonstrated by pushing Gilbert Melendez in the championship rounds of their third meeting in May. Even then, however, Thomson was rumored to be nursing some type of injury heading into the bout.
If he makes it through his camp completely healthy, Thomson has a solid chance to upset Diaz, who suffered a humbling loss to Benson Henderson in a title fight at UFC on Fox 5. Known for his volume punching, Diaz was out-landed 124 to 30 in significant strikes by the champion in December. While Thomson is not going to simply overpower Diaz in tie-ups as Henderson did, his combination of fluid striking and underrated wrestling is enough to give the Cesar Gracie pupil some problems.
Diaz is at his best when he can bait his opponents into exchanges, where he absorbs a strike or two to land multiple combinations of his own. “The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner lands accurate punches to the head and body and will be especially dangerous if Thomson elects to stand in front of him. While Thomson will have to navigate a five-inch reach disadvantage, his movement and footwork should aide him in landing a varied striking attack. Eventually, Thomson should use his jab and a variety of kicks to set up a level changes and takedowns. Diaz’s active guard often serves as a deterrent for adversaries who want to take him to the canvas, but Thomson has never been submitted. In recent bouts against Melendez and K.J. Noons, Thomson has done some of his best work on the floor.
Both fighters have solid gas tanks, so expect a plenty of back-and-forth in the standup and on the mat. Diaz will have a slight edge in exchanges, landing at a higher rate as Thomson attempts to find ways to narrow the gap. Thomson could have success utilizing the trip takedown he used in the later rounds against Melendez, as Diaz’s takedown defense, at 46 percent, has never been a strong suit.
The Pick: Thomson will vary his strikes, mixing in kicks and knees with his jab, and he will turn the momentum of a close bout with a few key takedowns to capture a narrow decision victory. Of course, if Thomson is injured, all bets are off.
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