Nick Diaz punched his way into a meeting with Georges St. Pierre. | File Photo: Sherdog.com
In terms of reintroducing himself to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Nick Diaz could not have scripted a better performance.
Fighting in the Octagon for the first time in nearly five years, the 28-year-old Cesar Gracie protégé broke down former two-division champion B.J. Penn with his relentless pace and aggression, as he captured a unanimous decision in the UFC 137 headliner on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Never before had the proud Penn been so brutally beaten in a three-round fight.
According to FightMetric figures, Diaz outlanded Penn by a staggering 178-88 count in the significant strikes category and 257-107 in the total strikes department. He was particularly effective in the second round, where he connected with 125 punches. The Hawaiian’s face, especially his left eye, wore the damage incurred in his 15-minute encounter with Diaz, who has rattled off 11 consecutive victories and cemented himself as one of the world’s premier welterweights.
In wake of UFC 137 “Penn vs. Diaz,” here are six matches we want to see made:
Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz: Polar opposites in terms of personality, they were originally scheduled to meet in the UFC 137 headliner. However, Diaz’s repeated failures to meet promotional obligations led to the promotion pulling him from the coveted slot. Later, a knee injury forced St. Pierre off the show altogether, this after he had been rescheduled to face former WEC champion Carlos Condit. Diaz’s scintillating performance against Penn has forced the UFC’s hand, as he now finds himself ticketed for a blockbuster matchup with St. Pierre on Super Bowl weekend in February. He may not be the ideal dance partner outside the cage, but inside it, there are few who bring the fight with such consistent excellence.
Cheick Kongo vs. Roy Nelson: For all his faults, Kongo has become one of the most successful heavyweights in UFC history. He derailed Matt Mitrione at UFC 137, solidifying his place near the top of the division’s middle-tier. A smart and seasoned standup fighter, Kongo has developed into a solid wrestler with some of the scariest ground-and-pound in the business. His 10 wins as a heavyweight rank second on the all-time UFC list, tied with former champion Andrei Arlovski and trailing only Frank Mir (13). Still, he has proven vulnerable to grapplers who can take his punch in the past. Nelson, fresh off his third-round technical knockout against 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic would pose a formidable challenge, with his hearty chin, clubbing right hand and world-class top game.
Matt Mitrione vs. Ben Rothwell: Mitrione’s physical tools remain intriguing and undeniable. However, he lacks experience, and it shows against fighters like Kongo. Mitrione spent too much time chasing the Frenchman and not enough time throwing his quick, powerful hands. Kongo circled backwards for much of the first two rounds and frustrated Mitrione, who failed to cut off the cage and close the distance. Then, in round three, Kongo swooped in, secured takedowns and punished Mitrione with intermittent punches and elbows on the ground. The experienced Rothwell returned from a serious knee injury in September and lost a decision to Mark Hunt in a forgettable matchup at UFC 135, as both men wilted in Denver’s thin air. With Rothwell and Mitrione on the rebound, their pairing becomes a natural.
Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski: Hioki may be the world’s number two-ranked featherweight, but he did not look the part in his UFC debut against “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 semifinalist George Roop. The Japanese standout stumbled to a controversial split decision victory at UFC 137 and did little to convince the masses he was prepared to challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight crown. Palaszewski, an underrated veteran with excellent all-around skills and the mean streak to go with them, blitzed Tyson Griffin in a searing first-round knockout. Let him give Hioki a test drive to see whether or not he is more hype than substance, as some now suspect.
Scott Jorgensen vs. Joseph Benavidez: Jorgensen has become one of the more consistent performers in the bantamweight division, winning seven of his past eight bouts. He controlled and neutralized the cagy and dangerous Jeff Curran for three rounds, as he continued to put his one-sided decision defeat to 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz in his rearview mirror.
An astute wrestler with developing standup and excellent defensive skills, Jorgensen figures to hover near the top of the division for years. Benavidez, a natural flyweight, finds himself in a bit of a holding pattern, having already lost twice to Cruz. Most expect him to downshift to 125 pounds whenever the UFC puts the division in play. Until then, the Team Alpha Male ace will look for meaningful action as a bantamweight. Jorgensen can certainly oblige.
Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz: Cerrone, quite simply, has blossomed into one of the best young lightweights in the sport. An aggressive offensive fighter who can exact damage on his feet and on the ground, he made quick work of the respected Dennis Siver. Cerrone wobbled the Russian-born German kickboxer with a kick to the face and later with a straight right hand, ultimately swarming to finish with a rear-naked choke. The 28-year-old “Cowboy” has won six fights in a row, four of them in the UFC. Diaz was superb in his latest outing, as he embarrassed Takanori Gomi and submitted the former Pride champion with a first-round armbar at UFC 135. From an on-paper matchmaking standpoint, Cerrone-Diaz sounds like pure gold.