Nate Diaz sports 14 finishes among his 16 career wins. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nothing, it seems, shakes the confidence of one Nate Diaz.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner will try to bounce back from consecutive defeats to Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson when he confronts Gray Maynard in “The Ultimate Fighter 18” Finale headliner on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. More than 18 months have passed since Diaz last tasted victory in a title eliminator against Jim Miller at UFC on Fox 3.
Diaz and Maynard are uniquely familiar with one another, as they have locked horns twice before: Diaz submitted “The Bully” with a guillotine choke in an exhibition bout during Season 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” while Maynard eked out a split verdict over the 28-year-old Stockton, Calif., native at UFC Fight Night 20 in January 2010.
“I’m going to beat Gray,” Diaz said in a pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “This is the third time fighting him -- finish it off and seal the deal. I won the first one. I think I won the second one, too. You could ask him how he won the fight. I bet you he don’t have too good of an answer.”
Maynard poses obvious stylistic problems for Diaz, who has struggled against wrestlers in the past. The 34-year-old American Kickboxing Academy representative wrestled collegiately at Michigan State University, where he was a three-time NCAA All-American. However, Maynard has recorded only one takedown in his past three appearances covering roughly 10 rounds inside the Octagon, and he did not attempt a single takedown against Diaz in their UFC Fight Night 20 encounter.
“I’m going out there to win, finish, take him out and not get taken out,” Diaz said. “I got better, and I think he’s gotten better, too. He wrestles hard and good, he hits hard and he’s a good athlete, [but] it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. It’s survival of the fittest.”
A Cesar Gracie disciple, Diaz has not competed since his technical knockout loss to Thomson at UFC on Fox 7 in April. Brought down by a head kick and put away by follow-up blows, he had never before been finished by strikes. Diaz does not foresee history repeating itself against Maynard.
“I’m going to be in his face,” he said. “I’m going to let him know I’m ready to win, and he’s going to know it.”
An undefeated Team Alpha Male-trained Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Chris Holdsworth entered Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” as one of the odds-on favorites to win the competition. He has not disappointed.
Holdsworth now finds himself one step shy of fulfilling those lofty expectations, as he prepares to face David Grant in the Season 18 bantamweight final. The 26-year-old Van Nuys, Calif., native carved through his section of the eight-man tournament, delivering first-round submissions over Chris Beal and Mike Wootten. Grant, meanwhile, advanced with a submission against Louis Fisette and a walkover against Anthony Gutierrez, who was disqualified for his failure to make weight.
“David is a cool dude and I have a lot of respect for him,” Holdsworth said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “We got along quite well on the show and I have nothing bad to say about the guy. He’s a big 135er with a lot of strength and power. He’s a good technician, as well. There’s one problem, though. He’s trying to take something that I want.”
This & That
“The Ultimate Fighter 18” Finale will be the 254th event in Ultimate Fighting Championship history ... Maximo Blanco is one of five men to have held the lightweight King of Pancrase crown, along with Shoji Maruyama, Katsuya Inoue, Koji Oishi and Isao Kobayashi ... When Finnish featherweight Tom Niinimaki climbs into the Octagon for his promotional debut, seven years and 12 days will have passed since his last defeat ... Heavyweight Jared Rosholt was a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Oklahoma State University, where he was a national finalist in 2010 ... Rani Yahya is a two-time medalist at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships, capturing silver in 2005 before striking gold two years later ... Akira Corassani reached the semifinals on Season 14 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” where he was joined by Diego Brandao, Bryan Caraway and Dennis Bermudez ... Sean Spencer is 6-0 in fights that reach the judges ... When Walter Harris was born on June 10, 1983, the top five movies at the domestic box office were “Return of the Jedi,” “Octopussy,” “Trading Places,” “WarGames” and “Psycho II” ... World-ranked flyweight Joshua Sampo was a two-time state wrestling champion in high school ... Julianna Pena lists Fedor Emelianenko, Nick Diaz, Matt Hughes and Dan Henderson as her MMA heroes ... Janjira Muay Thai’s Ryan Benoit has competed in six different organizations during his nine-fight career: Legacy Fighting Championship, Maximum Fighting Championship, Shark Fights, Supreme Warrior Championship, King of Kombat and Back Alley Promotions ... Drew Dober has submitted three of his last four opponents with rear-naked chokes.