Josh Thomson (right) has not fought in the UFC since 2004. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nearly a decade has passed since Josh Thomson last set foot inside the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and, at 34, the former Strikeforce champion appears poised to write the final chapter of his career within the confines of the hallowed Octagon.
Thomson will meet “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 winner and Cesar Gracie protégé Nate Diaz in a featured lightweight bout at UFC on Fox 7 “Henderson vs. Melendez” on Saturday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The American Kickboxing Academy export could not have asked for a more difficult return bout.
Diaz -- the 28-year-old younger brother of onetime Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz and a longtime teammate of Gilbert Melendez, the only man to have beaten Thomson twice -- has recorded three wins in his last four outings, leaving Takanori Gomi, Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller in his wake.
“I respect Nate,” Thomson told Sherdog.com in a pre-fight interview. “I respect that whole camp. They work hard. They put in the work, and it shows in their performances. I think stylistically he’s difficult to deal with, him and his brother both. It’s really hard to find somebody to mimic their style, someone who’s a good boxer and has good jiu-jitsu. They’re long and lanky, and they throw their combinations in bunches. It’s going to be hard to deal with.
“They know what they’re doing,” he added. “They’re style works, and it’s hard to mimic their style. That’s been the thing we’ve had the biggest problem with in this camp.”
When Thomson stands across from Diaz inside the cage, 3,164 days will have elapsed since he last competed under the UFC banner. In the years since his infamous knockout loss to Yves Edwards at UFC 49, the Californian has enjoyed his share of highs and lows, from a March 2006 defeat to Clay Guida to his near-perfect performance in a unanimous decision victory over Melendez a little more than two years later. Injuries have proven to be Thomson’s most formidable adversary.
“I feel like I belong [in the UFC],” he said. “I think once I can get a long string of being healthy in there, I think it’ll start to show. The said thing is I feel like I’m that fighter [whose] whole career has kind of just passed him by because of my injuries, from overtraining, from just being that kind of person. I feel like had I been able to stay healthy, had I been able to learn my body a little better and know how much I could take and when to take days off ... that’s been the hardest thing for me.
“Even in this camp, I felt like I could always do more,” Thomson added. “The problem is [that mindset] cost me my career, which I pretty much feel like it has.”
Against the world-ranked Diaz, Thomson will fill a role he relishes, that of the underdog.
“Honestly, I’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “I’ve been a mainstay in all the best organizations in the world. I feel my fighting style definitely favors the fans. Fighting Nate, to me, it feels like just another fight. Being back in the UFC, to me, is just like being home. I was fighting in the UFC before it was cool. I expect to put on a show. That’s the biggest thing: to put on a show and make sure the fans get to see the real me.”
This & That
Lightweight champion Benson Henderson has gone the distance in each of his past seven fights, going five rounds four times ... Frank Mir will hold an eight-inch reach advantage over the undefeated Daniel Cormier in the co-main event. In fact 14 of the 21 measured fighters on the UFC on Fox 7 lineup, including featherweight Darren Elkins, either equal or surpass Cormier’s 71 inches in reach ... According to FightMetric, Matt Brown ranks fifth on the UFC’s all-time list in significant striking accuracy at 57.7 percent, trailing only Anderson Silva (67.8), Evan Tanner (59.0), Cheick Kongo (58.1) and Randy Couture (58.0) ... Yoel Romero Palacio was a silver medalist in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney ... Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler and two-time Pac-10 Conference champion at California Polytechnic State University ... Anthony Njokuani was born in Enugu, Nigeria, more than 7,700 miles from his current training base in Las Vegas ... Unbeaten as a professional, Myles Jury has finished 10 of his 11 opponents, seven of them in 80 seconds or less ... Born on Oct. 15, 1979 in San Francisco, Darren Uyenoyama shares a birthday with famous chef Emeril Lagasse, Baltimore Orioles hall of famer and three-time American League Cy Young Award winner Jim Palmer, Italian-American novelist Mario Puzo and John L. Sullivan -- the man widely recognized as the last heavyweight champion of bare-knuckle boxing ... T.J. Dillashaw hails from Sonora, Calif., a small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills with a population of less than 5,000 ... Middleweight globetrotter Francis Carmont has fought in 13 different countries: Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, England, France, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and the United States.