Rivalries: Nate Diaz

By Brian Knapp Apr 30, 2020

Somewhere in Nate Diaz’s genetic code hides the lust for hand-to-hand combat.

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, he made his professional MMA debut under the World Extreme Cagefighting banner in 2004, when, at the age of 19, he submitted Alejandro Garcia with a triangle choke. Less than three years later, Diaz kicked in the door to the Ultimate Fighting Championship by winning Season 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series. He has since compiled a 15-10 record inside the Octagon, emerging as one of the promotion’s primary needle movers. The 35-year-old Californian last competed at UFC 244, where an accumulation of damage forced him to bow out of his showdown with American Top Team’s Jorge Masvidal in between the third and fourth rounds.

As Diaz weighs his next move inside the cage, a look at a few of the rivalries upon which his reputation has been built:

Diaz ended McGregor’s 15-fight winning streak in dramatic fashion. (Photo: Getty Images)

Conor McGregor

Even McGregor has a limit to how much he can chew. Diaz submitted the eventual two-division titleholder with a second-round rear-naked choke in the UFC 196 headliner on March 5, 2016 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. McGregor tapped 4:12 into Round 2, his 15-fight winning streak halted in decisive and dramatic fashion. The non-title bout was contested at 170 pounds. A short-notice replacement for the injured Rafael dos Anjos, Diaz absorbed a copious amount of punishment from the Irishman. He was on the receiving end of probing left hands and jarring uppercuts but never checked out. The Stockton, California, native entered the second round battered and bleeding from a cut near his right eye but still very much in the fight. Diaz stunned McGregor with a straight left and kept throwing punches until the SBG Ireland rep shot for a desperate takedown. After bailing on a guillotine, he climbed to full mount and forced McGregor to surrender his back. The choke was in place soon after and the tapout was close behind. It was the first chapter in what became one of the sport’s great rivalries. McGregor exacted a measure of revenge a little less than six months later, when he took a majority decision from Diaz in their UFC 202 rematch.

Diaz went 1-1 against Maynard. (Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Gray Maynard

Diaz put away Maynard with a short straight left and a savage volley of follow-up punches in “The Ultimate Fighter 18” Finale main event on Nov. 30, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. “The Bully” succumbed to unanswered blows 2:38 into Round 1, as Diaz avenged a 2010 decision loss to the three-time NCAA All-American wrestler. Maynard scored with an early takedown but failed to contain “The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner on the canvas. Diaz returned to an upright position, zeroed in on the Phoenix native and let his hands do the rest. The Cesar Gracie disciple shook Maynard with a quick left and swarmed. Quick, accurate punches kept Maynard on his heels, as Diaz refused to let him breathe. After an extended beating, referee Yves Lavigne had seen enough.

Diaz was dominated by a prime Henderson. (Photo: Getty Images)

Benson Henderson

Henderson was nothing short of masterful in denying Diaz the undisputed lightweight championship. “Smooth” retained the 155-pound crown with a one-sided unanimous decision over the Californian in the UFC on Fox 5 headliner on Dec. 8, 2012 at the Key Arena in Seattle. All three cageside judges scored it for the champion: 50-43, 50-45 and 50-45. Searing leg kicks, energy-sapping clinches, takedowns and heavy ground-and-pound were all part of the Henderson game plan, and he executed it with remarkable precision. Henderson secured takedowns in all five rounds, totaling eight of them by the time the 25-minute fight was over. He neutralized Diaz’s prodigious boxing skills by attacking his legs, smothering him with clinches and grounding him repeatedly. Moreover, Henderson twice had the Cesar Gracie disciple reeling with punches: An overhand left in the second round and a right hook in the third did the damage. Perhaps sensing his situation was dire, Diaz turned to leg locks midway through the fight. None of them were successful. Henderson simply scrambled out of danger, assumed top position and cut loose with punches, elbows and hammerfists. The MMA Lab representative outlanded Diaz 124-30 in terms of significant strikes.
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