The Film Room: Nate Diaz

By Kevin Wilson Aug 15, 2019
The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 241 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.

Nate Diaz will find his way back to the Octagon for the first time in three years when he collides with Anthony Pettis in the UFC 241 co-headliner on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. Diaz remains one of MMA’s true enigmas, but despite his long layoff, he enters the match as only a slight underdog to a man who has fought six times since he last appeared.

Diaz’s exploits are under the microscope in this installment of The Film Room.

Diaz relies heavily on the oldest trick in the book: a simple but perfectly timed 1-2 down the middle. With his long arms, Diaz can land the 1-2 while being out of range of the opponent’s return strikes. Something to notice about his combos is the rhythm with which he throws them. A fighter will usually throw the jab and then throw a rear-hand strike while pulling the jab back. However, Diaz will throw his left straight while the jab is still in the opponent’s face and sometimes before the jab even lands. Throwing it at this rhythm makes it easier to land since the opponent is not expecting the left hand to connect that quickly after the jab. It can be hard to see, but if you slow down footage on Diaz, you can see him throwing the 1-2 at various speeds. Something else for which Diaz is known: his half-powered punches. Instead of throwing every strike with full force, Diaz will pepper his opponent with quick strikes. These strikes will not finish a fight, but they take a toll on opponents and leave them open for power strikes later in the fight. The best example of this was his fight with Donald Cerrone. Diaz never swung for the fences. Instead, he just wanted to touch him with his punches and pick him apart for three rounds. This ended up being his most dominant performance in the Octagon to date.

Diaz is a fairly patient fighter and generally chooses to plod forward with his 1-2. However, when the finish is near or he has the opponent trapped against the cage, he will unload with strikes looking for the knockout. He is still patient in these moments and does not overextend or throw sloppy enough punches to allow the opponent to circle away. The problem is exchanges like these are far and few between despite his success. Pettis has always struggled in the pocket, and it would be nice to see Diaz push the pace more and try to exploit this.

Diaz is usually the leading man, but he can be effective on the counter, especially with his lead hook. Diaz stands heavy on his feet, so his lack of evasive footwork has always been one of his biggest detriments. This means most of his counters are in the pocket and his defense relies on blocking and rolling with punches rather than evading. With his long reach, Diaz will lean far back at the waist to roll with the opponent’s punches and swing his lead hand over the top. He hit Connor McGregor with this counter multiple times in their first fight, and he will occasionally throw it with an open hand -- the appropriately dubbed “Stockton Slap” technique.

Diaz may have limited movement and footwork, but he is one of the best in the sport at rolling with and slipping punches. He is also adept at using his forearms and shoulders to block strikes and will even occasionally use a Thai-style “Dracula” guard hybrid to defend.

The lack of footwork and his tendency to stand heavy on his lead leg leaves Diaz wide open for leg kicks, and he has lost several fights based on this weakness alone. Rafael dos Anjos chopped down his legs at every turn and allowed Diaz to land only 13 significant strikes in 15 minutes. At this point, it would be folly to expect him to change his stance or suddenly start checking kicks, but it is by far the biggest hole in his game and something Pettis should try to exploit.

Diaz was so highly touted in his prime because of his ability to pick apart opponents on the feet and finish the fight on the ground with jiu-jitsu. Diaz is a second-degree black belt under the legendary Cesar Gracie, and 12 of his 19 wins have come via submission. His favorite submission is a guillotine because, as Diaz puts it, once opponents feel his hands, everybody becomes a wrestler. This fight offers plenty of intrigue because both men prefer to strike, and both have elite submission skills once the fight hits the ground. However, they rarely shoot for takedowns and tend to use their grappling as a backup. As a result, it might not hit the canvas at all. Advertisement


Comments powered by Disqus
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>