The Film Room: Nate Diaz

By Kevin Wilson Oct 30, 2019
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Nate Diaz will return to the Octagon for a dream fight with Jorge Masvidal in the UFC 244 headliner on Saturday in New York. Diaz finds himself on the upswing following his victory over Anthony Pettis in August, and beating Masvidal would likely move him to elite status in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division. While his record looks somewhat middling and he has never won a major title, he remains one of the sport’s most recognizable names.

Diaz provides the material for this installment of The Film Room.



Diaz’s entire standup game relies 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, and his timing and accuracy are hard to match. Something to notice about his combos: 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. The Diaz brothers are also known for their 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. This methodical beatdown will also force some opponents to shoot for takedowns, and we know the Diaz brothers have some of the best jiu-jitsu in MMA. 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 likes to set a constant pace that is neither too aggressive nor too passive and generally chooses to plod forward with his 1-2. This allows him to back opponents to the cage, where he will unload with a flurry of strikes. Early in his career, Diaz was much more liable to stand and trade in the center of the Octagon, but now he likes to drive opponents to the fence and slowly pick them apart in the clinch.



In his most recent fight with Pettis, Diaz put more focus on the clinch than ever before. He simply walked him down with 1-2s, and as soon as Pettis was behind the black line, he would leap forward with a lead hook and place it behind his head for a single collar tie. Diaz was bigger and more comfortable in a firefight and picked apart Pettis in the clinch for a good portion of the fight. Masvidal is not great at staying off the cage, so look for Diaz to employ a similar game plan.



Diaz is normally the leading man, but he does have an interesting counter lead hook. Notice how instead of rotating his hips and putting his legs into the punch like usual, he leans back at the waist and swings it over the top with little hip rotation. Since he generally shoulder rolls with punches anyway and has a long reach, the counter can land over the top of the opponent’s lead hand while keeping his head out of punching range. It will not have as much power behind it, but it is one of his longest weapons. 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.”



Diaz may have limited footwork, but his upper-body movement is some of the best in the sport. Notice his liberal use of the shoulder roll, which also puts him in position to land his counter lead hook. 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. However, this style does not work well against aggressive fighters who work in long combinations. This defense also relies on being the longer and taller man, and since Masvidal can match his size, he does not figure to have trouble closing the distance and landing on Diaz in the pocket.



This stance also leaves Diaz wide open for leg kicks, which have been the biggest detriment to his career. Masvidal throws lots of kicks in general, so expect him to attack the legs early and often. Diaz already has limited movement, and after a few leg kicks, he becomes much easier to deal with.



If we expect Diaz to bully Masvidal to the cage, then we can look at the Pettis fight for some openings. Diaz did not seem to respect Pettis’ power, simply pressured through his punches and got caught clean a few times doing so. Notice how Diaz was trying to double up on the jab and throw a left straight while stepping into an orthodox stance and attempting to fall into the clinch. Pettis read his entry and planted his feet for a counter right hook. If Diaz is sloppy with his entries in this fight, the always-calculated Masvidal will be able to capitalize.



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 20 wins have come via submission. His favorite submission is the guillotine because, as Diaz puts it, once opponents feel his hands, everybody becomes a wrestler. Since he has mostly chosen to strike in the latter part of his career, his jiu-jitsu is severely underrated. Masvidal relied on his grappling a lot early in his career, but if the fight hits the ground, Diaz has a clear advantage. Advertisement

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