Nate Diaz made his punches count. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Nate Diaz ended his unofficial trilogy with Gray Maynard in spectacular fashion Saturday night, scoring a first-round knockout over “The Bully” to close the “TUF 18” finale.
“My mission is always to win, and I’m glad it went that way,” Diaz said during the post-fight press conference at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. “I’m glad they stopped it when they did, because this is a rough sport, and I don’t think people should be taking shots. It’s not like, ‘I want to kill that guy,’ but I do want to win.”
After succumbing to an early takedown and working his way back to his feet, Diaz caught Maynard with a straight left that wobbled his fellow ex-title challenger and prompted the rangy southpaw to pour it on. Diaz unloaded with an extended stream of crisp, precise punches that took Maynard out of the fight.
Though the former NCAA Division I wrestler gamely tried to hang on, Diaz showed him no quarter, and referee Yves Lavigne mercifully stopped the contest with an unsteady Maynard still standing.
While Diaz and his older brother, former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz, are both known for their formidable volume punching, it could be argued that the younger Diaz sat down on his shots tonight as well as he ever has in the Octagon. This was not coincidental, according to the lightweight, who was reminded by his brother before the fight to make his punches count.
“I feel like I hit hard all the time, but sometimes I just keep going. Instead of a full-blown power shot, I feel like maybe a lot more accurate punches will do. But if I slow it down and try to hit you hard, I’m going to hit you hard,” said Diaz. “My brother was going over some stuff with me in the back. He told me that if I was going to land anything to make sure it was solid and hard and not just overwhelming. It’s good, sometimes, if you get a little reminder.”
The victory halted a two-fight skid for Diaz, who came up short in his title bid one year ago against then-champion Benson Henderson before suffering a technical knockout defeat to Josh Thomson this past April. With a dominant victory over the seventh-ranked Maynard now behind him, Diaz appears poised to make another run at the top five.
“I’m thinking maybe I’ll sit on the sideline for a good, long minute until somebody gets injured, and then [I can] fight for a title, like everybody else is doing,” said Diaz. “I do have a lot of losses on my record, and other people have a lot of criticism and s--t to talk, but if you look at my record compared to other people, for every two fights [they have fought], I’ve fought six or seven times. So if they were fighting more consistently, like I am, they’re going to have more losses than me. So maybe I’ll sit around for a while and wait for an injury to pop up.”