Rivalries: Nick Diaz

By: Brian Knapp
Jan 6, 2021
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While whispers of a possible return have become a constant source of speculation, more than 2,000 days have passed since Nick Diaz last set foot inside the Octagon. Nevertheless, he remains one of the sport’s true cult heroes.

A former Strikeforce and World Extreme Cagefighting champion, Diaz brought his unique skill set and penchant for unfiltered trash talk to mixed martial arts in 2001 and later graduated to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. During the course of his stellar career, he shared the stage with a number of all-time greats, from Robbie Lawler, Frank Shamrock and Takanori Gomi to Hayato Sakurai, B.J. Penn and Anderson Silva. As Diaz stayed true to himself through his take-it-or-leave-it personality, often to his own detriment, his gruff but genuine exterior became one of his most enduring qualities.

Nearly six years after Diaz’s last appearance in the cage, a look at some of the rivalries that helped light his path:

Georges St. Pierre

Talk only gets you so far once the cage door closes. St. Pierre grounded and controlled Diaz at will, as he cruised to a unanimous decision and retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight crown in the UFC 158 headliner on March 16, 2013 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. All three cageside judges scored it 50-45 for St. Pierre. “Rush” struck for takedowns in all five rounds, neutralizing the Diaz guard with his stifling top game and well-timed ground-and-pound. The champion also held his own on the feet, as he tagged Diaz with his patented jab and various other techniques, from leg kicks to Superman punches. Diaz did his best work in the third round, where a burst of punches bloodied St. Pierre’s nose and briefly put him on his heels. In the end, as many predicted, the Cesar Gracie protégé simply could not stay upright long enough to make any meaningful headway.

K.J. Noons

Diaz leaned on his thirst for vengeance and used his superior reach to consistently beat Noons to the punch across five rounds, as he retained his welterweight championship with a unanimous decision in the Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Noons 2” main event on Oct. 9, 2010 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Scores were 48-47, 49-47 and 49-46. Noons—who had forged a controversial doctor stoppage against Diaz under the EliteXC banner three years earlier—had never before competed at 170 pounds and ran into considerable difficulty while attempting to navigate his counterpart’s six-inch reach advantage. Diaz, who traditionally fights as a southpaw, greeted the Hawaiian from the orthodox stance in a show of tactical brilliance. The switch essentially nullified Noons’ most effective weapon from their first fight: the straight right hand. Diaz alternated between stances for much of their 25-minute rematch, bringing a definitive close to their two-fight series.

Joe Riggs

Riggs was awarded a close unanimous decision over Diaz at UFC 57 on Feb. 4, 2006 despite being outstruck by a 126-69 margin at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. However, their efforts inside the cage were overshadowed by what unfolded afterward. Diaz’s notorious temper simmered and the boiled over, as their battle spilled out of the Octagon and into an unscheduled fourth round at a local hospital. While the details regarding their post-fight melee remain murky, a physical altercation did occur. Many news outlets reported that Diaz sucker-punched Riggs, though he denied his attack was unprovoked. “He said he was going to sock me in my Mexican face,” Diaz told Real Fighter magazine in 2007. “I was like, ‘F--- you! F--- you! Come over here, bitch, and take your ass whoopin’. He got in my face, and I said, ‘What the f--- are you looking at? You can get slapped right here, bitch. He put his hands up, and I said, ‘Step in my range.’” According to Diaz, once the first punch flew, the fight escalated and moved into one of the rooms adjacent to the hall where they were being treated. In an interview with MMAWeekly Radio, Riggs claimed he had an active IV in his arm when the altercation began. “The IV came out. Blood was flying everywhere. Women were screaming. It was crazy.” The brawl continued until security threatened to subdue the two men with Tasers. “I was trying to f--- him up,” Diaz said. “The police were cool. They were Nick Diaz fans.”

Jeremy Jackson

Diaz suffered his first professional loss to Jackson in 2002, then defeated him in two subsequent confrontations. Their third and final encounter went down at UFC 44 on Sept. 26, 2003, as they completed their trilogy on the Randy Couture-Tito Ortiz undercard at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. There, Diaz made a successful Octagon debut by submitting Jackson with an armbar 2:04 into the third round. He spent the majority of their 12-minute affair making life miserable for Jackson, as he completed six takedowns—three in the first round, one in the second and two more in the third—in 13 attempts and piled up more than a full round of control time. Diaz powered into his opponent’s guard roughly a minute into Round 3, passed to side control and threatened with a guillotine choke before allowing “The Scorpion” to reverse into top position. Moments later, Diaz flexed his considerable skills from his back, wheeled his hips into position for the armbar and prompted the tapout. Advertisement
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