Of all the recent (and by recent I mean within the last two years) Ultimate Fighter winners, I always felt that Nate Diaz had the most upside to him. With his gritty, never die style matched with his in your face attitude (much like his brother Nick) he seemed to be a highly marketable fighter. However, tough times have fallen on the Cesar Gracie student, as he has dropped his last two bouts albeit to top competition in Clay Guida and Joe Stevenson, but it still remains that for Diaz to ever make the jump from Fight Night headliner to PPV draw he's going to have to face the best of the best. Me, myself watching both those fights I found myself screaming at the television for Nate to do something. He seemed almost too willing to allow his opponents to dictate where the fight went instead of taking control himself. Now with back to back losses, Diaz finds his back against the wall come Wednesday night when he headlines Ultimate Fight Night 19 against a dangerous, yet beatable Melvin Guillard.
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There have been very few Ultimate Fighter winners that have found themselves in danger of being cut (not counting the Comeback season). Even with back to back losses, guys like Diego Sanchez and Forrest Griffin never catch the 'will they cut him' buzz due to their styles and their marketability. A guy like Kendall Grove though, who hasn't quite been a threat anywhere in the middleweight division since winning his season, seems to be on the chopping block more often than not. With Diaz, I feel they haven't let his star shine quite like they can but in some ways it's his own fault. Diaz had a prime chance to really implant his face and name into the minds of MMA diehards and casuals in his fight with Clay Guida on the undercard of the highly marketed UFC 94, which had the BJ Penn/GSP rematch. Instead, we were forced to witness three painful rounds of Guida hugging Diaz up against the cage and Diaz doing his best teddy bear impression the entire time. While credit should be given to Guida's superior wrestling, there were moments where it would have appeared that Diaz could have gone for broke and taken control. Fast forward to the Joe Stevenson fight which looked basically like a mirror image of the Guida fight and now you wonder if Diaz is improving or if his holes are just too gaping for him to ever make a run in one of the most competitive divisions in MMA. His top notch jiu-jitsu and jab-filled, lengthy striking saw him put away tough opponents like Alvin Robinson and Kurt Pellegrino. However, in the Pellegrino fight it can be said that Diaz was taking a walloping until a fatal mistake by 'Batman' cost him the fight.
While Diaz is very young, he has much experience in the sport with a 10-4 record. He's a guy (much like his brother Nick) that seems to be impossible to finish. Fortunately for Diaz he meets a guy that is as one-dimensional as they come in Melvin Guillard. If you haven't seen what Guillard's bread and butter is just youtube 'bar fight' and you'll get a pretty good representation. Guillard does have some tools, such as his speed and accuracy on the feet that could put the TUF 5 winner into a deep sleep come Wednesday night. However, his ground game is suspect and if Nate is able to capitalize on Melvin over committing or getting sloppy and secure a takedown, it's only a matter of time before a limb is stretched or Melvin's gasping for air in a choke. The question though is...if Melvin were to somehow stop or even get a decision over Nate, would this spell the end of Diaz' six-figure contract and dismissal from the UFC? Would Zuffa allow a young star that's had exposure on the Ultimate Fighter to go out and find work elsewhere? Would we see the first Ultimate Fighter (not on a comeback season) get cut? If Diaz were to lose, and he did stay, where would this put him in the scheme of things? Many questions will either be answered or be shown as we near the Ultimate Fight Night...what do you guys think?