Love him or hate him, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz is one of the most enthralling personalities in mixed martial arts today. From his swear-heavy, nonsensical rants to his tough guy bravado he is one of Strikeforce's central figures and Saturday night he gets the opportunity to once again shine on their stage. However, the question at hand is this. Truthfully how good is Nick Diaz? Following a 6-4 career in the UFC and a spectacular victory over then top lightweight Takanori Gomi at PRIDE 33, Diaz has racked up an impressive 9-1 record and those 10 fights have been contested in the made-up EliteXC lightweight division (160lbs.), welterweight division, and middleweight division. This is where things get a little cloudy however. Take a look at some of the names in his resume during this run, Mike Aina, Muhsin Corbbrey, Katsuya Inoue and Thomas Denny. Not exactly the most impressive lineup, not to mention during that time he was beaten handily by KJ Noons. The other names that fill up his post-UFC/PRIDE win column are Frank Shamrock, Scott Smith, Marius Zaromskis, Hayato Sakurai, and a second meeting with the aforementioned Noons.
Nick had little to no problems dealing with the legendary Frank Shamrock, however, is it safe to say Frank was well past his prime and was coming off a broken arm at the hands of Cung Le. Shamrock would retire not long after this fight. Scott Smith, while always good for a spirited effort, is exactly the type of opponent that Diaz feeds off of. Meanwhile, Zaromskis has not quite looked like the beast he did tearing through the competition in the Dream welterweight tournament and Hayato Sakurai has seen much better days. That brings me to his second KJ Noons fight this past October. In it, Diaz looked the best he has maybe ever. His voluminous boxing, that looks like he's playing patty cake with your face, was in full display and was even disruptive for an excellent boxer like Noons. However, the question still remains. Is Nick Diaz as good as his charisma or lack thereof leads us to think?
In my opinion, thinking about the best of the best at 170 in the UFC, it is hard for me to think that Nick Diaz wouldn't be eaten alive in the Octagon. Fighters like Jake Shields (though that fight would never happen), Jon Fitch, Diego Sanchez (whom Diaz already met once), and Josh Koscheck are just a few fighters with the perfect style to frustrate and control Diaz. Of course, I did not even mention the current welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre, who would be an absolute nightmare for Diaz in almost all areas of the fight. While some will bring up Diaz's jiu jitsu game which is world renown, Diaz relies much more on his hands than his grappling these days. It is almost as if Diaz only uses his deadly BJJ when there is no other way out. Him and his brother, Nate Diaz, are almost mirror images in a cage though Nick is probably the better striker of the two and we have seen Diaz have a lot of trouble with good grapplers and wrestlers. Is it that Strikeforce is feeding Diaz strikers, which he can use his durability to eventually overwhelm, to up his stock in the fast rising popularity of MMA or is 170 outside of the UFC devoid of good/great grapplers?
Diaz is set to meet number one contender Evangelista 'Cyborg' Santos on Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. He is also currently the seventh ranked welterweight in the world according to the USA TODAY/SB Nation Consensus MMA Rankings while Santos is not ranked within the top 25. Has Diaz gotten by on his image more so than his abilities thus far in Strikeforce or is F-Bomb Dropper from Stockton, CA really a world class fighter? Chime in MMA4Realers