Chael Sonnen believes that Nate Diaz’s ‘big fight experience’ could be the determining factor at UFC 244 this weekend.
Diaz will go head-to-head with Jorge Masvidal in the UFC 244 main event in a bout that will determine the winner of the newly minted UFC BMF title.
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Masvidal enters this fight after his spectacular five-second knockout of Ben Askren at UFC 239 in July. “Gamebred” is now on a two-fight winning streak after he had earlier knocked out Darren Till in the second round in March.
For Diaz, it’s his time to extend on his excellent return to the cage in August, where he outworked Anthony Pettis for three rounds to win a unanimous decision. That bout at UFC 241 was the first time that Diaz had stepped into the cage since August 2016, when Conor McGregor defeated him in a rematch.
Masvidal and Diaz have leveraged their form and entertaining styles to earn a spot at the top of what Dana White is calling ‘the biggest UFC event’ to air exclusively on ESPN+. It’s also a fight that bookmakers consider Masvidal to have a slight edge.
Just days before UFC 244 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York, Chael Sonnen previewed Masvidal vs. Diaz in an interview with Submission Radio.
“On the feet, they are very close,” Sonnen said.
“Masvidal’s leg kicks are a real thing. Nate Diaz, as well as Nick, they don’t love to check leg kicks. That’s just really not their thing, and Masvidal’s got some good leg kicks, and he also uses that for range.
“On the other side of the coin, I think a lot of people are favoring Nate on the ground, and I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment. I think Nate is known as a Cesar Gracie black belt, but Masvidal’s been training at the ATT with the best grappling coaches in the world for a number of years. I think you’ve got a little bit of a wash there.
Although Sonnen considers Masvidal vs. Diaz to be competitive both on the feet and on the mat, he feels that there is one aspect of the fight that can separate Diaz from his adversary this weekend.
“Ultimately, the conditioning of Nate Diaz is a very real thing,” Sonnen said.
“You’ve got a five-round fight, and you have Nate Diaz, who has one thing over Masvidal, which is big fight experience. And I’m not talking fighting experience in minutes in the cage, I’m talking big fight experience.
“Walking into an arena that is sold out. Walking into an arena where your name is on the marquee. I think he can control his nerves a little bit. And the one thing with that is that doesn’t create stress, it doesn’t create fatigue and you can go harder for a little bit longer.”
TWO BMFs. ONE BELT. FROM THE MECCA! ?⁰
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The winner of the UFC 244 main event will leave Madison Square Garden with the $50,000 BMF title. According to Sonnen, it’s also very possible that the winner will exit the arena with the option to face Conor McGregor next.
“That is very possible,” Sonnen told Submission Radio.
“And anybody that makes believe that Conor McGregor won’t go to 170 or that Jorge Masvidal’s too big or Conor doesn’t want a rematch with Nate – say anything you want about Conor, be a supporter, be a hater, be anything you want.
“If you say Conor McGregor is a coward, if you say Conor McGregor is afraid to fight somebody, that is not true, that is historically incorrect.”
UFC 244 takes place this Saturday, November 2, and airs exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States.
Jake Nichols is The Body Lock's Editor in Chief. Previously, he was the MMA Editor at RealSport.