Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawer first met in 2004 at UFC 47. The two will run it back 17 years later at UFC 266 on September 25 in Las Vegas, Nevada. All those years ago Diaz was the one to become victorious, however, that night would begin two iconic roads in the sport of MMA.
Diaz after defeating Lawler would go on to fight in PRIDE, ELITE XC, Strikeforce, and others before continuing his UFC run. He would fight for two UFC belts against Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre respectively before meeting Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC 183. What was originally a five-year suspension turned to 18 months for marijuana would end up being a six-year hiatus for Diaz before announcing his bout with Lawler this year.
In the meantime, Lawler would also part ways with the UFC for a time following the Diaz loss, also fighting in Elite XC, PRIDE, and Strikeforce, although at a new weight. The difference was, as Lawler re-entered the UFC in 2013, and was also granted two title shots he would make the most of his second. The newly crowned welterweight champion of the world by the end of 2014, Lawler would defend it twice, solidifying himself as one of the sport’s most exciting titleholders in history.
Almost two decades later Lawler will have a chance to avenge a loss sustained at the mere age of 20. Although we’ve seen the fight once before, it’s hard to imagine more happening since. Both fighters will come in with championship experience and careers and a veteran understanding behind the ferocious skills cultivated by the young prospects first seen in the UFC.
Diaz vs. Lawler betting odds
After 17 years from the first fight, both men will come in at an equal -115 betting-wise.
Diaz vs. Lawler Breakdown
Robbie Lawler’s style is characterized by viciousness and power. He has become famous for his ability to shut the lights out on any opponent with any attack in his arsenal, whether it be either hand or either kick. The way in which he does this is often with an aggressively patient approach. He will look to move and utilize a good defensive Philly shell style with rhythmic head movement. By moving and setting up his position he picks his moments to burst and explode and land his combinations, with heavy fight-changing punches. He throws with power and speed, which then requires him to pick his moments to recover and pace himself and often you will see Lawler take rounds off in his fights around the midpoint. This allows him to comfortably catch his second wind in the championship rounds and finish strong.
This strategy could not contrast Nick Diaz more. While Lawler’s approach is built on power, speed, and patience, Diaz will throw at half the power and speed but put on a consistent pace. A southpaw with a high guard, Diaz moves forward where Lawler circles and Diaz tries to put his opponent on the fence where Lawler will sit back with the intention of bursting forward.
If Diaz can get his way and put his opponent against the cage in boxing range, he will throw high volume combinations upwards to eight or ten shots in succession. This suffocates and breaks down his opponents who generally already work at a cardio disadvantage against the Stockton native. This will often result in a desperation takedown, and lead into Diaz’s high-level jiu-jitsu game off of his back where he has an arsenal of submissions to fall back on.
Watch specifically for Diaz to pop numerous jabs and straights in order to raise Lawler’s guard before ripping a long hook to the body. Lawler has found himself against the cage constantly as of recent and if he does so against Diaz, watch for Diaz to go forehead to forehead and bury hooks into Lawler’s ribs at a high volume. While Diaz has the jiu-jitsu advantage, Lawler is the more physical fighter and it may be enough to keep him safe from Diaz’s sweeps and transitions, so expect a lot of action on the feet.
Diaz vs. Lawler Prediction
Although they’ve fought once before and although they have sharpened their skills and evolved as fighters, the essence of what makes their styles have stayed relatively the same. However, there are a number of contributing factors that all but guarantee a different fight 17 years later.
In their first fight, Nick Diaz was able to goad an emotional young Robbie Lawler to step forward overly aggressively into the right hook. After years at the top against the who’s-who of competition, I do not see Robbie Lawler biting on Diaz’s taunts or challenges so easily. Having fought consistently over the years, expect Lawler to come in more comfortably off the bat and he also has an advantage in pure sharpness, technique, and power. Diaz, likely with more wear-and-tear over his career, may come off a bit sluggish in a tit-for-tat battle early against Lawler.
However, the fact that the co-main event will be contested over 5 rounds does lend itself to the benefit of Diaz. Lawler’s need to reset and work towards a second wind plays directly into Diaz’s game and if Diaz can make the most of that segment in the fight we could see Diaz pressuring Lawler, who will likely already be willing to edge up against the cage and add up the strikes. Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre put forth a couple of blueprints against the Diaz style, smothering wrestling and dynamic agile counter striking, but neither of these fall into the nature of Lawler as a fighter.
On the other hand, Lawler’s most recent losses have been a product of being outworked, which to some extent is exactly what Diaz wants to do. Although wrestling has been a large part of this against Lawler, being beat up against the cage, unable to match the output has also and Diaz thrives in the latter.
With both men having changed and evolved over the years and even more so in the last few, the fight can essentially be viewed as a coin toss (as evident by the odds.) However, if Diaz comes out after 6 years with the skills he left with, I believe the match-up favors his style.
Prediction: Nick Diaz to win via decision
UFC 266 is this Saturday night and will air live exclusively on
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.