As Nick Diaz ends his six-year hiatus from the sport, it is fitting to take a look back across his long career at some of the cult-favorite fighter’s best performances. Beginning his career in his late teens, Nick Diaz would fight only seven fights before securing a WEC title. Two fights from there he was in the UFC. After completing an initial run in the world’s biggest promotion, Diaz would jump between such promotions as ELITE XC, PRIDE, and Strikeforce among others but return to the UFC with two bids for the belt and a massive superfight. Along the road, he made a name for himself using relentless boxing, wicked jiu jitsu, toughness and a chin unmatched by most. Here are the times he best brought these out in exciting fights.
Nick Diaz’s best fights
#3 – Diaz vs. Lawler at UFC 47
Before Nick Diaz was known as the boxing whiz he would become, he was primarily believed to be a Jiu Jitsu representative. Fighting out of Cesar Gracie’s school in California, Nick Diaz won most of his fights prior to UFC 47 by mounting his opponents and beating them until they didn’t have anything left to return.
Therefore, meeting Robbie Lawler in the UFC had most believe that although Diaz may be able to submit ‘Ruthless’, trading on the feet was a game he should avoid. The two fighters were just 20 and 22, Lawler the elder and already an infamous KO artist.
However, Diaz would move quickly to the center of the octagon, rushing Lawler with a hopping sidekick with little respect for Lawler’s power. The two young talents were evidently emotional, and taunting from Diaz easily drew the attention of Lawler to bite down on his mouthpiece and looked to trade back every time Diaz clipped him. At one point Diaz would land what would come to be known as ‘the Stockton slap’, before raising his hands challengingly and stepping forward with a stiff 1-2.
Lawler in response roared, flexed his muscles, and moved forward with a flurry, missing by a hair with a heavy right hook, which Diaz looked to counter but missed. This same move would not fail him later on however and he would step back in the second round with a slick right hook of his own and catch an emotional Lawler as he charged in. As Lawler fell forward, the ref stepped in and Diaz postured. Although Lawler tried his best to hide how hurt he was, he stumbled back and had to catch himself on the cage.
This fight would not only introduce Nick Diaz as the MMA boxer we now know, but it would also become a classic fight between two men who would go on to have historic careers afterwards.
#2 – Diaz vs. Penn at UFC 137
Originally booked to face champion Georges St. Pierre at UFC 137, Nick Diaz would be stripped of his title shot for playing hooky instead of showing up for his obligatory press conference. Already pinned a difficult fighter to play the company game with, Diaz was instead booked to take on BJ Penn as a replacement instead and he would make the most of the opportunity, making the eventual title fight even bigger.
The fight began competitively right away, with Diaz landing shots from the outside and Penn doing work in the pocket. Eventually, Penn shot for a single, but countering with a sacrifice throw of his own, Diaz and Penn would end up in a high-level scramble with BJ trying to take the back but failing to secure both hooks.
When the fight returned to the feet, Diaz would feint the right hook prompting Penn to lean back on the rear leg, frozen and in place when Diaz switched the punch into a straight right instead. Yet, the round was close and who had secured it on the scorecards was unclear as the two men walked to their corners.
Then came the talking. Inaudible for the crowd, Diaz put down his hands to start round two by seemingly taking Penn’s punches to the forehead purposely while bantering back at him. He would slap Penn’s punches away as if they were simply annoying and plotted forward. Penn would fire back but not enough to deter Diaz, who made his way forward pushing Penn to the cage. He battered the Hawaiian with shots to the body and head and did not relent for the remainder of the fight regardless of where in the octagon they moved. Penn had a couple of second and third winds but ultimately found himself being battered again by combos in the double digits.
After the fight, Diaz would yell into the mic his infamous “Where you at George?” as a challenge to the then-champion and his original opponent. The callout would be played and replayed across UFC programming until their eventual fight two years later.
#1 – Diaz vs. Gomi at PRIDE 33
How could Diaz vs. Gomi at PRIDE 33 not be at the top of this list? It contains every element that characterizes the Diaz style and a Diaz fight: cardio, boxing, blood, and high-level Jiu Jitsu.
The monumental Japanese MMA Promotion, PRIDE FC, was as big a stage as one could hope to find themselves on in the early to mid-2000s. For perspective PRIDE was housing over 52,000 fans by 2001, while UFC 32 played host to 12,500 the same year. Although PRIDE FC’s best days may have been behind it, it was a big deal when the promotion announced it would be bringing their ring to the States for the first time in 2007. It would also be the last, in fact, they would only put on one more show afterward before the promotion disbanded.
Headlined by Wanderlei Silva and Dan Henderson for the Middleweight title, Diaz and Gomi would find themselves in the co-main event. Although Gomi was the PRIDE lightweight champion at the time, the belt would not be up for grabs; however, a win over Gomi as the current champ would hold big implications for Diaz.
The bout started out with Gomi taking control, he took Diaz down and ground and pounded his way to a dominant first few minutes. Although Diaz fought well off his back, trying his best to attack armbars from the bottom, there was no question he was losing. When he eventually returned to his feet, Gomi, the former baseball standout, threw a right hook with the whip of a pitch that sat Diaz down.
However, with a minute and a half remaining, something in Gomi changed. Noticeably fatigued, Gomi dropped his hands and stumbled back as Diaz peppered him with shots to end the round. This would continue into the second as Diaz poured on the volume on a withering Gomi. In typical Nick Diaz fashion, a large gash opened on the side of cheek, enough for the ref to show concern but the show went on. As Gomi wilted further to Diaz’s relentless boxing, he went for a desperation shot and found himself tied up in Diaz’s high guard before being submitted by way of Gogoplata. The submission is so rare, it has only ever been executed by a handful of fighters in the entire history of MMA.
Diaz showed his granite chin, he was cut as per usual but with immense volume, slick boxing, and a wicked submission game he came back to win in a way that only Nick Diaz does. The only piece of this fight that might make a controversial entry on this list let alone #1, is the fact that it is not an official win on the record of Diaz. After the fight, a drug test would test so high for marijuana for the Stockton native that officials believe he must have been high in the ring. However, this in itself only lends itself to the lore of the ‘no damns given’ Nick Diaz that has captivated fans for so long.
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.