Nate Diaz appearedon Inside MMA the other day with Kenny and Bas, and as the Diaz brothers always do, provided some great, brutally honest sound bites. In the interview, Diaz suggested that he does not think he will win if his UFC Lightweight Title fight at UFC on Fox 5 against Benson Henderson goes to a decision. Trainer Cesar Gracie also appeared, and took things one step further, saying that neither Nick nor Nate has ever gotten a close decision, perhaps because the judges don’t care for their brash attitude.
Whether you love the Diaz brothers and Cesar Gracie or hate them (and I happen to love them), you have to admit that there is some merit to the sentiment that they can’t catch a break when it comes to close decisions. There are countless examples in the UFC of a Diaz opponent clinging on to either Nick or Nate, and not doing much damage other than maintaining top or clinch control. In virtually all of these instances, the opponent got the decision victory, notwithstanding the fact that Nick and Nate were the ones pushing forward and actually looking to inflict harm.
If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the Diaz brothers’ records in the octagon, as they are littered with decision losses suffered in this ilk. Not even counting the controversial Condit loss, Nick has lost decisions after being held down by Karo Parisyan, Diego Sanchez, and Sean Sherk. Nate suffered the same fate against Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Gray Maynard, and Dong-Hyun Kim. In none of those fights was either Diaz realistically in danger of being finished. Yet in all of those fights they were defeated on the score-cards, essentially on the basis of being held.
And that isn’t to say that a win by repeated takedowns and control isn’t a legitimate win, or that someone who employs that strategy necessarily should not be awarded the fight. It does say, however, that the Diaz camp’s claims about struggling to win a close decision against wrestlers have merit. And it isn’t just a problem for Nick and Nate. Time and time again we have seen judges award wrestlers for maintaining “octagon control” even where the loser was seemingly the only one looking to land any potential fight-ending attacks during the bout.
Further, Nate Diaz has reason to be concerned about this in his rapidly-approaching title fight against Henderson. “Smooth” has won all five of his fights in the UFC by decision, and his last six fights overall. Considering that he has only been finished once, the fight is probably a safe bet to last all five rounds. With Henderson’s wrestling background and strong clinch game, it is very easy to see the fight playing out similarly to some of the aforementioned Diaz decision losses.
Perhaps Diaz and Gracie putting the judges on notice in advance will result in the judges scoring the bout differently, as to avoid falling into the “give it to the guy on top” mindset that has screwed the Diaz brothers in the past. More likely? Diaz and Gracie are right, and if Nate can’t finish Henderson, there will not be a new lightweight champion at UFC on Fox 5.