In a perfect world, this would be a five round fight as it has the potential to be a fight of the year candidate. It has a consensus top ten lightweight in Donald Cerrone attempting to win his seventh fight in a row since his loss to current UFC title contender Benson Henderson at WEC 48. But Nate Diaz is and has always been one of the toughest guys around to fight. If Cerrone does beat Diaz, which he is favored to do, he could go on to challenge the winner of the Edgar-Henderson title fight in February.
In the last few years the type of guys that have given Diaz issues have been fighters that have been able to control him via wrestling. With the exception of Maynard (who beat Diaz in what was pretty much a hotly debated striking match), all the guys that beat Diaz did it by controlling him like Guida, Stevenson, Kim, and MacDonald. Basically, the way those guys beat Diaz is not going to be the way that Cerrone would attempt to beat Diaz. This is going to be a striking contest, and that’s where Diaz has the best shot to win this fight. After losing two straight at welterweight, Diaz dropped back down to lightweight and proceeded to crush Takanori Gomi at UFC 135. Traditionally, Gomi has had an amazing chin and yet Diaz still dropped Gomi badly in that fight, and eventually tapped him out via armbar. It was one of the best performances we’ve ever seen out of Nate, he looked like he has developed and added a lot more power to his boxing.
But as good as Diaz looked against Gomi, Cerrone was even more impressive against Dennis Siver. In the build up, Cerrone was constantly remarking that he was going “to show the world what real kickboxing looks like”, and he did that in the span of 2 minutes and 22 seconds. Landed a beautiful headkick that made Siver look like he got hit by a car, and he finished him later with a rear naked choke. It seems that Cerrone has gotten over a habit that he had in his earlier WEC fights, where he was a slow starter that would take punishment in the first frame before showing what he was capable of later in the fight. That quirk briefly showed up in Cerrone’s UFC debut against Paul Kelly at UFC 126, but he’s quickly moved beyond that. Not to mention, Cerrone now has much better wrestling than he used to although we haven’t seen it much since his fight with Jamie Varner at WEC 51. But as I said earlier, I doubt we’re going to see Cerrone attempt to beat Diaz via wrestling.
I imagine that if Nate Diaz does win, he will not get the next title shot and will instead be giving another top fighter on a multi-fight win streak. But if Cerrone does beat Diaz, whether it’s by finish or decision, I think he’ll have to get the next title shot. Other than Gilbert Melendez on Strikeforce, there is no one under Zuffa contract that has the momentum and streak of wins that Cerrone has at this point. Should be an awesome fight.