Who would have thought that after that exciting five round fight with Anderson Silva way back in 2015, we’d never see Nick Diaz in the octagon ever again?
After back-to-back title fight defeats against Carlos Condit and Georges St-Pierre, Diaz moved up to 185lbs to take on the greatest of all-time and despite his trademark wind up tactics and excellent striking he was well beaten in the end.
Following the bout both fighters tested positive for banned substances and the fight was overturned to a no contest, but the result of a positive marijuana test for Diaz meant USADA banned him for life.
After an appeals process the ban was eventually cut to 18 months, before another 12 month suspension for failing to report his whereabouts to USADA meant that he was finally free to fight again in April 2018.
He announced at the end of last year that he was preparing for a comeback in early 2021, although UFC president Dana White was adamant he didn’t want to fight. Diaz completed a test weight-cut for the welterweight division and after UFC 261 White confirmed he was indeed looking to fight and the UFC were going to make it happen.
The press conference announcement led to an immediate question about potential opponents and when Khamzat Chimaev was mentioned, the boss confirmed it was a possibility.
Chimaev made a huge impression after winning three fights in 66 days last summer. He was set for a bout against Leon Edwards that could have potentially set up a title shot, but after dealing with COVID-19 and lingering issues afterwards the bout was cancelled three times and the UFC moved on from it.
A fight between Diaz and Chimaev would be of huge interest to the MMA world but also the status of the welterweight division. Both men have a huge reputation and while they’re at different points of their career a win would just as beneficial for each fighter.
Because of Chimaev’s standing in the company at the moment, Diaz could potentially use a win to leverage himself into the title conversation while Chimaev would have a huge name on his resumé as he looks to run through the division too.
There are other names that are possibilities though, with the biggest arguably being the man who was KO’d in the UFC 261 main event – Jorge Masvidal.
The two had some words back and forth in the build up to Masvidal’s big fight against Nate Diaz, Nick’s brother, when the BMF title was created. Nate forever claimed that the real BMF in the MMA world was his brother Nick, so why not make that fight happen.
Masvidal will look to make big money in his next bout and needs a win after back-to-back losses to Kamaru Usman, while Nick will be keen to avenge his brother’s defeat and make a name for himself once again to prove that he still has it.
Should Masivdal prefer to fight someone nearer the top of the rankings instead, there is always the potential of a rematch against Robbie Lawler for Nick Diaz.
The two fought way back in 2004 at UFC 47 in a memorable fight that ended when Diaz got the knockout in the second round and their careers ran alongside each other. Lawler of course went on to win the welterweight title during his career while Diaz was suspended and now at the end of his career he has lost five of his last six fights.
It would be a way of seeing just where Diaz is at after so long away from the cage, and with two big names it would surely attract attention too.
An outside option could be Vicente Luque, who recently got a big win over former champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 260 with a first round submission. With the rest of the top of the division already booked up, this is arguably the biggest fight that Luque could get right now.
Colby Covington has already been confirmed as the next title challenger for Usman, while Gilbert Burns will fight Stephen Thompson at UFC 264 and Leon Edwards is fighting Nate Diaz at UFC 262.
Luque would provide a fun stylistic match up for the fans and would be a way for him to move into the upper echelons of the division with a big win, while Diaz would get to test himself against one of the top contenders to see where he really stands after so long away from competition.
It seems as though the UFC could look to move in the direction of Chimaev, but Masvidal could be the biggest fight to make. Regardless of what happens, it’s just great to see Nick Diaz back in the octagon.
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