The Juggernaut MMA News Report 03.07.13: Nick Diaz's Long Road to GSP
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 03.07.2013
A week before his highly anticipated fight with Georges St. Pierre, 411's Jonathan Solomon looks back at Nick Diaz's long road to a UFC title fight. Plus, news and thoughts on UFC's summer TV overhaul, Alistair Overeem's injury and more!
A LONG ROAD FOR NICK DIAZ
Nick Diaz has seemingly been around MMA forever and is not even 30-years-old yet, but now he is considered one of the top welterweights in the world. This was not the case overnight, let alone was he a contender in his first UFC stint between 2003 and the spring of 2006. It was three consecutive losses to Diego Sanchez, Joe Riggs and Sean Sherk which sent him packing for the first time.
Yes, he was involved in an altercation with Riggs in a Las Vegas hospital after his loss at UFC 52, and no matter which version of the story you have heard over the years, he was not fired because of it.
After returning home to Stockton, California to resume his fighting career, he received a call to return to the octagon to fill in for an injured fighter and compete against Josh Neer at UFC 62 in the summer of 2006. By the end of the year, he fulfilled his two-fight contract with a submission win over Neer and a TKO win over Gleison Tibau. It proved to be his last fight for the company for nearly five full years.
He signed to compete on the first Gracie Fighting Championships card in January 2007 against Thomas Denny but the show was cancelled for unknown reasons (they eventually put on the show that May). At that point, the upstart EliteXC promotion announced they signed Diaz and were granting him permission to fight at PRIDE FC 33 the best lightweight in the world, Takanori Gomi, in Las Vegas.
"I don't think he has anything to offer that I haven't seen before. I think I've fought tougher guys than him. The guys I've fought hit harder, were better wrestlers and better grapplers. What does he think he'll be able to do to me? I'm not intimidated at all and if he thinks he can knock me out that's fine. I think he'll be the one getting an ass beating so I hope he's ready." - Gomi before fighting Nick Diaz in 2007
Although Gomi opened cuts on his face, Diaz pulled off one of the most memorable upsets in MMA history courtesy of the gogoplata.
Of course, the win was overturned to a no contest because Nick tested positive for marijuana, one of the constant reminders in the career of the Stockton native and his penchant for the herb.
With PRIDE on its dying legs that year, Diaz made his debut in EXC by beating Mike Aina and then came a loss at the hands of K.J. Noons with the lightweight championship on the line. The fight was stopped because of cuts to his face, a situation some time later he sought to correct with facial surgery. It also proved to be the last time he competed at 155-pounds, returning to welterweight (and twice at catchweights).
From then, he went on a streak of finishes that lasted for seven fights between the United States and Japan (for DREAM). Although he knocked out Muhsin Corbbrey in Hawaii in the EXC cage, that June 2008 night was more famous for the near riot Diaz and his brother Nate incited in Hawaii, the hometown of Noons who had won in the main event.
Before they would ever have their rematch, Diaz finished the likes of Frank Shamrock, DREAM champion Marius Zaromskis, Scott Smith and Mach Sakurai.
When the two finally met, it was for Diaz's welterweight championship (he won the SF belt by stopping Zaromskis) and the two brawled for five rounds. With limited action on the ground, Nick's face withstood the barrage of punches over the course of the 25-minutes and took home the unanimous decision victory.
In his final two bouts in the Strikeforce cage, Diaz beat Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos by armbar and then knocked out Paul Daley in one of the best one-round fights you will ever see.
Nick returned to the UFC in 2011 by dismantling B.J. Penn and although his lack of playing team ball with the UFC (he missed press conferences) resulted in him being bounced out of a title fight with GSP, everything was looking great for one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. However, with Georges St. Pierre out of action with a torn ACL, he found himself in a fight with Carlos Condit and lost for the first time at UFC 143 in over four years.
Sure, he failed a second drug test in Nevada and was suspended for a year, but the UFC doesn't care about things like that. He was granted an immediate title shot with GSP because the champion knew what was best for business (sorry Johny Hendricks). Still, it's okay, because after all this time, we're finally getting St. Pierre and Diaz in nine days.
Bellator 92 on Spike Preview
Live Thursday fights return this week with the semifinals in both the middleweight and featherweight divisions. Note that next week, Bellator is off before returning on March 21 for a lightweight tournament championship fight between Dave Jansen and Marcin Held. Now, to the action you will see tonight:
Middleweight Tournament Semifinals
Dan Cramer vs. Brett Cooper
"Cosmo" Cramer earned a spot in this tournament and so far, he's making the most of it following a decision win over Brian Rogers on Valentine's Day. Now, on a three-fight winning streak, he will meet Brett "Fudoshin" Cooper tonight with the winner advancing to the tournament championship.
Cooper bested Norman Paraisy by decision last month, good for his fifth consecutive win. Although he put on display his improved grappling abilities in that fight, he's still a brawler and scrapper at heart. That's how he will have to win this fight because of Cramer's well-rounded game.
Going against a strong boxer in Baker, Cramer held his own and landed plenty of effective strikes of his own while not taking significant damage as well. If this is a brawl, perhaps it's a more even contest but on the ground, you have to like Cramer's odds.
Middleweight Tournament Semifinals
Doug Marshall vs. Sultan Aliev
Is it possible? Can Doug Marshall take one step further in perhaps his final quest for another championship in MMA? Since his Bellator debut, he has wrecked both of his opponents, first Kala Hose in November and then Andreas Spang last month in the first round. Each of those wins came by KO or TKO and inside the first round.
Sultan Aliev is now the lone European in this field and the Russian is still undefeated at 9-0 following his win over Denmark prospect Mikkel Parlo last month. The win by decision was Aliev's first in seven fights having previously finished six consecutive opponents with punches. His background is in Sambo so you may like his chances if his chin holds up, of forcing Marshall deep into the fight. After all, Doug has not been to the third round (or past the opening round at all) in over three years (as a matter of fact, he's been to the third round only twice in his 22-fight career and to a decision just once).
If Marshall cannot score another knockout early, is it possible Aliev wrestles him around and tires him out? You know that by training with Greg Jackson's camp in New Mexico, that has to be his strategy.
Featherweight Tournament Semifinals
Popo Bezerra vs. Mike Richman
Alexandre Bezerra never made it past the semis in the past but he's the favorite tonight. In season six, he fell to a split decision against Marlon Sandro but he's been on a tear since. A submission win to earn a spot in this tournament and then he opened the field by finishing Genair da Silva by armbar in 100 seconds in February.
He's an impressive grappler who is capable of enforcing his will against most opponents. In his career, he has 10 wins by submission (15 total) and seven of those came in the first round.
Mike Richman is the only American left and fighting out of Minnesota, he has been outstanding in Bellator with one lone exception. His first two fights with the promotion ended in a combined 1:46 thanks to a pair of knockouts against Chris Horodecki and Jeremy Spoon. However, he could not defend against eventual-tournament winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev's boxing and was knocked out. However, he bounced back last month to finish Mitch Jackson with a slew of combinations with his hands and legs.
This is a pretty basic match-up with Bezerra wanting a ground battle and Richman preferring to unleash his boxing. If Mike cannot fend off Popo's attempts to get to the ground, it may be a short night for him. Otherwise, he has the potential to pick him apart before he lands the deciding shots for a TKO win. Odds are, this fight is not going the distance.
Featherweight Tournament Semifinals
Frodo Khasbulaev vs. Marlon Sandro
Despite featuring the match-up with the biggest name, this also packs what may be the big upset on the show. That's because Marlon Sandro, who at one point in recent years was considered among the best in the world, was lackluster to say the least in his quarterfinal win last month. He earned a decision against Akop Stepanyan but was visibly wobbly in the second round after a head kick and was not able to do a whole lot of damage over the course of the three rounds.
Meanwhile, Magomedrasul "Frodo" Khasbulaev is another Sambo-trained Russian out of Greg Jackson's camp. He has won seven consecutive fights, finishing all but one of them. He's 3-0 in Bellator and advanced after choking out Fabricio Guerreiro last month. Now, he has been submitted four times in his career, so that may be telling.
Sandro has only lost twice in since coming to America, once by knockout against Pat Curran and then by decision against Daniel Straus. For Frodo to win, if he lands an effective combination or kick, he has to follow it up with a volume of strikes (Stepanyan failed to do this and lost). On the ground, while he was definitely impressive in the quarterfinals, he's not guaranteed to physically dominate Sandro.
A lot of people figure Marlon is on the downward trend in his career and is bound for another Bellator loss. I'm not 100% sold on that, at least not tonight, but this is a closer fight than most would have expected heading into the tournament.
JUGGERNAUT NEWS BRIEFS
- FOX announced their change in programming that was previously reported months ago. Beginning Saturday, August 17, what is currently the SPEED network will rebrand to FOX Sports 1. Part of the sports/brands featured on the new network will include the UFC, MLB (regular season games next year and select playoff games), college football, college basketball, NASCAR and soccer. What was also confirmed was a hefty increase in specific UFC programming.
First of all, the switch is great news for the fight promotion because automatically, they are back in the business of being featured regularly on a cable network with over 90 million subscribers (FX will be moving to a drama-based network at a yet to be announced time) as they were with Spike TV in the past.
The first live event on FSN1 will be a primetime card on August 17. A second live primetime card will take place in December. Plus, "UFC Tonight" will move from FUEL to the network while PPV and FOX prelims will also be featured on the new network.
- Breaking news last night courtesy of Ariel Helwani and it's of the injury variety. Alistair Overeem sustained an undisclosed injury which will keep him from training for up to five weeks and he has withdrawn from the planned fight with Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 in May. As of this morning, the promotion has not commented as to whether JDS will remain on the show and fight someone else (Mark Hunt has publicly stated his interest in it) or whether they will pull JDS, too, and have them fight this summer. Stay tuned.
- The season eight welterweight tournament finals in Bellator have been postponed until the summer because Douglas Lima suffered a broken hand in his semifinal win over Bryan Baker. He is set to fight Ben Saunders in a rematch of their season five finals match-up.
- One of the top contenders in the UFC's women's bantamweight division has herself an official fight. Former U.S. Olympic wrestler Sara McMann will fight Sheila Gaff at UFC 159 in Newark next month. She won silver at the 2004 Olympics and is 6-0 in MMA. Graff is a German fighter with a 10-4-1 record.
- UFC 161 has been confirmed this week for the promotion's debut in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 15 at the MTS Centre. Confirmed already is the main event between interim-bantamweight champion Renan Barao and Eddie Wineland, plus two light heavyweight fights with Dan Henderson against Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua versus Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Tyron Woodley will fight Jake Shields in welterweight action while heavyweights Stipe Miocic and Soa Palelei are also scheduled.
- Forrest Griffin hopes to return to the octagon in the fall after recovering from knee surgery in December to repair an MCL tear and a strain to his ACL. He was originally scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen at UFC 155, then Phil Davis but had to pull out of that match-up.
- A bantamweight fight between Erik Perez and Johnny Bedford has been added to April's UFC 159 show. A Greg Jackson fighter, Perez is 3-0 in the octagon while Bedford is 2-0.
THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER (SEASON 17) QUICK EPISODE REVIEW
In the penultimate fight of the first round, we saw an upset and perhaps the biggest one of the season so far. (Team Sonnen representative) Jimmy Quinlan displayed his superior grappling abilities by choking out Team Jones' number one overall pick, Clint Hester. Going into the match-up, the grappler was giving up a sizable advantage to the pro boxer but he did not let that stop him from implementing his game. In fact, Quinlan showed off a lot of strength which you wouldn't assume he possesses when he's not picking up and slamming his opponent several times. Hester landed several powerful strikes in the first round but Jimmy persisted with his dog-like attack. In round two, Quinlan scored another slam, took Hester's back and worked until the rear naked choke submission hold opened up which led to a tap out finish.
Next week is the seventh and final first round fight, matching a pair of MMA veterans against one another in Zak Cummings (Sonnen) and Dylan Andrews (Jones).
Cummings (15-3) is from Missouri and has fought in Strikeforce (submission loss to Tim Kennedy) and Bellator (submission win against Rudy Bears). His last defeat came in the spring two years ago at light heavyweight when he lost a five-round decision to Ryan Jimmo in Canada. He won two fights last year on small Missouri shows against career .500 fighters.
Andrews (15-4, 1 NC) hails from New Zealand and is a boxer by trade with 10 knockouts/tko's to his credit. His first career loss in 2008 came against Brian Ebersole by TKO while his last in 2010 came by submission against Jesse Taylor. He has a victory over Shonie Carter (in 2010) to his credit and has won his past four fights.
Next week, the coach's challenge will take place with Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen driving trucks in competitions. We may also find out which of the losing fighters will return in the wild card spot to complete the field of eight who make the quarterfinals. Right now, pending the outcome of the Cummings/Andrews fight, that spot should go to Clint Hester.