To paraphrase from Lisa Simpson’s analysis of Nelson Muntz, Diaz is like riddle, wrapped in an enigma, twirling nunchucks with his shirt off, sending hardcore fans into a tizzy every time there are even whispers that he might be readying to make a return to the Octagon.
The only fighter who generates the same kind of unwavering loyalty and constant praise from their committed followers is his younger brother Nathan.
People adore Diaz because he popularizes phrases like “wolf tickets” while vacillating between being dynamic and dominant inside the cage and delivering quixotic performances that no one else could possibly match.
As the UFC continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, here’s a look back some of the standout UFC performances in the career of Nick Diaz.
UFC 47 VS. ROBBIE LAWLER
This was a showdown of two of the welterweight division’s brightest up-and-coming talents, with Diaz, 20, entering on a three-fight winning streak, having won his UFC debut seven months earlier, and Lawler, 22, standing as the future star of the Miletich Fighting Systems camp.
Lawler’s lone loss to that point was due to a hip injury and he was revered for his ability to take a punch. Diaz, on the other hand, sported an 8-2 record, and was viewed as a jiu-jitsu specialist. While he’d earned three finishes due to strikes, those victories were earned with volume, not single-shot power.
Diaz came out of the gate with a hopping side kick, then started taunting Lawler, gesticulating in a manner that would become his trademark, but was brand new at the time. Diaz caught him with a clubbing right hand less than a minute in that caused Lawler to lose balance and momentarily have a knee on the canvas, which drew a smile from Lawler and sent him on the offensive.
Diaz weathered the flurry and eventually resumed walking down Lawler, taunting him further, talking to him, and hitting him with an open-hand slap we today know as “The Stockton Slap,” putting the 22-year-old rising star on wobbly legs two minutes into the opening round. After a brief clinch, they resumed trading blows, each man landing, each man responding in kind, neither showing any signs of backing down through the opening five minutes.
Diaz pressed forward to start the second, but Lawler landed the first good shot, backing the 20-year-old up momentarily. As soon as he reset, Diaz was back applying pressure, sticking a long jab in Lawler’s face and attacking with low kicks. They worked their way to the center of the cage, pawing at each other, trading occasional connections when Diaz offered a quick counter right hand that landed flush.
Lawler straightened up as soon as it connected, then did a face plant in the middle of the cage, prompting the referee to immediately step in and stop the fight.
The jiu-jitsu specialist had knocked out the knockout artist, and more importantly, Nick Diaz established the template for what a classic Nick Diaz performance would look like in the future.
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UFC 57 VS. JOE RIGGS
The welterweight combatants had jawed with one another throughout the week, creating added tension between the two, and then on fight night, Riggs emerged victorious, kicking off the pay-per-view main card with a unanimous decision win, rallying from a tough first round and a pair of broken hands to batter Diaz over the final 10 minutes.
Diaz was unhappy with the decision and both men were transported to the hospital, where the fight continued.
Yes, you read that correctly — the fight resumed at the hospital.
Diaz started talking junk to Riggs, who was strapped to a gurney and covered in Diaz’s blood. Riggs walked past Diaz’s room, the two started jawing back-and-forth, and Diaz got up and blasted Riggs with a punch that sent his tooth flying, kicking off Round 4….in the hospital.
This remains one of the wildest stories in UFC history and is the subject of a terrific episode of Fightlore that you should definitely check out. https://ufcfightpass.com/video/140081/fightlore-er-brawl-nick-diaz-vs-joe-riggs
While some might question how a unanimous decision loss can be considered one of Diaz’s top performances, it’s the totality of things with Riggs that makes this a signature Diaz moment — the animosity between the two, the frustrating loss, the continued trash talk, and the wildness that ensued after the fact are all part of the Nick Diaz experience and contributed to his emergence as the sport’s reluctant, enigmatic superstar.