One of the most polarizing fighters in UFC history is coming back to the Octagon.
Nate Diaz’s UFC future seemed bleak earlier in June when he called out UFC President Dana White for not giving him desirable opponents. But Diaz finally got his wish.
Diaz will fight Khamzat Chimaev in the main event at UFC 279 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. This will be Diaz’s last fight under his current contract.
Whether he is beaten to a bloody pulp and yet continues to battle with his zombie-like stamina, or demoralizes an opponent from the get-go, there is no denying the attraction of a Nate Diaz fight. He is a special personality, an all-time seller, and a mythical being of sorts to fighting fans.
With the sun possibly setting on Diaz’s compelling career, let’s take a look back at his best performances in the Octagon.
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5. Nate Diaz vs. Gray Maynard (The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate Finale – Nov. 13, 2013)
Coming off two losses against Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight Championship and Josh Thomson, Diaz’s warrior-spirit was deemed to kick in and lead him to victory.
Diaz and Maynard split their first two bouts, but it was the Stockton, Calif. native that walked out of Las Vegas with a knockout win to end their six-year feud.
Maynard sent Diaz to the mat, but Diaz quickly recovered, pummeled away at Maynard with rocking 1-2s, and defeated him by standing TKO in the first round. Diaz then earned the first Knockout of the Night bonus of his career.
4. Nate Diaz vs. Kurt Pellegrino (UFC Fight Night 13 – April 2, 2008)
Diaz was on a roll heading into his fight with Kurt Pellegrino, winning four straight.
Nate was overshadowed by the success of his older brother, Nick, during this time in his career, but after the younger Diaz executed a stunning triangle choke against the expert wrestler Pellegrino, Nate would no longer play second-fiddle.
He announced himself to the world with double middle-fingers after the bout. The story of Nate Diaz was just beginning.
The fight itself was not a classic, but it nonetheless solidified Diaz as a force-to-be-reckoned-with.
3. Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller (UFC on Fox: Diaz vs. Miller – May 5, 2012)
Diaz is a bona-fide brawler, but his grappling skills are nothing to overlook.
Jim Miller, the winningest fighter in UFC history, had not been stopped inside-the-distance in 24 fights. But Diaz never shies away from an opportunity to make history.
He locked the wrestling-savant Miller in a crushing guillotine in round two, and would go on to face Henderson for his first and only shot at a UFC title.
2. Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone (UFC 141 – Dec. 30, 2011)
It may not look like it now, but Donald Cerrone was a stud, a ruthless kick-boxing machine in the prime of his career in 2011.
UFC 141 emanated from Vegas, and you know the deal, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Diaz left Cerrone’s soul in Sin City. Utilizing his serpent reach and pinpoint striking, Diaz took it to “Cowboy,” and defeated the venerable lightweight in three rounds.
It was this victory that solidified Diaz as an elite, top-tier lightweight contender.
1. Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor (UFC 196 – March 5, 2016)
Diaz was not supposed to be in this fight. UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos pulled out two weeks before the event due to a broken foot, and UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo declined to fight because it was too rushed.
But Diaz was ready for the call, albeit against a Conor McGregor that had become the biggest icon in UFC history. Diaz was so composed and just so good.
“Mystic Mac” was hot coming out of the gates, throwing hurtful jabs Diaz’s way. The Stockton bad boy recovered in round two, thwarting McGregor’s attack and getting him to the ground.
Diaz avoided a takedown shot from McGregor and placed a rear-naked choke on the Irishman’s neck, leading him to tap-out.
Diaz’s victory launched a bitter, hateful rivalry with McGregor, which would culminate with a rematch at UFC 202, the most bought UFC pay-per-view of all-time.
McGregor avenged Diaz in their next bout, but UFC 196 certified Diaz as a mega-star that could fight anyone at any time with an unrivaled intensity.