UFC 241 was one hell of a card and the biggest star to come out of it HAD to be Nate Diaz. Diaz returned from a 3 year hiatus to put on a masterful performance against Anthony Pettis who is resurging at 170. Even with all the benefits Pettis seems to get from fighting at 170 Diaz still ran through him and made it look easy. There has always been the question of “Can Diaz draw without Conor’ and that question got answered as Diaz got all the media attention and the crowd actually cleared out after his fight before DC defended his heavyweight title in the main event.
After the fight was over we all waited for Diaz to get on the mic and call out Conor McGregor for the big trilogy money fight and our jaws hit the floor when Nate instead called out the UFC’s current hottest fighter in Jorge Masvidal instead! The trilogy fight with Conor is always there and always an option, but Conor’s MMA future is still uncertain. Nate made the best move he possibly could be completely ignoring McGregor and focusing on a current fan favorite instead. This accomplishes multiple goals all at once. First, it probably pisses Conor off. With him sitting on the sidelines he is being shown that the show will in fact go on without him. Second, Nate is showing the UFC and the fans that he can survive on his own without Conor and simply doesn’t need him anymore. Lastly, it sets up the perfect fight!
George “Gamebred’ Masvidal has been around basically forever in the sport of MMA and somehow is only 34 years old. We first saw him when he was on YouTube fighting in the streets with Kimbo Slice as a young man. He transitioned from being a street fighter in 2003 to being a professional mixed martial artist. Since then he has fought anybody and everybody and even though he is incredibly skilled he has flown under the radar and never rose to the heights he could have achieved because of his “any time, anywhere’ attitude. Masvidal is a very fluid striker and has an underrated ground game, but similar to Diaz he throws the game plan out the window regularly in favor of throwing down in the center of the cage and seeing who falls over first. He tends to lose decisions because of how insanely durable he is when his opponents are smart enough to stick to a game plan that favors the sport of MMA just enough to win on the judges score cards.
Gambred and Diaz share common ground in that they both fought at 155 for the majority of their careers, but now they are too big to make that cut and they have both filled out at 170. If the UFC manages to put this fight together it would be worthy of headlining its own card because you don’t have bigger stars right now than these two. Even without a belt I would expect this fight to headline a pay per view. Masvidal got serious at the end of 2017 and disappeared fornearly 2 years. When he returned he completely derailed the hype train that was Darren Till knocking him out in the second and he parlayed that into his UFC record holding flying knee KO of Ben Askren earlier this year.
Nate was a similarly underappreciated fighter for the majority of his career until he stepped up on short notice to face the UFCs fastest rising star Conor McGregor back in 2016 and we all know how that ended up. After submitting Conor the pair rematched later that year and Conor was able to stick to a game plan and win a decision with the Judges. We assumed Nate would sit out until the trilogy manifested, but he surprised us all striking while the iron was hot and taking all the push from Pettis and putting that shine on himself. He is parlaying that into an even bigger fight with Masvidal and should he win that fight I expect he would finally get that title shot.
These two are very similar in the way they fight. Neither wants to take a step backwards and both pressure their opponents well. While Diaz has a more high volume boxing heavy style Masvidal has a power advantage. Should this fight hits the mat I believe that Diaz has a BJJ advantage, but Masvidal might be the better wrestler. I wouldn’t expect this fight to go to the ground unless somebody got clipped and dropped because neither of these men shoot for takedowns. It would be an absolute barn burner and I would expect the line to be about a pick em with the way these two match up. I would be willing to bet that even with the kind of damage these two are capable of that both of their toughness would be the story of the fight. If this fight gets made I will look to play an over if I can get it at any kind of good price.
The story only gets more interesting from here. Gamebred has already called out McGregor and UFC President Dana White has stated that he thinks Conor is too small to fight Masvidal. This statement upset Conor and may have been a shrewd business move by Dana to provoke Conor into a fight. With how similarly Diaz and Masvidal fight it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Conor showed up to that fight in order to challenge the winner. Conor has been on record only wanting a rematch with Khabib, but a big money fight against the winner of Masvidal vs Dias would very likely be enough to catch his attention. The winner would undeniably be the UFC’s current biggest star and with both fighters having history with Conor it would be an easy fight to make and the fans would eat it up.
We know all about Conor’s left hand and the power it carries, but I don’t think that Dana White is wrong. Conor fought at 145 and struggled against Diaz at 170 because he most definitely is the smaller fighter. He would have the same exact issue with Masvidal and I honestly think Masvidal would be a bigger problem for Conor due to his power advantage. Conor’s striking power doest seem to translate at 170. He can end people at 145 and 155 with a single shot, but at 170 he has to be more of a tactical point fighter and that wont work against a fighter like Masvidal. Against Diaz he is able to stick and move and use a speed advantage making Diaz pay for his lack of a game plan. After sharing a cage with Diaz twice already I think Conor would be able to figure him out and manage to win another decision. I don’t know that this strategy would work against Masvidal however who knows how to circle and cut the cage off. I think the fight would be competitive early but Conor slows down in a big way after round 3 and after he did I think Masvidal would stalk and corner McGregor and be the first fighter to end his night by KO.
The real winners here are us, the fans! Any of these fights would be an absolute treat for us to watch and we can only hope we eventually get to see all 3 matches.