The UFC welterweight title picture just became clear, as Georges St-Pierre defeated Carlos Condit at UFC 154. Yet, the title picture could become murky once more in Feb. 2013 when former Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz is available to compete in MMA again.
The Stockton bad boy hasn’t been seen in a cage since he lost to Condit at UFC 143 earlier in 2012. Diaz, visibly upset at Condit’s game plan, said he was stepping away from the sport. But Diaz hasn’t completely shut himself off from the MMA world, and his name has begun circulating with potential match-ups as his return grows near.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Diaz will even return to MMA, but given his competitive nature and desire to fight GSP, I’m leaning towards believing he’ll be in the cage very soon after February.
So, let’s take a look into the MMA crystal ball and attempt to predict how Diaz’s return to the UFC could shape up.
There’s obviously the GSP-Diaz fight that would be a huge payday for both men, along with the UFC. Of course, St-Pierre is coming off a very impressive performance in his return from ACL surgery, whereas Diaz is coming off a loss. That alone puts a halt to this potential fight, but if the GSP-Anderson Silva superfight talk falls through, Diaz could be one win away from facing the Canadian.
The most obvious match-up, however, is a rematch against Condit. “The Natural Born Killer” looked like he didn’t want to harm a fly in his attempts to evade Diaz’s forward attacks. He played a very smart game plan that worked to perfection against the overly aggressive Diaz. Unfortunately, it also cost the former interim champ quite a bit of fan support and drew the ire of UFC President Dana White. The UFC built the fight up as two offensive-minded fighters going to war, but it instead became a strategic battle that left many UFC fans feeling cheated.
But White may be a bit nervous about matching these two up again given the results from their first encounter, which leaves the door open for a number of guys to possibly square off with Diaz. Two names who are relevant enough to face a guy the caliber of Diaz would be Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger. Ellenberger fell to Kampmann, while Kampmann fell to Hendricks, sending both of their title hopes spiraling out of control. A fight with Diaz is beneficial to both as neither man has that big of a fanbase despite the results both men have produced in the cage.
The negative to Diaz facing either Kampmann or Ellenberger is, of course, it’s not exactly what anyone would call a big-name fight. If Diaz or the UFC wants a big-name fight outside of a rematch with Condit, we may see Josh Koscheck’s name start to float around. Koscheck isn’t relevant in the title picture at the moment, but he fought to a very close decision loss against No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks. A fight with Koscheck would have an insane amount of build-up, which in turn would equate to more pay-per-view buys for the UFC.
Of course, all this prospective thinking depends on whether Diaz chooses to return to the UFC or MMA at all. He’s always marched to the beat of his own drum and although I expect to see Diaz in the cage once more, it wouldn’t shock me if the process became as long and drawn out as “The Summer of LeBron” was a few years back.
Photo: Nick Diaz (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)