One of the main components of any MMA fight these days is the game plan or strategy. Long gone are the days in which fighters would just be able to train without much thought of what they would need to do inside the Octagon to get the win.

Head coaches are often given the task of devising a structure to their fighters’ training camps to ensure that by the time the fight comes around it won’t feel like they are implementing a predefined game plan, but it will feel like second nature.

In this feature, we will look to identify the underdog in an upcoming bout and examine what is required of that underdog in order to overcome the odds and predictions and get the all-important “W” in the win column. The point, then, is to step into the shoes of a head coach to break down the fight and provide a game plan for the underdog.

This week’s subject is Nathan Diaz, who squares off with Gray Maynard at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale In Las Vegas on Nov. 30.

We enter the finale of this season’s TUF show with history being made all around, given it is the first time that women have taken part in the long-running reality show. This is the first in what is sure to be a number of unique ways the UFC will seek to revamp the show over the next few years to refresh a model that is now perhaps a bit stale.

The women have really been the highlight of this season, and the fights themselves have attracted the most attention, largely delivering great fights and perhaps even more surprises than could be said of the men involved in the show. The fact that the women have been the main talking point of this season is also mirrored by the fact that 2013 may well be viewed as the year of the women overall in mixed martial arts.

What is certain is that despite this being the first time on the show and the first year that women have been involved in mainstream MMA, the women have most certainly been the more professional set of fighters on this season’s show. This season will perhaps be tarnished forever with the poor showing on the part of the men in failing to make weight, as if making weight was a part of the show they were not informed of prior to setting foot in the house.

As of yet the two fights for the TUF winner are yet to be fully set, although we do know that Chris Holdsworth will face off against England’s own Davey Grant on the men’s side. My own national bias aside, I feel that Grant has been an impressive figure throughout the show and has really come across well on the series.

On the other hand, the women’s fight is undecided at the present time, given the scheduling of the show itself. It will perhaps be the focal point of the show due to the unique selling point that it offers, but here we’ll focus on Diaz and Maynard.

The Breakdown

Once the newest Ultimate Fighter’s have been crowned, we come to the main event of the night, in which we have two top lightweight contenders in Maynard and Diaz. These two fighters have been near the top of the 155-pound weight division, but as of yet have been unable to obtain their ultimate goal of capturing the lightweight throne.

We have seen great fights between Maynard and Frankie Edgar for the belt, whilst Diaz was perhaps less competitive when he fought Benson Henderson for the UFC lightweight strap.

At present, both fighters are looking to work their way back into contention at lightweight from these defeats, even more so given the landscape of the division at present time. Champion Anthony Pettis will be sidelined for a decent amount of time, giving other lightweights the opportunity to place themselves in a good position when the champion eventually does return.

This will be the third time that Maynard and Diaz have faced off against each other competitively, despite Maynard being officially 1-0 over Diaz. Diaz defeated Maynard in the TUF 5 semifinals via submission in a bout that is classed as an exhibition and, as such, doesn’t count on his professional record. Maynard then evened the score some three years later.

There may perhaps be no more fitting a stage for these two to settle the score than during the finale of the newest Ultimate Fighter season.

The Strategy

Diaz has showcased a varied array of skills during his time within the UFC, and there is no one strategy that he needs adopt in order to ensure success. Instead, Diaz needs to keep his attacks varied and not be afraid of the dominant wrestling that Maynard undoubtedly possesses.

What is clear is that Maynard has developed confidence in his striking over recent years, which could be an area that Diaz looks to exploit. Diaz’s pure boxing is much more refined and relies less upon punching power than Maynard and more upon consistent volume punching. We could look to see Diaz utilizing effective distance control and combination punching over Maynard to dictate the pace of the fight.

If Diaz can keep Maynard moving backwards by using his combination punching, it will make it difficult for Maynard to really set his feet and throw the hard punches we have seen from him since leaving the Ultimate Fighter show. This is not to mention that it will also stop Maynard from setting up his takedowns and exploding past Diaz towards the cage.

It seems certain that Maynard will get the fight to the floor at some point. From there, it is key for Diaz to constantly work and shift his hips, looking for triangles, armbars or sweeps from the bottom in order to keep Maynard guessing and prevent Maynard from gaining confidence in his position from the top.

Photo: Nate Diaz (Sherdog)

About The Author

Greg Byron
Staff Writer
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Greg Byron started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.