Nate Diaz is stuck.

He is in the fighter’s conundrum, stuck between two weight classes, trying to decide where he would have a better chance to win UFC gold. He has been in this predicament before, moving up to welterweight for a brief four-fight stint after an unsuccessful run at lightweight. Now, after an unsuccessful bid for the lightweight belt and a follow-up loss to Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 7, he finds himself in the predicament again. But which path should he choose?

Going 2-2 in his welterweight stint, Diaz showed a lot of holes while facing guys who were bigger, stronger and had the wrestling to to neutralize anything Diaz could throw at them. Bored with what the lightweight division has to offer, Diaz may want to move back up to welterweight, but the decision would be a terrible career move for a fighter who has had a lot more success at 155 pounds than he has at 170.

Part of Diaz’s reasoning for a switch could be attributed to the placement of his teammate, Gilbert Melendez, in the lightweight title bout. Teammates tend not to fight each other, and with the potential for Melendez to emerge with the strap around his waist, Diaz had to be contemplating an alternate route to a championship. But Benson Henderson beat Melendez, and this would still leave open the chance at a title shot for Diaz if he can work his way back after his loss to Thomson. Going up to welterweight, Diaz would start even further down the totem pole and have to face tougher competition that is ill-suited for his skill set. Diaz has great jiu-jitsu, but almost every time he faces a wrestler, the skills seemingly disappear.

His fight with Rory MacDonald provides the only evidence needed for a convincing argument that Diaz should stick to lightweight. Diaz suffered three rounds of utter domination at the hands of MacDonald, who took Diaz down at will and suplexed him on more than one occasion. MacDonald was able to ragdoll Diaz then. Now, as a top-five welterweight, MacDonald would probably find it an even easier challenge.

And Diaz would have trouble with more than MacDonald at welterweight. Men like Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger, guys who have wrestling and the power to stop Diaz, would have an easy time with the Stockton native. Take him down, weaken him on the ground, then finish him off with a big shot towards the end of the fight—follow the blueprint of Thomson, it works. Top fighters like Ellenberger and Hendricks will follow it, and they’ll do so exponentially.

Diaz could earn another shot at Henderson at lightweight and face an easier—albeit still tremendously difficult—road to that title shot instead of facing a wrestler-heavy welterweight division and ultimately, in the unlikely event that he gets that far, its dominant champion, Georges St-Pierre. GSP was able to take down Nate’s brother, Nick, at will in their title fight, so what would be the difference against Nate? Absolutely nothing.

Diaz is an excellent lightweight and a top-10 fighter on any given day at lightweight, but at welterweight, his weaknesses are exploited and magnified. Moving up to welterweight is a terrible career move for Diaz. He should stick to lightweight, it provides his best opportunity to win a belt with a road to the title he has gone down before and one where his strengths, not his weaknesses, are highlighted.

Photo: Nate Diaz (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain you. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a diehard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Packers.