UFC 135 breakdown: Diaz vs. Gomi
Nate Diaz (13-7) vs. Takanori Gomi (32-7)
In a thrilling pairing that is an early candidate for "Fight of the Night," Diaz is reviving his family rivalry with the Japanese superstar Gomi.
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Diaz, 26, is looking to rebound from successive losses at 170 pounds with his first lightweight bout since January 2010. Winner of the fifth season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Diaz has established himself as a viable fighter in the UFC, though he could never assemble a winning streak worthy of title consideration.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Cesar Gracie, Diaz has relied on his submission prowess to defeat the likes of Marcus Davis, Melvin Guillard, Kurt Pellegrino and Junior Assuncao. Meanwhile, Diaz has struggled with superior wrestlers, losing to Rory MacDonald, Dong Hyun Kim, Gray Maynard, Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida.
Diaz is still young in his career and possesses the skillset and work ethic to one day challenge for the title. It remains to be seen if the weight cut will impact his performance Saturday night.
Gomi, 33, is one of the most accomplished lightweights in history. The former Pride lightweight champion was once the most feared fighter in Japan as he assembled a streak of wins over Charles Bennett, Jens Pulver, Luiz Azeredo, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Hayato Sakurai.
In recent years, however, Gomi has struggled. "The Fireball Kid" has won only three of his last seven bouts and is currently coming off a submission loss to Clay Guida in January. Gomi's lone UFC win was a first-round knockout of Tyson Griffin last year, in which he proved he can still deliver the goods with his blazing fists.
This matchup is particularly compelling because of Gomi's past history with Nate's brother Nick Diaz. At Pride 33 in February 2007, Gomi battled Diaz in one of the most entertaining fights in mixed martial arts history. Gomi succumbed to a second-round gogoplata submission, though the decision was later overturned to a no contest after Diaz tested positive for marijuana.
Despite the post-fight drama, Gomi is clearly seeking retribution against a younger Diaz. Gomi's style has not changed much over the years. His wrestling is solid, but he's always willing to stand and trade.
On the other hand, Diaz is a mirror image of his older brother, though not quite as dangerous with his hands, nor as physically imposing with his size.
If the Stockton native can force his will on the southpaw Gomi and utilize his long reach to punish him, his blows should take their toll as the fight progresses.
Gomi can always land one big punch to change everything, but Diaz is the more multidimensional fighter. If Diaz dictates the pace, he will break Gomi down before submitting him late in the crowd-pleasing fray.
Verdict: Diaz via submission, Round 3