After three rounds of back-and-forth, stand-up striking action, Nate Diaz won a unanimous decision over Michael Johnsonon Saturday in a lightweight main card UFC on FOX bout. Diaz had not fought in more than a year but looked refreshed and sharp in outstriking and earning 29-28 scores from all three judges.
Diaz also had to show resilience as Johnson landed dozens of shots throughout the contest. Early on, Johnson scored nearly at will with leg kicks.
By the second half of the first round, however, Diaz began to loosen up and score with his jab. He also chased his lead jab with his straight cross, over and over.
Diaz began to taunt Johnson at this point, talking and pantomiming with his hands. As the long and tall Diaz connected with the one-two, he also stayed mostly just outside of Johnson’s punching range.
After the horn, Diaz continued to talk trash.
Johnson opened the second round with a huge left hand to the head. As he would all fight long, however, Diaz ate the punch without flinching and continued to pile on with jabs and crosses.
For his part, Johnson kept at it with leg kicks and more big left punches to the head, while mixing in body shots. Despite fighting out of Florida, Johnson did not have the favor of the Orlando crowd, as a "Di-az!" chant filled the arena for the second time of the fight.
By the middle of the round, the two men stood and traded punches, with Diaz clipping Johnson over and over with his cross and then pointing at him and laughing. Johnson stayed focused and was able to keep on landing his own left hooks and straights.
The second ended with Diaz as the aggressor on a slowing Johnson.
In the third, Johnson largely stayed away from the leg kicks with which he’d earlier had success. He continued to throw and land punches to the head with volume but the story of the period was Diaz’s one-two.
Over and again, Diaz snapped Johnson’s head back with his right jab and left straight, talking and taunting throughout. Still, Johnson doggedly pursued him, and the round ended with the Blackzilian scoring a takedown.
The scrapping was allowed to continue by the referee after the final horn, however, when he didn’t get between the two men. As a result, Diaz continued to fight and extended Johnson’s leg out in a knee bar, and got in one last taunt, raising his right arm in victory.
Visibly and understandably upset, Johnson rose to his feet after the ref finally stepped in and yelled at Diaz. Though he looked like a man expecting to get the nod, a disappointed Johnson shook hands and embraced Diaz after the decision was announced.
In his post-fight interview, Diaz went on a profanity-laced tirade calling out Conor McGregor that was censored on the television broadcast.
The win is Diaz’s first since 2013 and improves his record to 18-10. Johnson’s loss is his second straight and drops his mark to 16-10.