July 3, 2016

Who Should Nick Diaz Face In His Return?

By Adam Martin

One of the UFC's biggest needle movers is close to returning to the Octagon.

Nick Diaz, who hasn't fought since testing positive for marijuana metabolites and being suspended following his No Contest with Anderson Silva at UFC 183, will have his suspension lifted next month, at which time he will be free to fight again for the UFC.

The UFC can even book him for a fight now, and MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani reported the promotion considered scheduling him for a welterweight fight against Gunnar Nelson at UFC 202, which is headlined by Nick's brother Nate fighting Conor McGregor in a rematch. The UFC chose not to book the two brothers on the same card because they didn't want that distraction, but the fact that the organization was interested in the matchup means they are already brainstorming matchups for Diaz.

With Diaz' looming return in mind, here are some possible opponents for "The Stockton Bad Boy" when he comes back to fight in the Octagon.

Gunnar Nelson: This is the rumored matchup, and it's a fun one. Both Diaz and Nelson have outstanding striking attacks, with Diaz possessing some fantastic boxing and Nelson owning some sweet karate skills, but both men also have incredible ground games and the ability to pull off slick submissions. Diaz hasn't won a fight in nearly five years, and while he is a draw, if the UFC wants to put him in another title fight then he'll have to get back in the win column. A win over Nelson, who is ranked in the top15, would be very legit, and it would set up Diaz for a fight with a top-10 or even top-5 opponent.

Conor McGregor: McGregor is the UFC's biggest draw, but Diaz is definitely up there. If McGregor beats Nate at UFC 202, then a matchup with Nick next makes a lot of sense if McGregor decides to stay at welterweight. Sure, it holds up the featherweight division, but the UFC is a money-making business, and a fight between McGregor and Nick would do bonkers at the box office, particularly if McGregor finishes Nate and the UFC is able to promote the revenge angle.

Rory MacDonald: MacDonald is a free agent and there's no certainty that he re-signs with the UFC, but if he does, he'll need to fight someone coming off of a loss as he looks to rebuild himself as a title contender, and Diaz would be a suitable opponent (though technically the fight with Silva was deemed a No Contest because Silva was popped for PEDs). Stylistically, Diaz vs. MacDonald is a really intriguing matchup between two well-rounded fighters, and the UFC could probably promote it as the main event of a pay-per-view card even with both men not having much success in their recent fights.

Carlos Condit: The UFC just booked Condit for a fight at UFC 202 against Demian Maia, but a rematch with Condit and Diaz is something fans have asked for since their controversial bout at UFC 143 in 2012. The timing may not work out well if the UFC wants to put Diaz back in their rotation as soon as he's eligible to come back, but if the plan is to have him wait a bit, then Condit makes sense as an opponent. Come to think of it, Maia does as well.

Robbie Lawler: Diaz absolutely does not deserve a title shot. After all, he hasn't won a fight since beating BJ Penn in 2011. Having said that, a rematch between Lawler and Diaz would be incredible. These two met way back in the day at UFC 47 in 2004, with Diaz knocking out Lawler. 12 years later and it's still the lone KO loss on Lawler's resume, which is incredible. Lawler obviously is a much better fighter now, but a rematch between these two is extremely intriguing. Again, this one is unlikely because Diaz really needs to win a fight, but it wouldn't be the first time a fighter coming off of a loss got a title shot. It would be a real blockbuster if it happened.

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