August 11, 2016

UFC: Nick Diaz vs. Chael Sonnen Makes A Lot of Sense Right Now

By Adam Martin

One of the big rumors floating around the MMA Twittersphere right now is that Nick Diaz – who is eligible to return to the UFC now that his marijuana-induced suspension is up – will next fight Chael Sonnen, who is rumored to come out of retirement since his two-year PED suspension is now over.

It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense for both fighters, and here’s why.

First off, both men are sizable draws, and at a time when the UFC is desperate to sell pay-per-views, Diaz and Sonnen returning at the same time is huge for the company. Both men have proven time and time again that they can sell a fight with their mouths and then back it up in the Octagon, even if neither has won a fight recently. That’s another reason why this fight makes sense, for although both men are draws, neither is a title contender, so instead of giving either guy a completely undeserved title fight, they can fight one another in a superfight for the fans.

Sonnen hasn’t fought since late 2013 and overall is 3-3 since 2011, and 1-3 in his last four fights, while Diaz hasn’t fought since early 2015 and is 1-2, 1 NC over his four fights since 2011. Both men have very similar records, and both have a common opponent in Anderson Silva, something which would help with the highlight-reel promo package for this potential bout. The fact both have had long layoffs means neither man should be at much of an advantage or disadvantage due to them not being active as of late.

The weight class might be a potential issue, as Sonnen most recently competed as a light heavyweight, while Diaz last fought Silva in a middleweight bout. But for the right amount of money, there’s no doubt Sonnen would be motivated to lose some weight and make the tough weight cut to middleweight, while for Diaz, the right amount of money would no doubt motivate him to move back up from his normal welterweight weight class for another money fight at 185 lbs.

The size difference might give the advantage to Sonnen, who was one of the most successful takedown artists during his time in the UFC while Diaz has always been poor at defending takedowns, but Diaz also has an incredible guard on the ground, and we’ve seen Sonnen get tapped out from top (the first Silva fight) while we’ve seen Diaz earn a sub win from the bottom (the Takanori Gomi fight). That makes for a really intriguing matchup. Not to mention the fact that if Diaz can in fact defend Sonnen’s takedowns and keep the fight upright, he’ll be at a huge advantage (although of course that’s not going to be easy to do against a wrestler of Sonnen’s caliber).

But the number one reason this is the fight to make is that it’s a fight the UFC can sell. As mentioned above, both Diaz and Sonnen know how to sell tickets. Think back to Diaz’ “wolf tickets” comment for his fight with Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158, and Sonnen’s “tell your wife to make me a steak” comments to Silva after he beat Brian Stann at UFC 136. These guys know how to talk trash and get the audience interested. You want to know why Diaz and Sonnen both got title shots coming off of losses (against GSP and Jon Jones, respectively)? It’s not because either guy earned it, because they didn’t. They got their title shots because the UFC knew they could promote their fights and knew the fans would pay to watch those fights. And the UFC surely knows matching up Diaz with Sonnen would accomplish the same thing.

At a time when the UFC is much more about sports entertainment rather than competition, these sorts of money fights are going to become more popular and happen more often, so get used to them. We've already seen it with Conor McGregor moving up from 145 lbs to 170 lbs not once, but twice during this calendar year to take on Nate Diaz. We might see it with Tyron Woodley bypassing Stephen Thompson for a bigger-name fight for the welterweight crown. Heck, if Brock Lesnar is cleared by USADA somehow, don't be shocked if he gets a title shot himself because it's the biggest-name fight available. At least Diaz vs. Sonnen won't be for a title. It's just a fun fight for the fans that might not be the ideal fight from a rankings or merit point-of-view, but from a business standpoint, makes all the sense in the world.

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