This Saturday night (Sunday midday AEST) Nick Diaz will take on Robbie Lawler in a five-round middleweight match in Las Vegas in a rematch of one of the most iconic fights in MMA history.
It was 17 years ago in UFC 47, way back in April 2004, that the pair last met, with Diaz emerging victorious.
The contest will see the long-awaited return of Stockton-born fan favourite Nick Diaz, a jujitsu fighter who was trained under the Gracie family banner.
The elder Diaz is usually part of a double act with his younger brother Nate, who is bound to accompany him to the octagon on Saturday night.
A notorious firebrand, 38-year old Diaz is often said to fight with a chip on his shoulder the size of the state of California. Like his younger brother, who is also uncomfortable with words, the usually media-shy Nick is famous for being able to endure an exorbitant amount of punishment in the octagon, so much that the Diaz brand itself has become shorthand for ‘megamoney fight, to fan delight. Pay-per-view numbers are virtually guaranteed to skyrocket when the Diaz name is chalked into the line-up of any given UFC card.
Nick Diaz last fought more than six and a half years ago, at UFC 183, against the legendary Anderson Silva. Originally a decision win for Silva, the result was overturned due to both fighters testing positive for substances that featured on UFC’s prohibitive list. Silva tested positive for steroids while Diaz found himself facing an 18-month ban for marijuana use.
In a move that will satisfy Diaz, the United States Anti-doping Agency revamped the rules at the start of the year so that athletes won’t be sanctioned if cannabinoids show up in both pre or post-fight drug testing. Diaz is known as a strong advocate for the widely used recreational drug.
Diaz was victorious in his first fight with Lawler even though his rival was widely expected to outstrike him. Diaz eventually managed to knock him out relatively early during the second round to secure himself the victory.
In pre-fight interviews Diaz argues that Lawler has neither evolved nor adapted his style that much since their first encounter, but that’s hardly true given that Lawler, 39, went through a career resurgence that culminated in him winning the UFC welterweight belt back in late 2014, when Diaz himself was about to serve his most recent ban from the sport.
Lawler is the tentative bookies favourite given that he has been largely active in the octagon during recent years. His last fight was a losing effort against Neil Magny back in August of 2020, and he is currently fighting on the back of four consecutive losses.
One peculiarity about Diaz is that he doesn’t like to exchange the usual line of pleasantries with his opponents. MMA fighters are often seen shaking hands and sometimes hugging each other, sometimes before but more often at the conclusion of fights, but Diaz prefers to deviate from this usual line of gamesmanship. And it’s not an unreasonable trajectory of thought given that MMA is a combat sport in which fighters often pay with the loss of their consciousness for any missteps.
Lawler is also not a fighter who likes to engage in pre-fight niceties or verbiage, preferring instead to settle the score in brutal fashion as a headhunter within the confines of the octagon.
Both fighters have a long history in the sport. Essentially speaking, they are marquee attractions and feature as the must-see de facto main event on a card that is headlined by featherweights Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega.
We won’t have to wait long to find out how this rematch is settled, with UFC 266 scheduled to start on Sunday afternoon at midday (AEST).