Nick Diaz's return to the octagon was a big story in 2021. The former Strikeforce welterweight champion made his UFC return after a 6-year hiatus when he fought 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler. This was a rematch of their first bout 17 years ago, which saw Diaz knockout Lawler at UFC 47.
The rematch was originally scheduled to be contested at 170lbs, but the fight was later moved to 185lbs.
Diaz came up short in September, losing via third-round TKO. Diaz was effective in the first-round, but the former UFC welterweight champion took over as the fight progressed. Following the bout, there were many questions regarding his future and whether he’d like to compete again.
If Diaz decides to compete again in 2022, he should only compete against somebody at a similar stage of their career.
Instead of competing against guys like Khamzat Chimaev or Belal Muhammad, perhaps another veteran at 170lbs makes the most sense. This list will look at 5 opponents for Nick Diaz if he chooses to compete in 2022.
#5. Nick Diaz vs. Matt Brown
Kicking-off this list of possible opponents for Nick Diaz if he returns in 2022 is Matt Brown. ‘The Immortal’ would be a great veteran for Diaz to compete against. He is coming-off an impressive second-round knockout win over Dhiego Lima, which earned him a Performance of the Night bonus.
Brown’s fighting style has made him a fan favorite in the UFC. The UFC star’s 14 finishes are the most in the history of the UFC’s welterweight division. Brown also holds the record for most knockouts in the history of the UFC welterweight division with 12.
Diaz vs. Brown could be a realistic option and would make for an entertaining fight. Furthermore, Diaz would be fighting somebody he hasn’t fought or defeated in the past.
#4. Diaz vs. Diego Sanchez 2
Another fight that would make sense for Nick Diaz is a rematch with former TUF winner Diego Sanchez. Despite Sanchez no longer being employed by the UFC, it’s still possible for him to return for one more fight. The UFC released Sanchez after his then-coach Joshua Fabia caused trouble between the fighter and the promotion.
With Sanchez no longer affiliated with Fabia, perhaps the promotion will give him another chance to have closure on his career. UFC President Dana White has spoken highly of Sanchez as a fighter and a person since his release.
Diaz and Sanchez fought in 2005, which saw Sanchez pick up a unanimous decision win. It was an entertaining fight and ended up being one of Sanchez's biggest wins. Unlike the Lawler rematch, the 38-year-old might be open to fighting Sanchez again because he’d be able to avenge a loss.
#3. Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal
Another possible opponent for Diaz if he fights again in 2022 would be Jorge Masvidal. ‘Gamebred’ is currently coming off back-to-back losses to current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, so a bout with Diaz would make sense.
If Masvidal doesn’t end up fighting his former teammate Colby Covington, a bout with Diaz would be another lucrative option. 'Gamebred' currently holds the ‘BMF’ title, which he won after defeating Nate Diaz at UFC 244. The UFC could do something interesting and have Masvidal vs. Nick Diaz be contested for the ‘BMF’ title.
Diaz might be up for a different challenge and could choose to pursue a bout with Masvidal. Styles make fights and Diaz wouldn’t have to be put in a position where he’s defending takedowns the entire clash. Diaz could also get his name back in the welterweight title picture should he defeat the sixth-ranked Masvidal.
#2. Diaz vs. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson
Another possible opponent for Nick Diaz, if he decides to fight again in 2022, would be Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. ‘Wonderboy’ is currently coming off back-to-back unanimous decision losses to Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. He went into his fight with Muhammad as the fifth-ranked welterweight, so his ranking is expected to drop after the loss.
Thompson could have his sights set on a lucrative bout with Diaz, given the back-to-back losses. This was the second time in two years that 'Wonderboy' has lost consecutive fights.
Thompson, however, has defeated many notable fighters in his career. This includes Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Robert Whittaker.
'Wonderboy' and Diaz have competed against grapplers in the past, so it'd be refreshing to see the two strikers go at it. It’d be interesting to see whether Diaz would be able to get in Thompson’s head or if Thompson could frustrate Diaz. With that said, a potential Diaz vs. Thompson fight could be very appealing for fans in 2022.
#1. Diaz vs. Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone
Topping this list of opponents for Diaz, if he chooses to compete again in 2022, is Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. Throughout his career, Cerrone has been a true company guy for the UFC. He has stepped in on short notice multiple times in his UFC career.
Cerrone has also been one of the most active fighters in the UFC by competing 3-4 times each year. 2021 was different as he only fought once, which was a TKO loss to Alex Morono. Although Cerrone hasn’t won a fight since 2019, his 23 wins in the octagon are the most in UFC history. Cerrone is also tied with current UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira for most post-fight bonuses in UFC history.
With both Diaz and ‘Cowboy’ being on losing streaks, a bout between the two would make sense. If Cerrone ends up having one more fight in the UFC, taking on a big name like Diaz could be added motivation.