Nate Diaz has sent fight fans into a frenzy by hinting at a return to the Octagon in 2021. The Stockton brawler has been out of the Octagon for over a year, having made his last appearance at UFC 244. Nate Diaz stepped into the ring against Jorge Masvidal for the BMF title in January 2019. After sustaining a nasty laceration to the right side of his face, Diaz was stopped from fighting further and has since been away from the Octagon.
Earlier this year, UFC president Dana White has confirmed that a Nate Diaz return is already in the works. At the start of an action-packed 2021, Dana White said from Fight Island, Abu Dhabi:
"We’re working on a Nate Diaz fight right now, and it’s not Tony. But if we get it done, I think you’re gonna like it. It would put him in a really good position if he won the fight, and the guy who he could potentially be fighting, I think it’s a great fight for him, too."
After going 2-3 in his last five fights in the lightweight division, Nate Diaz moved up to welterweight in 2019. As we await the return of one of the most exciting fighters to have graced the sport, let's look at five potential welterweight opponents for Nate Diaz's return to the Octagon:
#5 Potential Opponent for Nate Diaz's return: Robbie Lawler
It is safe to say that Robbie Lawler is past his prime. He has gone 1-5 in his last six outings. His lone win since losing the title came against Donald Cerrone in 2017. The fact that Cerrone's career also looks to be waning doesn't help Robbie Lawler. Currently ranked at #15 in the welterweight standings, a fight against Nate Diaz could be an opportunity for reviving Lawler's career.
Although Nate Diaz is cautious about picking his fights, he might be open to a fight against Robbie Lawler because of the nature of the bout. Lawler is no stranger to brawls as he has proved multiple times, including a famous showdown against Rory MacDonald that will go down as one of the most brutal fights in the promotion's history. Combined with Diaz's dirty boxing, this matchup will definitely be a treat for MMA fans.
#4 Potential Opponent for Nate Diaz's return: Michael Chiesa
Earlier this year, Michael Chiesa faced Neil Magny in his first main event since 2017. Chiesa put on a dominant performance by dragging Magny to the canvas in every round. Though Magny survived until the end, there was little else on display as Chiesa dismantled him with superior grappling. Currently ranked at #6 in the welterweight division, 'Maverick' went on a 4-0 streak with the victory, having won all of his bouts since the move up to welterweight.
While Nate Diaz might be known for boxing in the pocket, he also holds a black belt in BJJ. A fight against Michael Chiesa will be an apt test for Diaz to establish himself at the top of the division.
#3 Potential Opponent for Nate Diaz's return: Demian Maia
Despite talks of potential retirement, Demian Maia has confirmed that he will continue to fight inside the Octagon. Gilbert Burns handed Maia his first stoppage loss since 2009, last year. This was only the second time Maia had been finished inside the Octagon and the first time at welterweight. At 42, a fight against Nate Diaz might be the last straw of hope for Demian Maia.
A fight with Maia is yet another promising matchup for Nate Diaz to put his Jiu-Jitsu to the test. A win against the #8 ranked contender could be perfect for Diaz to establish himself in the division.
#2 Potential Opponent for Nate Diaz's return: Leon Edwards
Leon Edwards returned to the Octagon at UFC Vegas 21 after having to stay sidelined for a year. Edwards was looking to dominate #13 ranked Belal Muhammad for a much-deserved shot at the title. However, there was only frustration in store for the 29-year-old as the contest was waived off after an unintentional eye poke from Edwards rendered Muhammad unfit to continue.
With an eight-fight win streak, Leon Edwards can aim for another title shot by defeating Nate Diaz in the latter's comeback. Similarly for Diaz, a win against Leon Edwards would immediately put him into title contention.
#1 Potential Opponent for Nate Diaz's return: Colby Covington
Colby Covington has bounced back after losing his first title shot to Kamaru Usman at UFC 245. In his last outing, Covington put on a dominant display against former champion Tyron Woodley, picking up a fifth-round TKO win. A fight against Nate Diaz will be the launching pad for the rematch against Kamaru Usman that Covington has been calling for.
Nate Diaz will surely jump at the opportunity to take on the #1 welterweight contender in Colby 'Chaos' Covington. The contest also promises to be an exciting affair since both fighters are known for their aggression.