UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz - Predictions and Picks
This weekend sees the UFC return to New York City with UFC 244, and in the main event – assuming it goes ahead, more on that later – we should see a new UFC champion crowned, of sorts at least. Main eventing this show are Welterweights Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal, and the bad boys will face off with a brand new title on the line – the UFC’s ‘BMF’ title, and you don’t need me to explain that acronym.
Overall the card is a genuinely great one, too, with recent main event fighters like Kelvin Gastelum, Darren Till, Stephen Thompson, Derrick Lewis and Kevin Lee all competing. In fact, it’s probably the best UFC show this year since August’s UFC 241.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC 244: Masvidal vs. Diaz.
#1 Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz
Okay, so this preview comes with a caveat; I’m assuming the issues surrounding a supposed positive PED test for Nate Diaz will vanish this week at some point. Diaz is renowned for being a clean fighter (outside of his open use of marijuana, hardly a performance enhancer) and the likelihood of him actually having a “prohibited selective androgen receptor” in his system seems pretty low. As of writing, it appears that USADA have yet to suspend Diaz, so I’m hoping the fight will be on.
Ignoring the current controversy then, this is a tremendous fight between two of the baddest men in the sport when it comes to their attitudes and demeanours. Both men back down from absolutely nobody, and while there isn’t a natural rivalry here like there was between Masvidal and Ben Askren or Diaz and Conor McGregor – in fact, they seem to have a healthy respect for one another – you can bet your life they’ll go nose-to-nose when it comes to weigh-in time.
Jorge Masvidal is a curious fighter in general. ‘Gamebred’ started life as a legitimate street fighter, even starring in similar viral videos as the late Kimbo Slice, and then started fighting professionally back in 2003. It took him the best part of a decade to make it to the top of the sport in StrikeForce, and even when he came into the UFC in 2013, it never really felt like he’d break into the elite level.
Why was this? A couple of reasons, really. Firstly, Masvidal’s build makes him a fighter who doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly into either the Lightweight or Welterweight divisions. At Lightweight he was cutting a tremendous amount which often left him depleted, and while he’s been successful at 170lbs recently, he’s also had some trouble there, quite often due to his lack of size.
The other issue Masvidal has historically had has come from his inconsistent nature. ‘Gamebred’ doesn’t really have a weakness in his game in terms of his skills – he’s best as a boxer but he’s got a highly underrated ground game and is a decent wrestler too – but he’s been known to basically take rounds off, which resulted in his losses to the likes of Al Iaquinta and Benson Henderson, and he’s also far too willing at times to meet his opponents in their own wheelhouse – as he did against Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia.
Most recently though, he’s been running through his opponents in violent fashion. Darren Till knocked him down early on, only for Masvidal to work out his range and knock the British fighter out with a violent combination, and against Askren, he read the game perfectly and timed a flying knee to knock out the wrestler as he dived for a takedown in the opening seconds of the fight.
As for Diaz, everyone knows all about his game at this point, hardly a surprise given the Stockton bad boy has now been in the UFC since 2007 and has had 24 fights in the promotion. Essentially, he’s a double-edged sword for opponents; his boxing is second to none in the Welterweight division and he’s one of the most dangerous grapplers in the division when it comes to submissions too, but outside of that, he can be beaten by fighters who aren’t willing to play his game.
That usually means either wrestling him, using takedowns and heavy top control to hold him on his back and beat him up using ground-and-pound, or using a range kickboxing game based around low kicks to pick him apart from the outside. That’s obviously risky due to Diaz’s long 76” reach, but the likes of Josh Thomson, Rafael Dos Anjos and to a lesser extent Conor McGregor pulled it off.
Essentially, if you’re willing to play Diaz’s game – or he can force you to, as he did with Anthony Pettis in August – then you’re likely to lose. If you’re willing to fight smart and have the skills to do so, he’s extremely beatable. Hence this fight; Diaz basically has the profile and the drawing ability to pick his own opponents, so it’s telling that he’d choose someone like Masvidal rather than angle for a fight with Kamaru Usman or Colby Covington.
It’s a bit of a tricky fight to pick because of Masvidal’s own excellent boxing skills, but he’s also at a reach disadvantage (2”), he’s got the kind of personality to engage Diaz in his own wheelhouse – as I mentioned earlier, a regular mistake ‘Gamebred’ makes – and I’d also suggest Diaz has an advantage in terms of cardio, too.
If Masvidal approaches this calmly and chooses to kick at Diaz’s leg and mix in some takedowns, I feel like he could win, but I can’t see that happening and instead I figure we’ll get a Diaz fight – a brawl with Diaz sneakily using the cleaner boxing technique to wear ‘Gamebred’ down over five rounds. A late stoppage is possible but Masvidal is super-tough so I’ll go with Diaz by decision.
The Pick: Diaz via unanimous decision