When Nate Diaz decides to grace the Octagon, all eyes are on the Stockton native when he arrives for Fight Week. This week in Phoenix has been no different.
On Saturday night at Gila River Arena, the 36-year-old Diaz will face third-ranked Leon Edwards, who is 8-0 with one no-contest in his nine scraps since dropping a unanimous decision to current welterweight champion Kamaru Usman at UFC Orlando on Dec. 19 of 2015.
However, Edwards’s winning streak doesn’t include a lot of big names. I’ll offer him props for wins over Rafael dos Anjos, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and Vicente Luque. Beyond those three names, the only other foe who is currently ranked is No. 12 Belal Muhammad, the opponent Edwards had the no-decision against due to an unintentional eye poke in Round 2.
In 11 of Diaz’s last 13 fights (granted, eight of those bouts were contests at lightweight), his opponent has been a former champion or has fought for the belt before.
Nate isn’t giving away much size here. Edwards is listed as an inch taller than Diaz and their frames are similar. Edwards will be in great shape, no doubt about it, but I always give Diaz the advantage in cardio — and rightfully so. Like former UFC lightweight champion Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis said in a recent interview, “The dude just never gets tired.”
And yes, this is a five-round fight, the first in the promotion’s history for a scrap that isn’t for a belt or serving as the main event. Why, you ask? Because Nate’s fighting.
Prediction: Diaz at +450 odds
Here are a few links to get you geared up for Nate’s first fight since his bout with Jorge Masvidal was stopped by the doctor before Round 4 due to a cut over Diaz’s eye:
—Nate joined Stan Verrett on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Tuesday night.
–Chael Sonnen agrees with me and is calling for the upset.
—Nate joined Yahoo’s Kevin Iole for a chat on Tuesday. Diaz lights up a joint less than three minutes into the interview.
—Diaz also sat down with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith earlier this week.
—Here’s the Diaz-Edwards portion of the UFC 263 Countdown show.