UFC 137 Debatable: Did Nick Diaz Deserve A UFC Title Shot?

Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz

Nick Diaz

Arguing both sides of the biggest topics in MMA

Welcome to Debatable, a new series that will run on no particular schedule whatsoever here at Heavy MMA.

We don’t have a schedule for this series because it is based on the big topics and stories in the sport. Since we don’t know in advance what those are going to be — and don’t want to try and fabricate something to debate from week-to-week — we can’t tell you to look for a new installment every Tuesday.

This one is just going to happen organically from time-to-time as topics come up that turn into arguments over Skype.

First up is Nick Diaz and whether or not he was/is deserving of a shot at the UFC welterweight title.

This one actually came up shortly after his no-show at the UFC 137 media event in September, but we decided arguing about him closer to his fight made far more sense.

Making the case for Diaz is feature writer Duane Finley, while lead writer Spencer Kyte takes the opposing stance.

Ready… debate!

YAY: Nick Diaz Deserves to be at the Top

Diaz has been conquering non-ranked competition for years, and the fact he hasn’t faced a legitimate wrestler since leaving the UFC brings cause for concern. With those things on the table, we have to look at the other side of this business in considering his claim to a title shot — the entertainment factor.

While Nick Diaz has proven to be a promotional nightmare at times, there is no denying the excitement he brings when the cage door closes. Diaz may not always show up for the media obligations attached to his upcoming fight, but rest assured, when it’s time to fight, he’s throwing smoke and looking to end the fight.

A quick look at the welterweight division shows what the weight class is lacking are guys that can produce fireworks.

Part of this is due to the dominance of champion Georges St-Pierre, with the other half being chalked up to the decision-friendly styles of several of the division’s top fighters. Though fighters like Carlos Condit and Jake Ellenberger have recently entered the picture in explosive fashion — and this bodes well for the weight class — adding Diaz into that title picture pours gas onto the fire.

The drama at the top of the UFC 137 fight card has made this picture a little more hazy, but nevertheless it was the right call to put Diaz at the top.

He’s one of the sport’s best finishers, and we are going to see what he is made of when he faces former two-time champ B.J. Penn on Saturday night.

Should he defeat “The Prodigy” on Saturday, reclaiming his title shot should be a given.

NAY: Nick Diaz Didn’t Deserve a Title Shot

The argument that Diaz deserved an immediate title shot based on the strength of what he’d done is Strikeforce is horribly flawed.

I can see giving him the shot because you only have one opportunity to make a champion vs. champion bout, but trying to say that beating the collection of mediocre competitors he faced in Strikeforce somehow merited a shot at the belt is ridiculous.

Diaz has beaten one quality welterweight in almost two years, Paul Daley, and he’s not even a top 25 guy right now. Everyone else dating back to his welterweight championship tilt at Strikeforce: Miami fell somewhere between average and being an average lightweight.

Evangelista Santos was 5-5 over his last 10 fights before taking on Diaz and had only recently debut in the division, beating the man Diaz beat for the belt in the first place, Marius Zaromskis.

KJ Noons is a lightweight, plain and simple, and only an average one at that. I get that there was previous history between the two, but beating a lightweight you have beef with doesn’t bolster Diaz’s position in the welterweight rankings.

“Mach” Sakurai used to be outstanding, heavy emphasis on the “used to be,” and Zaromskis has come crashing back down to Earth since his rapid climb to relevance in the fall of 2009.

I would take Anthony Johnson, Rory MacDonald, or Ellenberger against each of those guys, and none of those three are in position to challenge for the welterweight belt just yet, despite having beaten solid UFC opposition already this year.

There are a number of guys who have fought their way closer to a title shot over the last year or two, all of whom are truly more deserving of a title shot that Diaz at this stage.

I don’t buy the “he’s exciting and we need excitement in this division” bill of goods my counterpart is trying to sell either. If beating mediocre-to-average talent in exciting fashion warrants title consideration, someone needs to get Chris Lytle out of retirement; and go find Jorge Gurgel for the lightweight division while you’re at it.

All the other UFC welterweights already mentioned in this piece — Condit, Ellenberger, Johnson, and MacDonald — deliver excitement on a consistent basis, and done it against competition that is at the very least on par with the opponents Diaz faced in Strikeforce, if not better. Outside of Johnson, the other three stand astride Diaz in terms of the excitement they bring to the cage and the success they’ve had while inside.

I can understand giving Diaz a title shot from a business perspective under the “champion vs. champion” angle, but don’t try to sell me on Diaz having earned a title shot with his exciting track record.

He hasn’t — and a win at UFC 137 won’t be enough to change my opinion either.