The Face Off: Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz

Nate Diaz vs. Donald Cerrone UFC 141 Press Conference Debating Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz

Welcome to the Face-Off, where two HeavyMMA writers go head to head debating the outcome of an upcoming fight.

Today, we have two contenders: Duane Finley and Nate Lawson. They’ll be debating the heated and much-anticipated lightweight battle between Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz.

The Case for Donald Cerrone (Duane Finley, 2-1)

After a short holiday break, the “Face-Off” is back in your lives and the former champion is looking to reclaim the gold.

In our last outing, Nate “Puddin” Lawson finally got into the win column and with the season of giving in the rearview, it’s time to get back to the streak.

Outside of Jon Jones, it would be difficult to find a mixed martial artist who has had a better year than Donald Cerrone. The WEC turned UFC upstart has not only entered the title picture in the most competitive division in the sport but kicked in the front door and set the kitchen on fire. Cerrone has been a force of nature in 2011 and a win over Nate Diaz would be his fifth victory of the year.

Three factors are going to decide this fight. Cerrone’s striking is the best in the division, and while Nate has shown a vastly improved boxing game, he will be outmatched on the feet. Diaz will have length but Cerrone’s speed and nasty kick boxing will make it extremely difficult for Diaz to do anything significant in the stand-up.

During his WEC days Cerrone was hampered for being a slow starter. Since coming to the Octagon he has apparently worked out those kinks as he’s put in five minutes of work over his last two fights. With the pre-fight trash talk already at a feverish level, Cerrone should have all the motivation he needs to (in his words) “Sh*t, get it and throw the f**k down.”

The attribute I see possibly playing the biggest factor is Cerrone’s underrated wrestling. He has not only shown great improvement in his ability to work the top game but in doing so has also shown a degree of patience in his attack. Don’t get me wrong, Cerrone is “all attack all the time” but his ability from top position should keep him comfortable against a fighter as good off his back as Nate Diaz.

It is quite possible the UFC has saved the best for last as Cerrone vs. Diaz has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. While Nate Diaz will surely bring a solid challenge to the cage, I believe Cerrone will outwork him en route to the victory. Cerrone via unanimous decision.

Prediction: Cerrone d. Diaz via unanimous decision

The Case for Nate Diaz (Nate Lawson, 1-2)

While it seems just yesterday that Wanderlei Silva defeated Cung Le to earn me the “Face-Off” title and, more important, himself a much-needed win at UFC 139, in actuality over a month has passed. Now, with the Christmas season behind us, the series is back with the UFC 141 co-main event, Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz.

The bout is certainly one of the more intriguing match ups on the card, falling short only to the main event between Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem. But, according to odds, this contest in not considered an even one at all, as Diaz finds himself a 2:1 underdog heading into the event.

With those odds, it’s hard to bet against the Stockton, California native this Friday night. But the odds are not the only reason I am picking Diaz in this contest.

To begin, I will admit that Donald Cerrone is one of the most impressive strikers in the division, as his kickboxing could rival just about anybody else’s at the 155 lb. mark. But the funny thing is, Diaz has never had problem with strikers in his career.

Take a look. Since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship back in 2007, Diaz has lost to Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Gray Maynard, Dong Hyun Kim, and Rory MacDonald. What do all five of those fighters have in common? Each one defeated Diaz utilizing his strong wrestling base and submission defense.

On the other hand, during his time with the promotion, Diaz holds wins over such dominant strikers as Melvin Guillard, Marcus Davis, and Takanori Gomi, not to mention the six other wins he has had under the UFC banner.

Basically, analyzing this contest comes down to looking into the past. Diaz struggles most against dominant wrestlers, but always seems to walk away with the victory against strikers, even those that are better than he.

Still, Diaz has probably never faced a striker on the level of Cerrone, who has been dominant over his first four UFC fights. But his striking prowess and submission game will not be enough against Diaz, whose boxing has improved immensely over his four years in the UFC. Oh, and his submission game? I don’t even need to say anything about that.

Come Friday night, Diaz will do enough on the feet to keep up with Cerrone and, if the fight hits the floor, the California native will be simply too much for “Cowboy.” I don’t expect a stoppage in this one, and the decision will be close. But Diaz’s toughness and well-rounded game will be enough to edge Cerrone on the judges’ scorecards and kick of the New Year’s Eve festivities in Stockton. And you can imagine how hard they party in Stockton.

Prediction: Nate Diaz d. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision

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