UFC superstar Nate Diaz returns to action on June 12 against Leon Edwards in a historic five-round undercard fight at UFC 263. Diaz hasn’t competed inside the UFC’s Octagon in over a year now, but the 36-year-old’s epic choice was to call out one of the scariest dudes he could find on the roster.
That’s something Diaz has done before. The popular American UFC star also stepped inside the cage against former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis after a three-year hiatus back in 2019.
At the time, Pettis was coming off a stunning knockout victory over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson after “Showtime” had just moved up into the welterweight ranks.
But Diaz defeated Pettis by unanimous decision at UFC 241, and Pettis revealed to Heavy what made “The Stockton Slugger” such a tough task on fight night.
“This dude doesn’t get tired,” Pettis said. “Man, I caught him with the first right hook, and I hurt him. I should have stayed southpaw, but I switched back orthodox and I low-kicked him in the second round.”
Pettis ended up breaking his foot in the fight but still managed to go the distance.
“Dumbass decision. It’s crazy how these fights happen,” Pettis said.
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Pettis: ‘He’s Choosing His Fights Right’
Pettis likes the way Diaz has managed his career in recent years. He hasn’t fought many times, but he’s made his fights count by selecting tough opponents. He defeated Pettis in 2019 and lost to Jorge Masvidal a few months later at UFC 244. Now, he’s getting right back to work against another top contender.
“I think he’s being smart about it. He’s being smart about his career,” Pettis said.
Pettis believes Diaz beating Edwards would put the American right where he wants to be.
“He’s choosing his fights right. He’s waiting for a guy to be close to contendership, and then he calls them out. If he wins, he puts his name in the hat,” Pettis said.
But he also likes the strategy because it leads to exciting fights.
“He’s calling out some killers, man. Leon Edwards is a killer, too, so he’s no punk,” Pettis said.
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‘Nate Can Win Any Fight’
Diaz is the underdog on the betting market, but Pettis believes Diaz is capable of pulling off the upset at UFC 263.
“Oh yeah, man, for sure. Nate can win any fight. He does get cut a lot, so I think he’s got to watch the elbows. Leon Edwards has a great clinch game. He’s really good with forward pressure. He uses the clinch. So when guys come at him, he doesn’t stop them with wrestling, he stops them using the clinch. He beats them up, then backs them up,” Pettis said.
“Showtime” believes Diaz will need to use the right strategy to win the fight.
“If Nate can use that dirty boxing, get him in the clinch, get him up against the cage, make it dirty, dude has cardio man, like when I fought him, I remember, I was like, ‘This dude doesn’t get tired’,” Pettis said.
Pettis pointed out that MMA fights can turn on a dime, and that helps give fighters as talented and experienced as Diaz a legit chance to win any fight.
“Man, I caught him with the first right hook, and I hurt him. I should have stayed southpaw, but I switched back orthodox and I low-kicked him in the second round. Dubmass decision. It’s crazy how these fights happen,” Pettis said.
Prediction for Diaz vs. Edwards: ‘He Has a Chance’
Pettis stopped short of offering a prediction for the fight.
“Man, I haven’t put a lot of thought into that one honestly, bro,” Pettis said.
But he reaffirmed the idea that Diaz has a legit chance to beat Edwards at UFC 263. In his opinion, the fight will come down to one factor: how Diaz deals with the clinch.
“I think he has a chance for sure. I just don’t know if he can deal with that clinch. That’s going to be the deciding factor, how he can deal with that clinch. Because if he tries to walk him down, Leon’s putting him in the clinch…so we’ll see how he deals with that,” Pettis said.
Pettis Return at PFL 4 on June 10
Of course, before Diaz climbs back into the cage on Saturday at UFC 263, Pettis will have returned to action at PFL 4.
Pettis lost his first fight under the PFL’s promotional banner against Clay Collard at PFL 1 earlier this year, but “Showtime” remains in contention to make the PFL playoffs so long as he takes care of business against Alex Martinez on Thursday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Pettis did offer a prediction for that fight.
“I’m putting them hands on him, man,” Pettis said.
Pettis said he’s used his latest training camp to get back to basics for the fight, and he expects to beat Martinez at PFL 4.
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