On today’s Happy Hour, Ryan and I had a discussion about the size difference between Nate Diaz and Joe Stevenson. It’s a warranted talking point; Nate is one of the lankiest guys at 155 (that won’t break his leg checking kicks) while Joe struggles with those who can create distance. Some – namely myself – think it’s physically a perfect storm for Diaz to win. Others disagree, though, and in this column I’ll attempt to explain why Nate has the advantage over so many guys – especially Stevenson.
In a division filled with those who are compact and stocky, Nate Diaz is the exception. His body-type gives him windfall assistance in each area of the sport:
The Cesar Gracie trained Diaz is a “tall” 6’0 with a lean build. The lengthy frame gives him allowances when dealing with his shorter contemporaries. Much like his brother Nick, he can stand on the outside of his opponents striking range and pick his shots from a safer distance (albeit with much less power). The two most shining examples of his effective peppering are against Junior Assuncao and Hermes Franca. Diaz threw a straight punch combination at Ultimate Fight Night 11 that dropped Assuncao after first kicking him away during a scramble. Likewise, his boxing in the Franca fight was on-point from range and allowed him to zero in when Hermes was getting overwhelmed with volume.
The moves he made when Hermes turtled up were to utilize another strength his body gives him: the clinch.
This one is not necessarily a Stevenson specific weakness, as all of Nate’s opponents have dealt with the same frustration. His long arms work just as well in close as they do otherwise. He’s capable of looping hooks to the other side of his opponent’s head and crossing under tangled arms to land uppercuts. When he has a height advantage, his knees can be brought up quickly and their effectiveness is compounded when he uses his superior leverage in the collar tie to hold his opponent’s head down.
Diaz also reaps the benefits of his frame in the other area of the clinch.
Perhaps Nate’s strongest offense next to Jiu-Jitsu is his maneuvering while tied up. His arms act like snakes and allow him to easily swim and get both underhooks and overhooks – especially effective when he limits his opponent’s movements by getting closer to the cage. Once getting a hook, Diaz has consistently displayed his ability to utilize the Harai Goshi to get to a top position from the clinch, most evident in the Josh Neer fight. (I consider his prowess for takedowns in the clinch a compensation for the defensive wrestling he lacks; his tall body, coincidentally, makes it much easier for him to topple over when he’s shot in at.) Moreover, he uses the often underutilized Greco-Roman head positioning to dig into his opponent’s chin and make them uncomfortable.
Once on the floor, Diaz’ Gracie black belt is just as advantageous as his body.
Nate’s Jiu-Jitsu is tremendously aided by his lankiness. He began a semi-streak of his two most effective submissions – the Guillotine and Triangle chokes – while on The Ultimate Fighter. Rob Emerson, Gray Maynard, Corey Hill, Assuncao, Alvin Robinson and Kurt Pellegrino were all caught caught around the neck by Diaz’ arms or legs within a fifteen month period. The root of his success with them may be attributed to the range his limbs have. For Triangles, his area of space able to catch is much larger than someone with shorter legs, and once he gets the choke he doesn’t need to use his arms to compact his opponent (see: Pellegrino, Kurt).It’s a similar story with the Guillotine; he can catch a neck with one arm motion and then utilize leverage instead of pure strength to keep from tiring his arms out.
In conclusion, Nate Diaz is someone who is capable of using his atypical body to his advantage. That body type is one that Joe Stevenson has struggled against since joining the UFC, with – wins and losses aside – rocky moments caused by opponents 5’10” and north (save for BJ Penn). Clay Guida was able to “beat” Diaz in January by being a fleshy backpack, but Joe just doesn’t have the cardio to keep up either a pace like that or a defense. Nate catches a Guillotine in round two for the win.
Haven’t seen the odds on this fight, but putting down on Diaz might be worth it if you’re so inclined.
Post-script: Diego came in so ripped today that Arianny was a little shocked.