The MMA world was pleasantly surprised this week when ESPN broke the news that fan favorite Nick Diaz is expected to return next March in Las Vegas at UFC 235 when he takes on former Strikeforce/UFC alum Jorge Masvidal in what is sure to be one of the most highly-anticipated welterweight bouts of 2019. Both Diaz and Masvidal are exciting fighters who are coming off of long layoffs, making it a mostly even match between two boxing experts who know their BJJ. The oddsmakers agree, as they opened the fight as a near Pick ’em at the sports books. Stylistically, this bout has “Fight of the Night” written all over it.
Not only should this fight be entertaining for the fans based on the stylistic matchup, but the matchmaking here also makes a lot of sense considering what both guys are looking for in an opponent. Throughout their careers, both Diaz and Masvidal have been two very durable fighters who look to stand and trade with their opponents. Both guys have criticized wrestlers who have taken them down and controlled them. It was smart to match them up against each other because the odds of either of these guys taking each other down are slim to none. The UFC booked this matchup knowing both Diaz and Masvidal will be a standup-first kind of fight, and both fighters are likely going to deliver the goods.
For Diaz, this fight against Masvidal is the perfect opportunity for him to step back into the Octagon at age 35 and show that he’s still a viable contender for the welterweight title. The legend from Stockton has not fought since a 2015 No Contest against Anderson Silva and prior to that lost back-to-back decisions to Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit. His last win came in October 2011, when he defeated BJ Penn by decision at UFC 137. Diaz’s fans are convinced he deserves another title shot, but he clearly needs to get a win to get back into the title picture. Even though he’s super popular and awesome to watch compete, Diaz isn’t Brock Lesnar and won’t get a title shot after having not won in forever. This fight against Masvidal is the perfect opportunity for him to step into the Octagon against a respected veteran who is also coming off of a long layoff. After turning down numerous opponents in the past, the Diaz camp clearly saw the benefits to taking this specific fight against Masvidal, and they took it.
For Masvidal, fighting Diaz is a well-deserved bout as he gets to take on a big name in his comeback after a year away from fighting due to filming a reality TV series. Masvidal is a tremendous fighter who has unfortunately came up short in some big spots and lost some close decisions, but he always brings the fight, and like Diaz he is a guy who likes to stand and bang. This should be a big payday for him and like Diaz he was operating out of a position of strength as neither guy truly needs the money, but both will fight for the right amount of cash. The UFC now has a big fight to co-main event UFC 235 (if not headline, though it’s likely a title will be on the line in the main event). Masvidal has always wanted to fight another guy who will stand and strike with him, and the UFC has found the perfect dance partner in Diaz. It’s just a great matchup for the fans, because it’s two guys who have complained about fighter pay and stylistic matchups in the past. Going up against each other presumably for good money, neither guy has anything to complain about now.
The UFC has made a terrific matchup by booking Diaz and Masvidal at UFC 235. It’s a fair fight between two guys with great boxing and BJJ who haven’t fought in a long time, and it also makes sense because it’s two guys who have openly complained to the UFC in the past. Both guys have been begging for a big fight for a while, and now both will get it when they take on each other next March. The UFC is about to kick off the ESPN era and a big fight like Diaz vs. Masvidal shows the promotion is as healthy as it’s ever been. And the fans are thankful for that as this should be a fantastic bout.