Nate Diaz is back.
After three years away, the Stockton, Calif. bad boy returned to the Octagon and looked like he didn’t miss a step as he put on a signature performance to punish Anthony Pettis round after round en route to a unanimous decision. The scorecards read 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 as Diaz gets his first win since 2016 when he choked out Conor McGregor.
Following the victory, Diaz wasted no time calling for his next fight against the man responsible for the fastest knockout in UFC history.
“The reason I was off is cause everybody sucked and there was nobody to fight,” Diaz said. “With this belt, I want to defend it against Jorge Masvidal, he had a good last fight. All respect to the man but there ain’t no gangsters in his game anymore.
“I know my man’s a gangster but he ain’t no west coast gangster.”
Before he called for his next fight, Diaz had to get through Pettis, which was no easy task, especially in the early going. Pettis started his night with a successful strategy that included a diverse striking Arsenal that attacked Diaz repeatedly from the outside. Unfortunately for Pettis, he couldn’t keep Diaz away from him and that’s where the tide started to turn.
Diaz countered with a takedown late in the round as he began applying a ton of pressure from the top while Pettis was scrambling to break free. Diaz peppered away with punches and threatened with a rear naked choke that helped shift the momentum in his favor.
As the second round got underway, Diaz was noticeably wiping away at his left eye, which may have been due to an eye poke after both fighters were warned about keeping their fingers extended in the exchanges.
The fight was paused for a moment for a doctor to check the eye but after Diaz was allowed to continue, he started moving forward with more aggression. Diaz dragged Pettis down to the ground for the second time but he couldn’t keep him there this time around.
Still, Diaz forcing Pettis to fight in a phone booth gave him the advantage as he continued to pressure with punches in bunches against the cage. He also managed to club Pettis with a thudding elbow that blasted the former lightweight champion as he tried to survive the onslaught.
Diaz continued to close the distance in the third round as he really began pouring on the punishment. Diaz earned a knockdown with a series of knees to the head against the cage that saw Pettis crumble under the weight of the strikes.
Diaz unleashed a flurry of punches looking to get the finish and then taking Pettis’ back as he switched his strategy to look for a submission. Diaz continued seeking the finish but Pettis was crafty enough to make it to the final bell.
The unanimous decision win was a welcome return for Diaz and his call out was answered almost immediately with Masvidal in the crowd wearing a huge smile on his face after hearing his name. Considering how Masvidal just earned a five-second KO over Ben Askren combined with Diaz’s performance against Pettis, the UFC might move quickly to book this fight sooner rather than later.