One of the most popular MMA fighters of all time is finally ready to return to the Octagon after a long layoff, and I’ll give my thoughts on his return bout in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Nick Diaz vs. Jorge Masvidal, UFC 235
An exciting welterweight bout between Nick Diaz and Jorge Masvidal is being targeted for UFC 235, which is set to take place March 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The news of this bout was originally reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, who says that contracts have been sent out to both parties although they haven’t been officially signed yet. Considering ESPN’s connection to the UFC and their recent track record in breaking big fights, I’d expect an official announcement for this bout in the coming weeks.
Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) hasn’t competed since a No Contest against Anderson Silva back in January 2015. Although Diaz lost a unanimous decision in that bout and then tested positive for marijuana metabolites after that fight, Silva tested positive for a banned substance and the result was overturned to a NC. Prior to the Silva fight, Diaz lost back-to-back decisions to Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit in welterweight title bouts. His last win came in October 2011 when he defeated BJ Penn via decision at UFC 137. Overall, Diaz has a 7-6, 1 NC record in the UFC over three stints in the promotion. However, despite his mediocre record inside the Octagon he is still a huge fan favorite and considered by many to be one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. With a crisp boxing game and slick BJJ skills on the mat, Diaz is a very talented fighter, though his lack of takedown defense has been his kryptonite his entire career.
Masvidal (32-13) is 9-6 overall in the UFC but has lost back-to-back decisions to Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Demian Maia. He did not compete in 2018 due to the filming of a reality television show, but prior to this year was one of the most active welterweights in the Octagon. Like Diaz, Masvidal has extremely good boxing skills but unlike Diaz he is also a very talented and underrated wrestler. Both Diaz and Masvidal are incredibly durable and are rarely knocked out, making this the perfect matchup for both men to go into the Octagon and display their skills and prove to the MMA world they are at the top of the game at 170lbs.
As far as the betting line goes, this is a really close one to call. Just stylistically, both guys match up really well with each other and there is a good chance this fight stays on the feet and both guys throw hands. The wrinkle is Masvidal’s takedown game, which he could turn to if Diaz is giving him problems on the feet. Due to his wrestling advantage and Diaz’ long layoff, I’d favor Masvidal just slightly. But you have to keep in mind Diaz is super popular and that popularity will lead to bettors taking him at the books. I’d expect a close, Pick ’em type line with a slight lean towards Masvidal, though Diaz will get plenty of support from bettors.