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Finding the Perfect Opponent for the Return of Nick Diaz

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Many had hoped that UFC 209 would signal the return of the man who made the number 209 famous in the MMA world. However, it looks like we will all have to wait a bit longer to see Nick Diaz back in the octagon this year.

Fans have been anticipating Diaz’s first fight back for months now, after his 18 month suspension from the Nevada Athletic Commission ended. And the time seems upon us, and the UFC is now tasked with finding the perfect opponent for the return of Nick Diaz.

Finding the Perfect Opponent for the Return of Nick Diaz

Given how massive a star the elder Diaz is, balanced with the fact that he hasn’t actually won a fight since way 2011–when he mauled BJ Penn–it becomes very tricky to find the right match up. How do you find Diaz a big enough fight, that befits his popularity, following a year away from the sport? With the UFC already lacking major stars since¬†Ronda Rousey¬†may be on the way out, Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones both being suspended, and a certain Irishman taking some well deserved time off, Nick could be one of the easiest fighters for the company to promote.

With that said, here are some options that would be perfect matchmaking for the Mr. Diaz.

Robbie Lawler

Robbie Lawler had one of the most violent and exciting UFC championship reigns in recent history, until he got knocked out by Tyron Woodley at UFC 201. His fights with Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit are some of the most incredible fights we’ve ever seen. A refreshed Lawler against a returning Diaz would certainly be a pay-per-view headliner. Especially since it’s a rematch of a memorable fight that put Diaz on the map when the two clashed at UFC 47.

With the UFC in desperate need of money-making fights this match-up would certainly be just that. Lawler has transformed himself since their first fight. He has evolved from a knockout seeking brawler, to a very well-rounded mixed martial artist who harnesses that aggression a whole lot better. Since Nick knocked out Robbie in their first fight one would think he might want a shot to get that one back, and make a hell of a lot of money in the process as Nick’s return fight will be one of the biggest in 2017. In their first bout Diaz was able to get a young Lawler to fight emotionally and engage him in a while brawl. A rematch with a more mature Lawler who has taken some time off to re-charge could look much much different, but would likely be just as entertaining.

Donald Cerrone

Is there any fighter in the UFC on more of a hot streak than Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone? Since losing to then champ Rafael dos Anjos last December at UFC on Fox 17 he’s moved up to welterweight and ran through the likes of Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown, finishing each and every one of them in spectacular fashion. Not only has Cowboy been on a roll since his jump up in weight but he has some of the best muay thai striking in the game right now and his kicks are like something out of a video game (just ask Rick Story about that).

Cerrone has said recently that he wants to capture the UFC title in 2017 and while he’s a fast rising contender in the division already a win over the eldest Diaz brother could catapult him right to the top of the rankings and of the public conscience. In an MMA world that more and more values characters and fighters full of personality Cerrone’s recent run couldn’t have come at a better time and you won’t find many fighters more colorful than “Cowboy”. A headliner clash with Diaz could help launch him into the next stratosphere of MMA stardom. On the flip side of that coin Cerrone is a name that could generate big money for Nick’s first fight back but also a highly ranked welterweight that with a win would give Diaz one hell of a case for a title shot sooner rather than later.

Georges St. Pierre

What’s better than one returning MMA superstar? How about two of them returning in a rematch of one of the best built up fights in recent memory, where the actual fight left much to be desired in the eyes of most fans. We haven’t seen the Canadian star since his controversial win over Johny Hendricks all the way back in 2013 which feels like a lifetime ago when you look at the current UFC landscape.

Obviously there are hurdles left to clear to get GSP back in the octagon but if the UFC can in fact get him back in action, a rematch with Diaz would be a gigantic fight. Imagine GSP making his first ring walk in four years in front of a Canadian crowd all losing their collective minds followed by a mean mugging Nick Diaz itching to make up for his first performance against the former reigning champ. Drama at it’s finest. Another plus of this potential match up for the UFC is they can avoid giving either one of these fighters a title shot after a long layoff and avoid the public backlash that would come with it by having them face off with one another. And whoever came out on top would immediately be right back in the mix for a shot at the belt anyway, and no one would be able to gripe about it at that point.

Tyron Woodley

So about that title shot, let’s say we just skip all the other stuff and go right to that shall we? I know it’s a bit crazy to give a title shot to a guy that hasn’t fought in two years but the new owners of the UFC have made it clear they’re interested in selling pay per views and generating big money fights above just about anything else. Toss aside all the semantics and politics of Diaz skipping the line at welterweight and imagine the cardio machine built with an iron chin that is Nick Diaz taking on the terrifying powerhouse that is the champion Tyron Woodley. That sound you hear is dollars, cents and bars of gold being raked in by the UFC brass.

A ruthless puncher like Woodley carrying UFC gold into a fight against Diaz who fans will be more than hungry to see in his return would without a doubt be in the running for the biggest and most exciting fights that the UFC can make in the 2017 calendar year. We’ve heard over and over since the sale of the UFC in July that the new owners will lean more towards the entertainment and spectacle side of promoting and if that really is to be believed this match up starts to make more and more sense. Few fights in any division would have as much entertainment value as this one, and while you may not be totally happy with a returning fighter jumping to the front of the line to challenge the champion don’t act like you wouldn’t be forking over your money to watch just like the rest of us.

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