Jake Paul has beaten Nate Diaz.. now what?
Last Saturday night, Jake Paul’s grip over the world of combat sports was tightened further following a dominant display against UFC legend Nate Diaz. Paul looked impressive throughout the bout and Diaz found little to no success inside the squared circle. With the win, Paul has taken his record in professional boxing to an impressive 7-1 and while he has achieved far more than many thought possible for a youtuber and influencer in the world of combat sports, there are now question marks as to what Jake Paul actually has left to achieve in the realm of boxing.
The Jake Paul Dilemma and the Road Ahead
The Issue So Far
When looking at the names on Jake Paul’s CV, it would be understandable for an individual not familiar with boxing or MMA to think that Paul was among one of the best fighters in the world. He holds victories over two former UFC champions, a Bellator and ONE Championship champion and a winner of The Ultimate Fighter. Names like Anderson Silva, Tyron Woodley and Nate Diaz are extremely well-known and respected in these circles and all the fighters that he faced possessed many more years of experience than the younger Paul brother.
Yet, if these names are so impressive, why do people still have questions and doubts over the legitimacy of Paul as a boxer? The answer is clear when examining the context of his fights in more detail. Ben Askren was 36 when facing Paul and had recently retired from MMA due to needing extensive hip surgery. Also never known for his striking, Askren relied solely on his wrestling for the extent of his MMA career. At the time of their first fight Tyron Woodley was 39, retiring from MMA after a 4-fight losing streak in the UFC and like Askren, was never known for having elite striking skills, simply a powerful punch. Nate Diaz again was primarily a grappler in the UFC with 12 of his 21 wins coming by way of submission and only 5 by KO or TKO. Diaz was also 38 at the time of the fight.
The one opponent Paul faced who was primarily a striker was Anderson SIlva. Silva is admittedly one of the biggest legends in MMA and many regard him as one of the greatest strikers the sport had ever seen. Yet, the legend was well and truly past his prime when facing Paul at 47-years-old. Along with the fact that Paul has exclusively faced fighters who were not seen as good or talented strikers as well as preying on those who had entered a rather steep decline, it is worth noting that Paul typically holds a large size advantage against his opponents with his fights typically ranging from 185 lbs. to 190 lbs. Both Woodley and Askren competed at 170lbs. during their fight career and Nate Diaz spent his prime years in the 155 lbs. division.
So, the reason here is clear. Pundits and fight fans alike find criticism in Paul’s career as he ensures a variety of factors to swing in his favor when signing the dotted line. He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s more youthful, yet the name credibility of those he has faced has propelled his combat sports stardom.
The Fury Problem
Paul would face Fury in Saudi Arabia on February 26th 2023 and would ultimately lose a split decision in a display that many felt showed that while he did not look like a total amateur in there with Fury, he looked outclassed throughout the fight and there was little doubt as to who the better fighter was. The 0 on his record was gone and just like that, the aura of Paul’s invincibility was shattered. The question that everyone had about Jake Paul, the reason everyone tuned into watching his fights had finally been answered. What was his ceiling and how far could he go? The answer was Tommy Fury.
What’s Next for Jake Paul?
The loss to Fury was damaging for Paul’s career if of course, he was serious about trying to move up the professional ranks. While Fury is not a bad fighter he is certainly not on a world level or anywhere close to it right now and if Paul is serious about challenging for belts he should be able to handle Fury relatively handily. Now it is known what Jake Paul is capable of and he has lost, much of the interest in him will decline. Massive amounts of hype around Paul came from people who were simply interested to see how high up the ladder he was able to go and other people who disliked him and simply wanted to see him lose. Now both of those things are accomplished, the next move of Paul now feels a little flat.
We know that Paul, despite being a decent fighter, is not able to compete realistically with professionals his age who have been doing it their whole life and despite his claims is not anywhere remotely close to fighting a ranked fighter in any promotion never mind a world champion. With him reaching the limit of his abilities in the pro boxing space perhaps Paul needs to stick with the unorthodox opposition he had been utilizing. Fighting MMA fighters provides Paul with a method for going up against huge names that will generate money, all the while the fact that they are typically non-strikers (and on the verge of retirement) ensures that the fights remain competitive and Paul has a chance of winning. Yet we have already seen that Paul can beat old MMA fighters and he can only go to the well so often before it runs dry. While Paul can go and fight a big name like Conor McGregor who will of course generate interest, a time will soon come when people do not take the bait on this same old formula anymore.
His other option is to head back to where he originated from and re-enter the social media boxing scene. This is where Paul made his debut and first few fights against social media content creators and a potentially massive fight looms with British Youtuber KSI who managed to beat the elder Paul brother Logan in a fight back in 2021. KSI has shown to be fairly dominant in his performances since as well including an impressive display over 9-0 professional Joe Fournier. Jake Paul and KSI have been in discussions for years and have repeatedly traded barbs over social media. While it may represent a step back for Paul who has sought to shed his past associations with the YouTube Boxing scene the potential money and spotlight this fight holds may be too much to turn down.
Of course, Paul can always leave the world of boxing behind and dabble in MMA. He already has contacts within the PFL and has repeatedly stated that he intends to compete in MMA with MMA fighters, a background in collegiate wrestling and now being a decent boxer means that he will at least have some sort of a skill set if he were to step inside the cage. Right now all the talk appears to be exactly that, all talk, and Paul does not look like his next steps are going to be using the 4 oz. gloves.