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Nick Diaz loses in long-delayed UFC return

·2-min read

Nick Diaz has lost his first mixed martial arts fight in nearly seven years at UFC 266 on Saturday night, declining to go on after Robbie Lawler knocked him down with punches early in the third round.

Diaz (26-10), a wildly popular 38-year-old fighter who walked away from the sport in early 2015, traded a high volume of strikes with Lawler for two exciting rounds during his return at T-Mobile Arena.

Diaz then crumpled awkwardly to his knees after Lawler caught him with a check right hook early in the third - indicating he wouldn't or couldn't go on 44 seconds into the third round.

Afterward, Diaz disclosed he might have injured his knee, but made no excuses or apologies for his performance in his return.

"I'm glad at least I put on a show," Diaz said. "I knew I had it coming. There was a lot of stress coming into this one. ... I don't have any excuses. It was a long time off."

The 39-year-old Lawler ended his own four-fight losing streak by winning the rematch of these MMA pioneers' famed 2004 meeting at UFC 47.

Diaz stopped Lawler in that bout for one of his most memorable victories.

Former UFC welterweight champion Lawler appeared to be much sharper in the rematch than Diaz, who finally found a striking rhythm late in the first round before tiring in the second.

"It was a fun fight, and that's the stuff I like to do," Lawler said.

Diaz is a former Strikeforce welterweight champion and a beloved MMA iconoclast who competed in some of the most memorable bouts of the 2000s before walking away from the sport after his loss in January 2015 to Anderson Silva, his third straight defeat and after being banned for a failed drug test for marijuana.

Diaz still claims he doesn't enjoy MMA competition, and he backed up his words by refusing the UFC's lucrative offers for six years.

His absence has only boosted his popularity among fans.

Meanwhile, dominant flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko totally shut down Lauren Murphy to controlled their fight, before stopping the American at four minutes of the fourth round to retain her title.

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