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Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis: Welterweight grudge match preview, breakdown

Elias Cepeda
Yahoo Sports Contributor
Former UFC lightweight title challenger Nate Diaz holds an open workout for fans and media at Honda Center on Aug. 14, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Zuffa LLC)

Two of the best lightweights in recent history, Anthony Pettis and Nate Diaz, will finally face off this Saturday … at welterweight. In any case, this grudge match between supremely skilled fighters is a long time coming and could end up being the best fight at UFC 241.

We look at a few key areas of the coming bout to preview the elite match up, below. Read on and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Striking

Both men are among the very best stand-up strikers in the sport, so they’ve got that in common. Despite a shared elite overall level, they couldn’t be more different in terms of individual style.

Diaz is primarily a puncher. He’ll mix in kicks to keep things spicy but he lives and dies by his hands, on the feet.

The Richard Perez trained fighter throws with almost unparalleled volume, varying his speed and cadence up to lull opponents into false senses of security. He also plays with range well, leaning forward a lot to make it seem as though he’s closer than his feet are, and uses head movement to get out of the way of punches and counters with his own.

Diaz doesn’t just throw a lot of punches, his accuracy is remarkable. His precision and volume result in concussive effects for his opponents, oftentimes.

Pettis is also an excellent puncher, who can land to the head and body with fluidity. The Duke Roufus protégé puts together smooth combinations as well.

Pettis happens to also kick remarkably well, from both stances, at all levels, and in many different styles. He can chop away at legs, which should serve him well against Diaz who has never defended leg kicks particularly well, he can slice upward through guards to get to the body and head, and he can also disguise his attacks with punch set-ups and spins.

Diaz has reach and a larger frame, and Pettis will likely have to strike well backing up and fight effectively as a counter-striker. He’s capable of both of those things, however.

Still, when Diaz can set the pace in a fight, he’s tough to come back against. Pettis does have one-strike KO power, though, largely because he sets up strikes so well that he can catch opponents off-guard or on one leg with a counter.

In 10 different fights, we could see 10 different types of striking battles between these two. Either man is capable of out-striking the other, and both possess remarkable calm and poise, so neither will be easy to overwhelm or put away.

Ground

Pettis is quite underrated on the ground. Especially after doing damage with strikes on the feet, he’s a great finisher with submissions on the mat.

Diaz needs to respect Pettis’ ground game, for certain. With that said, Diaz has phenomenal jiu-jitsu and is likely the better overall mat technician, here.

Diaz doesn’t seem to emphasize pressure too much on top. But he flows incredibly well and latches onto necks from the front or behind with nasty efficiency.

Wrestling

Pettis’ wrestling, especially his cage wrestling, is getting quite good. Diaz doesn’t have a traditional wrestling game, per se, but he does have strong hip toss takedowns and is adept at turning an opponent’s takedown into a perilous position for them by latching on a guard and onto a neck, or hitting the mat and continuing to roll to turn it into a sweep for himself.

Conditioning

Pettis is a well-conditioned athlete who can and has saved some of his best moments for the closing seconds of bouts. There is no reason to question his conditioning in this three-round fight.

Diaz is a rare breed when it comes to long grinds, however, and the amateur triathlete can outlast just about anyone.

Intangibles

Here’s where calling this unpredictable fight gets even trickier. Who will have the sharper timing?

Who will be the less worse for wear and more able to take shots to the head and stay standing after long careers? It’s impossible to know because of often contradictory factors.

Pettis has been much more active in recent years than Diaz, so his timing might very well be more sharp, especially in the first round. Will Pettis, then, however be a little worse for wear in comparison to Diaz?

Perhaps, because Diaz has not competed or done full training camps for a few years. On the other hand, Diaz has taken a lot of shots in his career, and sometimes there’s no real recovering from those.

He always laughs or taunts away big blows to the head during fights, but eventually the cumulative effect of those may start to show in competition. If Diaz has the timing to avoid getting hit too much, and can still take shots as well as he did a few years ago, he’ll definitely test Pettis’ own body.

Pettis has heart in truckloads, but he’s suffered many injuries over the years, including recent ones to his arms and hands. If he gets hurt, badly, mid-fight, Diaz may very well be able to pile-on and pull away.

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