"Don't be scared, homie."
Every time a Diaz brother steps into the cage, and every time a Diaz brother overwhelms some highly touted opponent with punches (which has been "every time" ... recently), I feel an increasing urge to write about how unbelievable it is.
It's unbelievable to me. Not because the notorious brother tandem hasn't made significant improvement in their overall games. They have. It's crazy to me because they both seem to have an uncanny ability to get really, really good MMA fighters to play right into their hands.
Take BJ Penn. In the 1st round of his scrap with Nick, Penn got Nick's back in a scramble (there might not be a better fighter in MMA history at doing this). In any other Penn fight, this was the beginning of the end for any foe. Once Penn has your back, you are in the mans chamber. In any other Nick Diaz fight, this meant that he was probably going to roll out and play guard. Go for submissions, and yadda yadda yadda. This was BJ Penn, though. Going for submissions might have caused him to give his back up again.
Instead, Nick ebbed and flowed with the scramble, easily getting back to his feet, where he proceeded to deliver several million punches to Penn's body and face en route to an easy unanimous decision victory.
Nathan has always been a step or two behind Nick. He's younger, rawer and a bit more brash. While Nick was forging his own path in the super-corrupt EliteXC, Nathan was busy winning season 5 of the Ultimate Fighter, which he did with a great submission game and tons of work to do on his boxing.
However, no one told him he was a step behind anybody prior to his grudge match with Donald Cerrone. Cerrone figured to find success in the stand up game, as he'd added better striking defense (He tucks his chin now!) to his legitimate arsenal of knees, kicks, and punches, but no more than 30 seconds into the fight, this theory seemed laughable.
So what is it about these guys? The obvious answer is "well, they get under their opponents' skin". The mean mugging, the shoving, the middle fingers, the open disdain for anything any opponent brings to the table ... it has to add up, right? I've written this before, but imagine someone not only trash talking you, but taking a good shot from you and calling you a little bitch for throwing it. You'd want to hit him harder, right? You'd want to pay him back, and you'd become reckless in this pursuit. You wouldn't be thinking about whatever gameplan you might have had, because you're reverting to a street fight mentality instead.
This, however, misses the point. I think what really happens when good strikers fight the Diaz brothers is that they get pelted, but they also land significant shots of their own, both in power and in volume. They think "Yeah, he's hitting me, and yeah, he's talking trash, but the fact remains that I landed a really good punch in that exchange. If I keep hitting him, he's bound to go down." This is the mindset guys get when they've been hit too many times by a Diaz brother. They both have phenomenal chins. Rewatch Nick's go-round with BJ or Nate tangling with Cerrone; Penn landed oodles of counter right hands, and Cerrone dropped Nate at least 7 times with the same leg kick. And this memory sticks with them the whole fight. It's like they think that if they could only do these things as many times as they get hit, they'll be in the clear. And what ends up happening is one sided tomfoolery.
I do agree with the sentiment that the Diaz brothers haven't fought a really strong wrestler in awhile, and that someone who fits that description could stifle all of that stand up offense. It's certainly no cakewalk if you put them on their backs, but it definitely curries some sort of favor with the admittedly uneducated judges (as evidenced a year ago when Nate outstruck Dong Hyun Kim from his back and lost a decision). That being said, this is the only clear route to victory. They've proven that they can take out good strikers with little more than cardio, great work to the body, and an Eff You attitude.
The last part of that paragraph is what separates the Diaz's from other prolific punchers: nobody goes to the body like they do. Nick does so more than Nate, but after a round of tons of hooks to the body, coupled with being compared to all kinds of orifices, I think their opponents just mentally check out.
The crazy thing is that Cyborg Santos has had the most success against Nick recently, due to kicking the bejeezus out of his legs and making a concerted effort to stay on the outside.
Does Carlos Condit have a shot against Nick Diaz? Yeah, sure. He does. He's a versatile striker that has excellent footwork (an underrated wrinkle that might do wonders for him against Nick, who thrives on getting in dudes grills), a decent wrestler, and a good-to-great grappler. But I can't help thinking about that shot to the body Nick will land halfway through the second round that breaks Condit's spirit. Diaz will put him away, he'll mean mug the camera and do the whole "209" routine, and then this whole "the Diaz brothers are jerks and bad for the sport" foolishness will surface again. I'll just sit there, shaking my head in awe. I'm totally sold on these guys. They are fantastic to watch, and I can't wait for February 4.