Thursday, March 14, 2013

Looking for a Fight: UFC 158


Don't be annoyed, homie. (ufc.com)

Nick Diaz interrupting after a reporter asked Georges St-Pierre if he was pampered: “I hope so, motherf-----. If I had that much money, I’d be pampering myself up and having mother-----s pampering my s--- left and right. Every hour, there’d be [someone] showing up to pamper me. That would be that.”

St-Pierre: “Let me tell you something, uneducated fool. Listen to me. I have not always been rich. I started from the bottom. I made myself and worked very hard to be where I am right now. I know you don’t believe this, because you didn’t succeed yet, and maybe you will never succeed in your life because I don’t think you’re smart enough to understand how you should [act] to reach that point.

“When you talk about people doing stuff for me... when you reach a point for your business, you need a team of people to work for you to make the economy, to keep the money rolling. You don’t know anything about me, man. You have no idea where I come from. You’re not the only jealous guy.”

Diaz: “That sounds nice, Georges. That sounds nice. If I wore some tight shorts out there and got a haircut and had someone buttering me up halfway through [my career] and telling me this bulls---, maybe it would have worked out. You don’t even know where I come from. I’m not jealous, OK? You did what you had to do. I don’t mean to be disrespectful. I don’t have anything against you, and I think you’ve done a great job for who you are and what you have to work with. So what if you’re pampered out? I don’t have anything against that. All I’m saying is that I hope so, motherf-----, because this is some f----d up s---. If I had the money and the right people on my side working with me to make sure I had my s--t ready, I would be doing it. But I’m over here still doing that s---. Try doing that s--- from when you’re 21 all the way until you’re 32, which you are now. It’s a bitch.”

St-Pierre: “If you are where you are right now, and I have what I have, that’s not my fault. That’s because of you, man. You did not succeed. It’s on you, man.”


And to think, people wanted GSP to fight Johny Hendricks.

A media conference call for UFC 158 changed the collective course of excitement for the title fight Saturday night between Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz.



On October 29, 2011 Diaz had just finished bludgeoning B.J. Penn into another retirement, and the controversial Stockton, CA fighter didn't mince his words after his hand was raised. He called out GSP, who at the time was nursing a knee injury that kept him out of his scheduled title defense against Carlos Condit. As the camera stayed, as it usually is, transfixed on Diaz and cut to GSP to see his reaction cage side to being called scared and his injury being questioned, it's clear something inside GSP was burning.

Those initial reactions were confirmed in the post fight press conference by Dana White. He said GSP came up to him and demanded to fight Nick Diaz. He thought Diaz was beyond disrespectful, and he wanted to give Diaz the worst beating of his CAR-eer (emphasized for GSP). The fight made sense. The fans wanted it, Diaz deserved it, and the UFC was eager to put on a show that could pit the completely opposite personas of GSP and Diaz against each other.



Of course though, things didn't go as planned. GSP was training for the Diaz fight when he tore his ACL. He would be out for a year before coming back and defeating interim champion Carlos Condit. Condit won the title by defeating Diaz. After that fight Diaz was then suspended by the Las Vegas Athletic Commission for a year for testing positive for marijuana metabolites during his post fight drug test.

All the while a bearded wrestler from Pennsylvania and his left hook were causing all kinds of trouble. In the time of GSP's injury and the interim situation was going on, Johny Hendricks was making a name for himself. He knocked out Jon Fitch in 12 seconds, beat Josh Koscheck, and knocked Martin Kampmann across the Octagon in less than a minute.

Where a lot of fans stood was if it wasn't a superfight, then they wanted Hendricks against GSP. GSP, however, saw it differently. Whatever Diaz had drudged up so many months ago was still burning inside the 170 lb. Francophone. GSP wanted the Diaz fight, and well, the UFC and Dana White agreed to give one of their top fighters and earners what he wanted. We don't need no stinkin' rankings!

Hendricks was perturbed. Fans were iffy on Diaz getting the title shot. People saw Nick's bro Nate get taken down again and again by Benson Henderson and expected this fight to be a carbon copy of that.

Then, a simple, standard conference call completely erased everyone's collective memory.

Now what we have is a highly tense fight that can be talked about in a million different angles. There's been soundbites and Twitter hashtags. New commercials have been cut and I'm sure the UFC brass is already upping the estimated pay-per-view buys. This is marketing even the slickest of marketers at the UFC could have done. There is only one reason, and that's Nick Diaz.

Diaz is as interesting a character study as you will find in the UFC. No one appears to really know what drives him, what motivates him to act the way he does or why? Is it anxiety? Is he jealous of the success of a guy like GSP? His erratic behavior is so uncontrolled it almost appears to be controlled. As a person he always seemed to be more introverted and not interested in the glitz and glamour of fighting because basically he feels he's never had any of that. He complains about lack of sponsorship, turning to boxing to get paid more, or people just constantly hating on him.

Is what Diaz portrays on the camera just as 100% true and authentic as it gets, or does he have any concept that cultivating this bad boy image (a la Floyd Mayweather) is some of the best marketing one can do?

In a verbal attack on GSP that was as voluminous as his stirkes Diaz went off - spouting emotions from respecting GSP to being insanely jealous of him. His reactions took everyone, including GSP, off guard. Just deciphering the point of what Diaz was saying is tough enough - let alone listening to him speak. His words go a million miles a minute, and he doesn't seem to take as much as a breath let alone think to filter his words before saying them.

What Diaz is ultimately getting at though is himself. When people cannot filter themselves, what ultimately comes out is a reflection on themselves and how they feel. Diaz probably does think GSP is pampered, but that's not meant to be a knock on the champ. Diaz says that would be "nice" if he could have it. He's saying he isn't getting the GSP money and is still struggling. He'd like to be that, but he isn't and in his mind I'm sure he knows he never will be that kind of guy.

But ultimately, that's not what makes Nick Diaz Nick Diaz. His comments may serve some kind of internal purpose for his actions: motivation or aggravating the champ so he makes bad decisions during the fight. That seems a little too easy for Diaz. The reason he can act aloof or irresponsible is because he's trying to figure himself out. He wants to know why GSP is there and he's here. Or why this "pampered" guy gets more respect and love from fans than a guy like himself who is anything but pampered. The word self-destructive comes to mind, but that's too harsh. Diaz doesn't appear to be personally harmful ... maybe only professionally. He appears to be a person that just functions better when things aren't going right. When he's not getting paid or being disrespected or not on the right side of a judges' decision.

His head trainer Caesar Gracie certainly has no idea what to expect from Diaz, but in the UFC Countdown for 158, he said that Nick is just a person that needs adversity. If something is perfect, he'll find a way to mess it up. Well, GSP is near perfect. Come Saturday, Nick Diaz will find a way to mess that up too.

BREAKDOWN

If there's ever been a GSP fight better geared to be a "GSP fight" it's this one. GSP has struggled to finish fighters, even though he has dominated in all of his victories. It would seem unlikely that GSP would be able to submit or knock out the steel chinned/willed Diaz. Diaz won't quit outside of some kind of mental breakdown inside the Octagon. And both guys cardio can go for miles.

One doesn't have to watch every Nick Diaz fight to try to figure out his strategy because it's the same. It's always the same. Game plan and Nick Diaz don't jive together. Out of pure stubbornness Diaz would prefer to just fight his fight. Walk forward, not check leg kicks, taunt, and wait to unload a fury of punches. What Diaz does that I find most interesting is that if he does engage GSP in a back and forth he throws a lot of punches. A lot of them are rather slow and just lightly slapping or hitting his opponent, but when you watch on replay mixed in with these light shots are whipping jabs and hooks that break through an opponents defense when the opponent least expects it. With his long frame and excellent boxing, Diaz can catch anyone off guard.

I'm guessing GSP knows this, and GSP will work the leg kicks and take downs to grind Diaz down. GSP does bring something new to the table every time he fights, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him utilize a lot of leg kicks to neutralize Diaz's striking as well as keep him at bay. Diaz will have to work hard to corner GSP in order to start striking with him, as well as being vigilant of any takedown attempt. Diaz might be confident off his back, but that's not where you want to be against GSP for long spells of time.

The whole dark place thing with GSP is being blown out of proportion a little bit. Sure it's a nice thing to type or say to bring up cheap thrills, but the one thing GSP fears most is losing the title. He might be a bit more aggressive to finish the fight, but he's not walking into a Diaz haymaker. GSP was amped up against Koscheck and BJ Penn II - both of which went significantly in the champs favor. If anything, this dark place is a place where GSP goes every time he fights and a little extra dark energy will only help him.

As predictable as it sounds: GSP by decision.

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