After six years away from the UFC, Nick Diaz makes his highly anticipated return to the Octagon against Robbie Lawler on the main card of UFC 266.
Two of the UFC’s original stars, Nick Diaz and Robbie Lawler, return to the Octagon for a middleweight bout on the main card of UFC 266 in Las Vegas on Saturday. Diaz and Lawler first fought over 17 years ago at UFC 47. They’re set to run it back in what could be the swan song for both legends.
Nick Diaz UFC 266 Odds
Diaz (26-10 MMA record) is one of the most experienced fighters in UFC history. It’s fitting that in what will likely be his last UFC fight, Diaz is matched up with the opponent that helped him put his name on the map. Diaz and Lawler originally fought at UFC 47 in 2004 (yes the UFC existed then, for everyone under the age of 25). The Stockton, California native became a star when he taunted the heavily favoured Lawler into missing a wild shot, before Diaz connected with a heavy right to win by second-round knockout.
It’s been nearly a decade since Diaz was in contention for a UFC belt. He faced off against Carlos Condit at UFC 143 in 2012, but lost the interim welterweight championship by unanimous decision. Diaz was then suspended for a year after testing positive for marijuana following the Condit fight. He returned in 2013 to face Canadian UFC legend, Georges St-Pierre at UFC 158. He against lost the welterweight belt by unanimous decision. Diaz hasn’t fought since facing Anderson Silva at UFC 183 in 2015, originally losing the fight by unanimous decision, before it was ruled a no contest after both fighters tested positive for banned substances.
It’s hard to really evaluate Diaz, as he hasn’t fought in six years and hasn’t won in a decade. He’s always relied heavily on the strength of his boxing, jiu-jitsu, conditioning and pure toughness. To be honest, this is going to be a tough fight for Diaz to win even if he is in fight-shape. His opponent might not be piling up the wins anymore, but he at least has a feel for the Octagon and that’s more than Diaz can really say.
The best strategy for Diaz is to close the distance quickly and not allow Lawler’s powerful leg kick to punish him. If Diaz can trade shots in the pocket/clinch, this is anyone’s fight.
Robbie Lawler UFC 266 Odds
Lawler (28-15 MMA record) has been a journeyman since making his professional MMA debut in 2001. He’s competed in Strikeforce, PRIDE and the IFL and is a former EliteXC middleweight champion and UFC welterweight champion. Lawler originally lost the vacant welterweight title to Johny Hendricks by unanimous decision at UFC 171 in 2014, before winning the rematch and the belt later that year. He defended the belt twice, before losing it for good to Jake Paul-punching bag Tyron Woodley at UFC 201 in 2016.
“Ruthless” hasn’t exactly earned his nickname over the last few years. His last win was a unanimous decision victory over Donald Cerrone in 2017. Since then, Lawler has lost four straight fights. In his last fight (and only fight of 2020) Lawler was a late replacement for Geoff Neal at Fight Night 175. He would end up losing to Neil Magny by unanimous decision.
Lawler has clearly struggled recently, but he’s still a powerful striker. He’s more than capable of punishing Diaz, with 20 of his 28 career wins coming by knockout. Lawler has always been known as a brawler. Ironically, however, his biggest issue recently is waiting too long for the perfect opportunity to take those shots.
The best bet for Lawler in this fight is to fire hard shots right away. Diaz is tough, but he also hasn’t taken a legitimate UFC beating in six years. Lawler needs to punish Diaz early and chip away at his toughness.
UFC 266 Prediction: Diaz vs. Lawler
Does this fight have any title implications? No. Do I care? No! These fighters were going at it when the UFC was still considered backyard brawling by the mainstream sports world. Neither fighter is close to their prime, but one thing they’ve each always delivered, is an entertaining fight. That said, I just don’t see how you can take six years off and expect to win if you’re Diaz. Lawler wins by unanimous decision.