Young Diaz ready for next challenge

Young Diaz ready for next challenge
December 6, 2012, 2:15 pm
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Nate Diaz is 3-0 since returning to the ranks of the 155-pounders. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

When it comes to Northern California MMA, there is one prominent team that stands tall amongst the many -- Cesar Gracie Fight Team.

With the likes of Nick Diaz, Jake Shields and Gilbert Melendez leading the way, it is sometimes difficult to point out the best fighter on the team.

Nick’s younger brother Nate is beginning to work his way into that discussion, and may even be considered the best after UFC on FOX 5. The younger Diaz will challenge Benson Henderson (17-2-0) for the UFC lightweight title.

Diaz wasn’t just handed this title shot based on name. He has beaten some of the top lightweights the UFC has to offer. After winning Season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter, Diaz went up to welterweight, but mixed results sent him to the lightweight division.

Since returning to the ranks of the 155 pounders, Diaz is 3-0 with two submission victories and a dominant unanimous decision victory over Donald Cerrone. His last three victories, including an overall record of 16-7, have earned him a shot at the lightweight title. For having such a stellar career, this will Diaz’s first title shot in the UFC.

Diaz has ruffled feathers, just like older brother Nick, in his time with the UFC. He’s been brass, vulgar and even downright obnoxious at times. But, he has been able to back it up inside the octagon.

Some say the Diaz brothers gain an upper hand by their brash attitude and get under the skin of their opponents. Nate will likely employ that Stockton attitude against Henderson, but Benson isn’t nicknamed “Smooth” for no reason.

The current lightweight champion has kept his cool under dire circumstances. After defeating Frankie Edgar for the title in a five-round battle earlier this year, Henderson silenced critics by defeating Edgar in a rematch that was highly controversial. Yet, through it all, “Smooth” has stayed…well, smooth.

This will be the first ever meeting between Henderson and Diaz, but with two similar styles it could be another instant classic from the UFC’s deepest division.

WRESTLING: Henderson is a two-time NAIA All-American Wrestler and is considered one of the top wrestlers in the UFC.
Edge: Henderson

STRIKING: This one is dead even. Both fighters are strong on their feet, but in different ways. Diaz is a phenomenal boxer and has shown the ability to win bouts with his fists. He’s a smart technician and picks his spots. Henderson on the other hand, is a black belt in Taekwondo and has been known to throw some of the harder kicks in MMA. This could be an interesting bout if things stay standing.
Edge: Draw

GRAPPLING: The nod on this must go to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Nate Diaz. Diaz was awarded his black belt earlier this year after years of training in BJJ under the Gracie umbrella. He has won five Submission of the Night honors and is one of the more feared grappling technicians in the division.
Edge: Diaz

Nitesh Dutt is a Production Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.