Young Diaz ready for next challenge


Young Diaz ready for next challenge

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.  

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."