Young Diaz ready for next challenge

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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.  

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

Mullin sees potential Warriors-Cavs trilogy Finals going six games, but...

As the defending champion Cavaliers are one win away from advancing to the NBA Finals, the consensus is they will meet the Warriors there and, moreover, that Part III of the trilogy promises to be the most compelling yet.

Chris Mullin is not so sure.

The Hall of Fame forward and current St. John's head coach, a guest Wednesday on the NBC Sports Bay Area Warriors Insider Podcast, perceives a reasonable chance of sweeping the series.

“I’m going on the record saying 4-2, just because maybe I want to see six games,” Mullin said. “I would not be surprised if it’s 4-1 or 4-zero. I think they’re that good.”

Recalling how the Warriors started sluggishly after a one-week layoff ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs, Mullin conceded there could be some rust but probably not enough to invite a loss.

“I don’t want to lay any . . . pressure, but the Warriors, to me, this team that we’re watching is going to go down in history as one of the best teams of all time,” he said. “I believe that. I think they will stay together and that’s we’re probably going to see four Hall of Fame players that have played together and have dominated and become a dynasty. That’s what we’re going to look back on.

“There’s just a huge disparity between them and the rest of the league -- and not just the Cavaliers. But there’s a huge disparity between them and the Cavaliers. “

The Warriors defeated Cleveland in six games to win the championship in 2015, but the Cavaliers recovered from a 3-1 deficit to take the rematch last June.

Though both teams have made substantive changes, Mullin is more impressed with what the Warriors have done, including the addition of four-time scoring champion Kevin Durant to a nucleus that included All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

Mullin pointed out that the losses of Andrew Bogut, along with subtractions to their fabled depth and chemistry, led some to wonder if the Warriors might lose the magic of the previous two seasons. He also understands that point of view.

“But as I see it now,” he said, “I think they’re deeper and have better chemistry than they did last year when they won 73 games.”

It’s not that Mullin gives the Cavaliers, who have won 11 of 12 games in these playoffs, zero chance to win the series. It is just, in his view, very slim. “Cleveland, they’ve got really good people,” he said. “Their talent, I’m not discounting at all. LeBron and Kyrie and Kevin Love, these guys are great, great players.

“I feel like the Warriors are just a notch above everybody. I really believe that.”

 

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A

CHICAGO -- The Giants wanted Christian Arroyo to force his way up to the big leagues. Chris Shaw isn't exactly in the same boat, but he is now at the same level where Arroyo was to start the year. 

Shaw, the top power-hitting prospect in the organization, was promoted from Double-A Richmond to Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday morning. General manager Bobby Evans said Shaw, a first baseman in his first couple of years in the minors, will continue his recent outfield work. Shaw had been playing left field in Richmond and he will be the primary left fielder in Sacramento.

"He's put himself in a position where the next test is the Triple-A level," Evans said. "He was starting to get to the point where he was ready for the next challenge."

It is unlikely that Shaw gets promoted again this season because the Giants do not need to add him to the 40-man roster until after the 2018 season. Arroyo, on the other hand, would have been added after this season anyway. Austin Slater, who also needs to be added at some point in 2017, is more likely to earn a September call-up. The Giants do, however, leave the door open for prospects to force the issue. 

The 23-year-old Shaw was the 31st overall pick in the 2015 draft. He hit 12 homers in 46 games in rookie ball and then slugged 16 in 72 games for the San Jose Giants, earning a promotion late in 2016. Shaw had five more homers in two months with the Flying Squirrels and he opened up this year with six in 133 at-bats. 

In three minor league seasons, Shaw is batting .277 with a .350 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage. He has 39 homers in 813 professional at-bats, along with 59 doubles and four triples. In 37 games this season, Shaw has 26 strikeouts and 18 walks.

"He controls the strike zone and he's got a fairly decent eye," Evans said. "He strikes out a relatively low percentage of the time and has a pretty good walk rate for a power guy."

Shaw played quite a bit in the outfield at Boston College but he was a first baseman in the minors until this season. With Brandon Belt locked in at first at the big league level, the Giants started giving Shaw starts in left field. Before leaving Richmond, Shaw made 18 starts in the outfield, totaling 158 innings. 

Listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Shaw would be big in left, even by the Giants' standards. In the past, scouts -- who admitted they had only seen him at first -- insisted he probably can't handle the position, but the Giants disagree. Shaw is said to have the footwork to handle left, but he's working on getting comfortable with throws. 

"He played a lot of outfield in college, pretty close to 100 games, mostly in right field," Evans said. "We'd like to give him as much time as possible to get comfortable.  We discussed (the outfield) this spring and we made a more conscious decision to get him out there (in left). That was a discussion from the time he was drafted."