Jake Paul, fresh off his first professional loss in late February against Tommy Fury, will be stepping into the ring this coming August. The opponent is none other than Ultimate Fighting Championship legend Nate Diaz.
Diaz, who is coming off a submission victory over Tony Ferguson in September, announced after the win that he was done competing in the UFC and would be seeking other opportunities in the world of combat sports. It had been speculated that a venture into the paid ranks of professional boxing could be next for the MMA legend. Talk of a trilogy fight against Conor McGregor taking place in a boxing ring has been thrown around but ultimately it will be Youtube star turned pugilist Jake Paul with whom Diaz will tangle with next.
After reeling off 6 consecutive victories over mostly over the hill MMA fighters, the 26 year old Paul came up short against the undefeated Tommy Fury. It was his first boxing match against an actual boxer and one who has experience to boot. Paul gave a decent account of himself in coming on late but ultimately was outpointed over the course of 8 rounds.
A rematch with Fury seems a likely scenario in the future as it was a competitie fight which did very well at the box office selling just under 800 thousand Pay Per Views. Before such a rematch takes place, Paul will have to defeat a combat sports legend in Dallas.
Diaz, who is known as a submission expert, has always shown an above average standup game. His combination of relentless come-forward pressure coupled with above average output and a reliable chin has proved problematic in the world of mixed martial arts. It was that reliable chin and will to win which led him to his greatest victory over Conor McGregor in their first fight.
He was too much for the tiring Conor from a stand-up position and when McGegor tried to take Diaz down it was an act of desperation. If Conor couldn't win the fight standing, which is where he is strongly suited in MMA, he would have no chance on the ground with Diaz. That daring act was another way of quitting as he quickly found himself submitted. Prior to the conclusion, Diaz simply broke his man mentally and did so with his hands and mental toughness.
A similar standup strategy nearly got him a second win over McGregor in a close fight in which Connor needed every bit of his energy in using his legs to move and avoid the stalking Diaz over the course of the fight. McGregor basically crawled to the finish line, winning a majority decision. Those fights were back in 2016. That was then, this is now.
Diaz has had just 5 fights in the 7 years that have passed since his win over McGregor. In those 5 fights he has come up short in 3 of those outings.
The wear and tear from a 19 year career in which Diaz has taken a great deal of punishment does not bode well against a much younger and fresher opponent. Paul has been the 8 round round distance that this fight is scheduled for 3 times himself already. To further stack the deck against Diaz, he will be 38 years old when this fight takes place. Anyone who saw Diaz's last fight against Ferguson would attest to this being anything but a young 38.
A move to the boxing world for Nate Diaz is coming a few years too late. If it was 2016 I might favor Diaz in this fight regardless of it being his professional debut against what now amounts to an experienced boxer in this matchup. But it isn't 2016. The last few years have not been kind to Diaz. The combination of the inactivity and erosion of skills have depreciated Diaz to the point of no return.
An 8 round fight is a big ask for a professional debut in a new sport, even for an experienced legend who once had one of the best gas tanks in the business.
I expect Nate Diaz to give it his all and have his moments, thrill the fans as he has done countless times before.
I expect him to come to win while giving it his all but I also expect him to fall short in a battle of ages and conditions…. Neither of which favor this once great fighter.