Pre-Fight Thoughts: Nate Diaz -vs- Jorge Masvidal
First off, before we get to anything else, it needs to be said that the concept of the "BMF title" is utterly ridiculous. It's one thing to use a casual Diaz quip for promotional material, in videos and written marketing copy, but to actually make a physical belt... This smacks of people who don't understand how 'cool' works seeing that something gained a bit of traction with the fanbase — as Nate Diaz is a very quotable fighter in general — and running it into the ground. I don't foresee this having anything close to a negative effect on selling the fight, I just think it's dumb. Of all the fights to centre around a gimmick, this isn't it; Nate Diaz versus Jorge Masvidal sells itself — this BMF title nonsense feels wholly unnecessary.
That said, the title is a thing, and we're stuck with it. The fight itself is a great match-up, pairing a perennial fan favourite in Nate Diaz with another high profile, no nonsense scrapper in Jorge Masvidal. Both are tenured veterans of the fight game, although their careers have differed significantly with Diaz fighting for only the second time after a 3-year layoff, while Masvidal has been very active — and incredibly successful since moving up to welterweight. This is a fight that feels like it should have already happened, but for the fact their schedules either did not align or they were competing in different promotions. Still, we're lucky to get the fight now, with both fighters still in their primes.
As interested as I am to see how the fight pans out, my expectation is that Jorge Masvidal should be advantaged significantly, provided he doesn't turn in a performance with no urgency until the final 5th of the bout. That's what cost him so many razor-thin split decisions when he competed at lightweight, although, in Masvidal's defence, he's been a much more proactive fighter at 170 pounds. It is possible that the cut down to 155 pounds was draining enough that it kept Masvidal preoccupied with not exhausting himself — to the point that it made him too tentative — but that's just an assumption on my part. It is also possible that we see a regression to the mean, and a conservative Masivdal gets baited into letting Nate Diaz dictate the pace and implement his volume-heavy style.
On paper, I would give Jorge Masvidal advantages over Nate in pretty much every department. The stationary nature of Nate's striking game should theoretically make him vulnerable to Masvidal's more dynamic boxing, or wrestling — should he choose to shoot for takedowns. In his win over Anthony Pettis, Diaz reminded everyone that he has a very serviceable clinch game, so I'm not expecting Masvidal to play around in that position, but it would be a good idea to at least threaten some takedowns. Checking leg kicks is also something Diaz seems to do now, so the old Diaz 101 solution — smash the legs and shoot for single-legs — will need some tweaking here. I still think Masvidal can pull it off, but Nate has shown the ability to adapt and evolve, moreso than his older brother did. As ever, Nate is a lot more savy than he is often given credit for.
Ultimately, this feels like a fight destined to go to a decision. I know Masvidal is one of the most snake-bit fighters when it comes to getting snubbed by the judges, but I truly feel this is his fight for the taking. Nate looked rusty in the first few rounds of his fight with Pettis, whereas Masvidal has been fighting consistently for a while now, and is riding an incredible wave of momentum right now. This fight is by no means a foregone conclusion, but I do favour Masivdal here. I just feel that Masivdal is the better fighter overall; Nate is tough as nails and very skilled, it wouldn't be a shock whatsoever if he won. Regardless of the outcome, this has all the potential to be one of the best fights of the year and easily a Fight Of The Night performance.
The only prediction I can make with a large degree of confidence is that this should be a close fight. A one-sided route, one way or the other, would be a real shock.
Published: November 2nd, 2019.