Adesanya versus Vettori 2 be the last the UFC sees of Nate Diaz? The answer to this question may depend on the result of the fight. At 36 years old, the former welterweight contender returns to the Octagon on Saturday, June 12 against No.3 Leon Edwards. The bout is just one fight on a stacked main card at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Diaz (21-12-0) is currently unranked, going into his contest against the division’s third-ranked fighter in Edwards. This fight could be a measuring device to see if Diaz still has “it” to keep going in the UFC. The feeling, however, is that this is an opportunity for him to take one last fight in a weight class that he once presided over, if briefly.
On June 23, it will be 14 years since Diaz debuted in the Octagon at 22 years old. When considering the length of his career, there’s the 2011 co-main event bout with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 141: Brock Lesnar versus Alistair Overeem, where Diaz won by unanimous decision. In 2016 he once again returned to pay-per-view, picking up a fight on late notice against Conor McGregor at UFC 196. Set at welterweight, a division above McGregor’s lightweight contention, Diaz submitted the future two-class champion in the second round. The two ran it back for a second fight five months later at UFC 202 which McGregor won by decision.
Since McGregor, Diaz has fought just twice. After a three-year absence from 2016 to 2019, Diaz split contests against Anthony Pettis and Jorge Masvidal, winning the first and losing the second. It has been 19 months since the Masvidal fight, which ended with a TKO Doctor’s stoppage in favor of Masvidal.
Like Diaz, Edwards (18-3-0) has faced some of the best in the sport in his career. In 2015 he went three rounds with Kamaru Usman when they were unranked fighters. Usman, of course, is now the second-ranked pound-for-pound male fighter in the UFC, as well as the current welterweight champion. Edwards has also faced Cerrone as the main event for UFC Fight Night on June 23, 2018.
Currently, on a nine-fight win streak, Edwards is making a push to once again face Usman, though hopefully for a shot at the belt. Accidental eye-pokes in his March 13 fight against Belal Muhammad led to a ruling of no contest. If he can keep it clean against Diaz, Edwards may earn his first chance for a title. Recording a seventh career knockout would definitely help him to that end.
Big names don’t stop with the main events at UFC 263, as the main card features former welterweight contender Nate Diaz (21-12-0) in his return to the Octagon for the first time in 19 months. In a contest between two athletes at different points in their career, Diaz will face the division’s third-ranked Leon Edwards (18-3-0). Diaz has returned from major lay-offs before, absent from the sport for three years from 2016 to 2019, winning his first fight back. Edwards, on the other hand, has won his last nine fights, looking for an even 10. His last loss was in 2015 to a young Kamaru Usman before the latter’s rise to dominance in the weight class. If Diaz can get the victory, he can expect to face the champion Usman soon.
The card remains stacked with two more bouts between ranked contenders looking to improve their standing. The main card begins with a light heavyweight contest between No.14 Paul Craig and No.15 Jamahal Hill, followed by No.9 Demian Maia and No.12 Belal Muhammad in the welterweight.