Nate Diaz didn’t look like a fighter who hadn’t competed in three years.
The fan favourite from Stockton, Calif., made his long-awaited return to the Octagon on Saturday night and he walked out with his hand raised after winning a crowd-pleasing unanimous decision over Anthony Pettis.
Diaz, despite his inactivity, showcased his cardio and pushed the pace for the bulk of the three rounds. Diaz’s patented pressure eventually wore down Pettis.
The bout took place in the welterweight division and Diaz had a noticeable size advantage over Pettis, a former lightweight champion.
More than anything, though, it was Diaz’s pressure that Pettis couldn’t ultimately contend with.
Diaz landed 205 of the 306 total strikes he attempted in the 15-minute contest overall with Pettis connecting on just 86 total strikes in comparison.
Saturday’s co-main event also happened to be a grudge match years in the making.
“Me and Nate Diaz, we really don’t get along,” Pettis told Sportsnet all the way back in 2016. “Me and Nate, if you put us in the same room most likely a fight is gonna happen. That’s just how it is with us. I don’t know how it happened or why the history is that way but we always have an exchange of words. He always had words for me that rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t take that lightly.”
Despite the bad blood, Diaz and Pettis were respectful once the final horn sounded.
During his post-fight interview, Diaz was asked by Joe Rogan what might be next for him.
Although a trilogy bout with Conor McGregor has long been discussed, Diaz put out a respectful challenge to Jorge Masvidal who was watching from cageside.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) August 18, 2019
A matchup between two longtime fan favourites like Diaz and Masvidal, who is fresh off a record-setting knockout of Ben Askren, would be big business for the UFC.