Nate Diaz desperately needed an impressive performance at the Ultimate Fighter Season 18 Finale, and the top-10 UFC lightweight delivered an electrifying effort in Las Vegas. Diaz ended a two-fight losing skid with a devastating knockout of former two-time title challenger Gray Maynard in their trilogy fight.
Diaz was looking to bounce back after being stopped by Josh Thomson at UFC on FOX 7. Prior to that, the Stockton native had dropped a lopsided decision in a failed title challenge against then-champion Benson Henderson. A third straight defeat for Diaz would’ve been a huge setback in such a stacked division and would have sent him tumbling further down the ranks.
Instead, he re-established himself as a legitimate title threat by destroying Maynard at 2:38 of the opening round.
It was easily the most decisive finish of the three encounters between the two fighters. Diaz had submitted “The Bully” in their semifinal meeting at TUF Season 5 en route to winning the TUF lightweight crown. In their next meeting in the UFC, Maynard put his wrestling to good use in securing a split decision victory. The rubber match was seen a crossroads fight for both, and it was Diaz who dominated.
From the opening bell, Diaz was quick to get his improved striking game in rhythm against Maynard. Maynard was able to record a takedown, but Diaz got back to his feet and landed some punches against the cage and added a solid throw of his opponent. Maynard was cut around the left eye, and the beginning of the end came with a short left hand from Diaz as his opponent was trying to set up another takedown.
Diaz swarmed a stunned Maynard with a brutal onslaught of left and right hands that had “The Bully” reeling and seemingly out on his feet. Maynard never did get a chance to clear his head as Diaz continued to rain down punch after punch until referee Yves Lavigne finally halted the fight. Maynard took a tremendous amount of punishment during the Diaz barrage and collapsed to the canvas when the fight ended.
Diaz improved to 17-9 with the victory and earned a Knockout of the Night bonus. It was his first knockout since 2010. For Maynard, it’ll definitely be a time to do some serious soul-searching in the wake of being on the receiving end of a second consecutive first-round blitzing. He was brutalized by T.J. Grant in a title eliminator at UFC 160. In fact, Maynard has now been knocked out in three of his last four fights, and his hopes of staying relevant have taken a severe blow.
As for Diaz, he’s been hoping to get another crack at Thomson, and he’s of course interested in getting a title shot against current champion Anthony Pettis. He has clearly secured himself another high-profile fight next after one of the most explosive efforts of his career.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports