UFC 244 breakdown: ‘BMF’ talk aside, how do Jorge Masvidal and Nate Diaz match up?

(Editor’s note: This story originally published Oct. 29, 2019.)

MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC 244.

UFC 244 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN2/ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass.

Jorge Masvidal (34-13 MMA, 11-6 UFC)

Staple info:

Height: 5’11” Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″
Last fight: Knockout win over Ben Askren (July 6, 2019)
Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ AFC welterweight title

+ Undefeated in the streets

+ 15 KO victories

+ 2 submission wins

+ 8 first-round finishes

+ KO power

+ Slick boxing technique

^ Accurate shot selection

+ Improved kicking game

+ Solid balance and footwork

+ Active transition and clinch game

^ Strikes well off of the breaks

+ Excellent wrestling ability

+ Underrated submission acumen

+/- 6-2 against UFC-level southpaws

Nate Diaz (20-11 MMA, 15-9 UFC)

Staple info:

Height: 6’0″ Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 76″
Last fight: Decision win over Anthony Pettis(August 17, 2019)
Camp: Cesar Gracie Fight Team (Stockton, Calif.)
Stance/striking style: Southpaw/boxing
Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ “The Ultimate Fighter 5” winner

+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt

+ 5 KO victories

+ 12 submission victories

+ 8 first-round finishes

+ Consistent pace and pressure

^ High-volume approach

+ Excellent boxing technique

^ Accurate jabs and crosses

+ Deceptively strong clinch fighter

+ Superb submission grappler

^ Solid transitions/comfortable in bad positions

+ Dangerous guard game

^ Excellent leg dexterity

+/- Physically durable/traditionally takes damage

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Point of interest: Stockton slap vs. South Florida scrap

The main event for UFC 244 features a fun pairing of two fan favorites who will slug it out for the title of “Baddest Mother F*cker.”

Initially stepping into MMA from the backyard brawling scene, Jorge Masvidal has turned into one of the savvier strikers among his contemporaries, operating with the comfort of a longtime veteran. Feinting forward and initiating with his jab, Masvidal has always had a knack for pulling and returning punches with his opponents.

At lightweight, the Cuban’s style and available output had him arguably too comfortable at times, costing him crucial rounds in close fights – fights that many thought he won. That said, we have seen a different iteration of Masvidal since his ascension up the welterweight division.

Now pursuing much more aggressively, Masvidal will mix in his improved kicks off of Thai-style marches. Working well off of his patented left hand, the 16-year veteran asserts himself down the centerline with authority, varying between straight shots to the head or hooks to the body.

Masvidal, who seldom extends himself too far out of position, can be hard to hit cleanly more often than not. However, his comfort in exchanges has shown to cost him both blitzes and counters at times. And despite Masvidal going 6-2 against UFC-level southpaws, he is not beyond being tagged with long left crosses (as we saw in fights with Darren Till, Michael Chiesa and Tim Means).

Sure, Masvidal was able to eventually make adjustments and win said fights, but that punch, in particular, is the last strike you want to give Nate Diaz – a man who can take the steering wheel in a fistfight at a moment’s notice.

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Another fighter who came up in an environment where throwing hands were far from foreign concepts, Diaz demonstrates the ability to box with the best of them when it comes to MMA. Under the tutelage of Richard Perez (who is also the boxing coach of Nick Diaz), we have seen the younger Diaz brother steadily sharpen his skills standing.

Firing jab-cross continuums with the snap of a coiled cobra, Diaz will off-set striking rhythms, disrupting a fighter’s timing and subsequent approach. Coupled with unabashed physical taunts and mental warfare, Stockton’s own can sneakily steal the momentum of a fight right out from his opponent’s feet.

Although Diaz has been relatively inactive in recent years, he showed us in his last fight that his cult status isn’t the only thing that has been growing.

Against Anthony Pettis, Diaz displayed an awareness of the traditional defensive pitfalls associated with his boxing-centric stance, smartly managing distance and switching stances in his approach. Diaz also managed to check kicks a bit more than he typically does, something that proved to be crucial being that he was able to injure Pettis’ foot at the beginning of the second round.

Still, legs kicks or not, it is not unusual to see Diaz take damage in victory or defeat, as his in-your-face style of pressure does not come without its costs. Even though a five-round affair is better suited for Diaz’s slow-burn stylings, he can’t afford to start too slow against Masvidal.

If he does, then don’t be surprised to see Diaz make things ugly with his underrated clinch warfare in order the level out the playing field. But with Masvidal’s noted wrestling ability, clinch fighting can quickly turn into sticky situations.

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Next point of interest: Grappling gambles and savvy scrambles

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