This Saturday in San Jose, Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz will defend his belt against KJ Noons, the last fighter to defeat him. Diaz vs. Noons 1 took place at EliteXC: Renegade in November 2007; the fight was stopped due to cuts after the first round. Since their first meeting, Diaz has gone 7-0 (all wins by stoppage), with notable victories over Frank Shamrock, Scott Smith, Marius Zaromskis, and Hayato Sakurai. Noons has gone 4-0 since his win over Diaz, scoring knockouts against Yves Edwards and Jorge Gurgel.
It’s a rematch that needed to happen eventually, and most oddsmakers currently have Diaz at more than a 2-1 favorite, apparently based on Nick’s reputation and the fact that Noons is fighting in an unfamiliar weight class. The question is, will it look anything like their first meeting? In case you haven’t lately, check out the above video of their first fight. Let’s try to break it down…
Diaz seems to recognize that a straight boxing match with Noons isn’t his best strategy, so he looks to get the fight to the mat early. The problem is, KJ repeatedly stuffs his takedown attempts. Nick decides to box for a bit, but eventually the temptation to shoot again become overpowering. Diaz dives in for a takedown and gets it, despite eating a knee to the face that’s at least partially responsible for his first nasty cut. Noons escapes and the fight is paused so Diaz’s cut can be examined.
When the action is restarted, Noons drops Diaz with a right straight and cuts Diaz’s face again with shots from the top. Diaz reverts to butt-scooting. After that it’s pretty much a striking match, with Noons getting the better of the exchanges and spending the last 30 seconds of the round defending another takedown from Diaz. The round ends. The doctor comes in tells Diaz it’s not his night, kid.
Nick Diaz has since dismissed the loss as bullshit, and underwent surgery to fix his cut-prone face. But it’s pretty much indisputable that he got his ass kicked in that first round. He was getting outboxed, he had serious trouble putting Noons on the mat, and when he did get Noons down he couldn’t keep him there. A tough sprawl-n-brawl game turned out to be Diaz’s kryptonite.
Three years later, both fighters are a little better at what they do, but there’s no major factor to suggest that Diaz vs. Noons II is going to look like a different fight. If anything, Noons is more committed to MMA now than he was back then; this will be KJ’s fourth fight in 2010, a total that matches his MMA output from 2006-2009. Nick’s volume-and-taunting-based striking style works against most MMA fighters, but Noons is an especially talented and technical boxer who doesn’t need to land a hundred punches to hurt you.
Strikeforce’s extra security had better stay vigilant, because I smell an upset brewing…