It’s that time once again, fans and friends. Another major MMA event has come and gone, and it’s time for my unofficial “Best Performance of the Night” award. It was a pretty hard award to pick for Strikeforce’s “Diaz vs. Daley” event, which saw a host of fantastic finishes and heartfelt performances. But this award ends up going to the man who is now the most dominant champion in Strikeforce history. Here’s why Nick Diaz’s thrilling stoppage of Paul Daley took home “Best Performance of the Night”.
Let’s begin as we always do: by putting the fight into context.
Paul Daley was known for his one-hit knockout power heading into his championship bout with Nick Diaz. However, he was also known for his fiery temper, which got him kicked out of the UFC. Nevertheless, Daley boasted an impressive win-streak, having won his last four fights and eight of his last nine fights. Those eight victories included seven stoppages, which included six first-round stoppages.
His opponent, Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz, also boasted an impressive win-streak of his own. Diaz had won his last nine fights, during the course of which he became the first-ever Strikeforce Welterweight Champion and then proceeded to defend it twice. Much like Daley, Diaz had finished a large majority of those fights: eight of nine, in fact.
And then the fight began, and everything fans wanted to see happen, did happen.
Nick Diaz doing what he always does and starting the match taunting his opponent? Check.
Daley landing several big blows that nearly toppled Diaz’s reign? Check.
Diaz keeping the fight standing in order to give fans one of the best brawls of the year? Check.
A very, very dramatic stoppage? Oh yes.
The end of the fight came after another scary close call that had Nick Diaz wobbly and wounded. But eventually Diaz was able to close the distance and land his trademark “punches in bunches”, attacking Daley from all angles and hitting him at multiple areas of his body. Whether it was a slip, fatigue, or Daley being stunned and/or rocked, Daley would end up falling to the canvas shortly after shoving Diaz away from him. Diaz would pounce, land several more hard fists, and force the referee to stop the fight with only three seconds left on the clock.
There are already some fans out there claiming that it was an early stoppage, even Daley himself seems to think so. But here’s what I remember. While Team Cesar Gracie was busy in post-fight celebration, I clearly remember the Strikeforce cameras cutting to Paul Daley. And I also clearly remember Paul Daley needing help from several men in order to make it to his corner’s stool. That, above all else, leads me to believe that this was definitely a fair stoppage.
With this victory, Nick Diaz has become the best fighter in Strikeforce. He’s ran through his division. He’s defended his championship more times than any other champion in Strikeforce history. In an era where even the UFC’s champions can lose their belts in their first defense, Nick Diaz has defended his belt three times. He may be difficult to deal with, he may be controversial, a large section of the fanbase may hate him. But none of that really matters. What does matter is what happens in the cage, everything else is just filler and pre-fight hype. And inside the cage, Nick Diaz is one of the best fighters in the world. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that he deserves “Best Performance of the Night” for Strikeforce: “Diaz vs. Daley”.
And what about you, fans and friends? Who took home your unofficial end-of-night accolades?