Diaz VS Masvidal at UFC 244 has the potential to be looked back on as a watershed moment. Despite Canelo VS Kovalev taking place on the same night in boxing, it was the UFC that held the bigger draw – rumour has it the boxers were forced to wait to fight until the UFC event had finished.
It will also be looked back on as the moment the UFC crossed the Rubicon into WWE-style entertainment, leading as it did with a 5-round fight for a fictitious ‘Bad Mother Fucker’ belt, delivered by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. This move had its detractors in the sport, but was undoubtedly popular with fans, and it brought together two firm fan-favourites, both working class fighters whose reputations are centred around an early life on the street.
On one side, the seemingly unhurtable cardio king, Nate Diaz. On the other, Jorge “Street Jesus” Masvidal, a fighter who has shot from relative obscurity to stardom in the space of the year, via the fastest ever knockout in UFC history – a flying knee that sent the undefeated Ben Askren directly to hell.
The fight itself was gripping – Masvidal amusingly faking the flying knee at the start to make Nate back up early – and saw both men land solid shots. Masvidal decisively won the first three rounds, dropping Nate early with a head kick and landing solid ground-and-pound.
Masvidal is noted for being a wily fighter, and notably did not take the risk of punching himself out against Diaz, a triathlete who relies on an almost otherworldly gas tank to dominate later rounds. Masvidal’s striking opened two horrendous cuts around Nate’s eye, which forced a controversial doctor’s stoppage at the end of round 3.
The crowd chanted ‘bullshit, bullshit’, but it’s hard to sympathise; further punishment could have permanently damaged his eye. All in all a brilliant fight night, marred only by the presence of Donald Trump in the crowd and by the deference some fighters show him. Where’s Jeff Monson when you need him?