UFC 266 – A 17-year long and turbulent timeline since Nick Diaz vs. Robbie Lawler 1


Nick Diaz was 20 years old and facing the biggest challenge of his young MMA career.

At UFC 47, on a stormy night in Las Vegas in April 2004, Diaz faced Robbie Lawler in his second appearance inside the Octagon. Lawler, who was 22, had fought five times in the UFC before and had a pair or knockouts to show for it. He was 8-1 overall and knocked out six opponents – all but one in the first round.

Diaz was best known as a jiu-jitsu fighter, having completed four of his first 10 professional fights by submission. But he could throw hands too, and on a card titled by the long-awaited debut fight between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, Diaz might have stolen the show.

He used all of the Diaz tools that fans would get used to seeing. He kept walking forward, talking and mocking. (At one point, in a confusing application of rules that didn’t exist then and still don’t exist, referee Steve Mazzagatti warned, “Look at your mouth over there. Don’t speak! “) Diaz dropped his hands to the side, with his chin forward like a tantalizing target that somehow almost always stayed out of reach. He mixed his patented “Stockton slap” open hand with his punches.

Diaz put on a revealing performance, rocking Lawler in the first round and avoiding or absorbing everything the slugger could offer. And a minute and a half into the second round, in a fiery rally in the middle of the cage, Diaz connected with a short right counterhand that knocked Lawler face-first onto the canvas. Diaz had his fourth career knockout and a star was born. (Watch the fight on ESPN +.)

Seventeen years later, Diaz and Lawler will meet again on Saturday at UFC 266.

Since their first meeting, Lawler has gone on to become the EliteXC middleweight champion and the UFC welterweight champion. Diaz competed for the EliteXC lightweight championship, won the Strikeforce welterweight title and challenged Georges St-Pierre for the UFC 170-pound belt.

But Diaz, 38, has not fought since January 2015. Saturday, it will be 2430 days since his last participation in the Octagon. Lawler, 39, hasn’t fought in over a year and has lost in his last four appearances.

However, this rematch is eagerly awaited. Can they recreate the magic?

Here’s how Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) and Lawler (28-15, 1 BC) got from there to here.

Watch Daniel Cormier break down Nick Diaz’s fighting style on ESPN +.

April 2, 2004: Diaz defeated Lawler by second round knockout at UFC 47. Andrei Arlovski, who was one fight away from becoming heavyweight champion, and future WEC featherweight champion, was also on the card, with Liddell, who scored a KO in the second round of Ortiz. Mike Brown, who was making his UFC debut. Brown is now the head coach of the American Top Team.

February 24, 2007: Diaz leaves the UFC for Pride Fighting Championship and makes his lightweight debut with a submission victory over Japanese legend Takanori Gomi in the Pride 33 co-main event in Las Vegas. The card is titled by Dan Henderson’s third round knockout against Wanderlei Silva for the Pride Middleweight Championship.

April 10, 2007: The Nevada State Athletic Commission overturns Diaz’s win over Gomi over Gomi after post-fight drug testing results reveal Diaz tested positive for marijuana. The commission suspended Diaz for six months and fined him 20% of his $ 3,000 purse.

September 15, 2007: Lawler becomes EliteXC middleweight champion with a third round knockout of Murilo Rua. In the main co-event, Diaz defeats Mike Aina by split decision.

November 10, 2007: Diaz’s only loss in a 17-fight streak from May 2006 through October 2011. In a fight for the vacant 160-pound EliteXC title, he lost by doctor save at the end of the first round after KJ Noons opened bad cuts on both Diaz’s eyes.

June 14, 2008: The birth of “Don’t be afraid, mate”. Diaz unleashes his famous line at Noons after the two each win a fight in Elite CX: Return of the King, and the promotion brings them into the ring to face off and stage a rematch. (Noons-Diaz 2 won’t take place until two years have passed and both fighters have moved on to Strikeforce.)

January 30, 2010: Diaz wins the first Strikeforce welterweight championship with a first round TKO from Marius Zaromskis.

April 17, 2010: Diaz plays a combative role in an infamous Network TV brawl at the end of Strikeforce: Nashville. After teammate Jake Shields defeats Dan Henderson and is interviewed in the cage, former Shields opponent Jason “Mayhem” Miller interrupts Shields to demand a rematch and is attacked by Nick and Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez.

October 9, 2010: Diaz defeated Noons in their long-awaited rematch, making the first of three defenses in his Strikeforce welterweight title.

January 29, 2011: Lawler, in contention to become Strikeforce’s middleweight champion, is submitted to the third round by champion Jacare Souza. In the main event, Diaz successfully defended his welterweight belt with a second round submission from Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos.

October 29, 2011: Diaz returns to the UFC with a decisive victory over BJ Penn in the main event of UFC 137. Diaz was originally scheduled to challenge UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre at UFC 137, but after Diaz fails to show up in media appearances, he is substituted in the title fight and booked against Penn. This is Diaz’s most recent victory, almost a decade ago.

February 4, 2012: Diaz is expected to challenge St-Pierre again, but this time the champion retires with an ACL injury. Instead, Diaz faces Carlos Condit at UFC 143 for an interim title belt and loses a unanimous decision. Subsequently, frustrated at not getting the green light from the judges, Diaz indicates he is retiring, saying, “I got out of this s —.”

February 9, 2012: The Nevada State Athletic Commission reveals that Diaz failed a drug test again after the marijuana fight. At a hearing in May, he will be suspended for one year, retroactive to February 4.

February 23, 2013: Lawler returns to the UFC after a nine-year absence, knocking out Josh Koscheck in the first round of UFC 157. Headlining the card is the first women’s fight in UFC history, while Ronda Rousey becomes the bantamweight champion with a submission from Liz in the first round. Carmouche.

March 16, 2013: Diaz returns to UFC 158 and challenges St-Pierre, losing a unanimous decision. Subsequently, Diaz announces his retirement again. (Watch the fight on ESPN +.)

December 6, 2014: Lawler becomes UFC welterweight champion with a split decision victory over Johny Hendricks, who had beaten him earlier in the year in a fight for the then vacant belt.

January 31, 2015: Diaz returns after an absence of almost two years to face Anderson Silva at UFC 183 and loses a unanimous decision. The result was later overturned to a no-contest after Silva tested positive for several anabolic steroids and Diaz tested positive for marijuana again.

September 14, 2015: The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Diaz for five years and fined him $ 165,000 for testing positive for marijuana a third time. After Diaz’s appeals, the penalties are reduced to 18 months and $ 100,000.

July 30, 2016: Lawler lost his title to Tyron Woodley by KO in the first round. It was Lawler’s first knockout loss since fighting Diaz 12 years earlier.

April 9, 2018: Diaz is banned for one year by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for failing to inform the testing agency of his whereabouts on three occasions, in accordance with USADA’s agreement with the UFC.

May 24, 2018: Diaz is arrested in Las Vegas on domestic crime charges. Two months later, the charges are dismissed when the district attorney refuses to pursue the case.

August 16, 2018: Diaz tweets, “I’ll fight all you money making bitch.” No fight is reserved.

August 29, 2020: Lawler loses a unanimous decision to Neil Magny, his fourth straight loss and fifth in six fights dating back to Woodley’s fight in 2016.

September 25, 2021: Lawler and Diaz fight again at UFC 266.

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