LAS VEGAS -- Robbie Lawler approached Nick Diaz, a sitting man, and grabbed his hand. As a sign of respect, the two men pressed their foreheads together.
Lawler and Diaz were two aging fighters who are well-known for their classic MMA fights. They fought again Saturday night at UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena. Lawler won the fight via TKO in 44 seconds.
Lawler told Diaz that he had been inspired by Lawler's words. I have a lot respect for you. I hope your life will be a good one and that you have many happy moments.
Lawler, an ex-UFC welterweight champion, executed a combination that culminated in a hard right hand to Diaz’s nose, which dropped him. Referee Jason Herzog asked Diaz whether he wanted to continue. Diaz just shook his head. Herzog waved off the bout.
Lawler stated that "that's what I expected," in his postfight interview. I expected him to keep up the pace and break me. He didn't.
Diaz was a fan favorite and had not fought since UFC 183, Jan 31, 2015. Silva lost unanimously to Diaz. The decision was then overturned. Silva tested positive to a steroid, while Diaz tested positive to cannabis.
Diaz spoke out against MMA in an interview with ESPN's Brett Okamoto earlier this week. He said he didn't know why he was fighting. There were some questions in the MMA community as to whether Diaz should continue fighting. He was still willing to fight when he arrived at the Octagon on Saturday. He landed long combinations and his usual volume of strikes, but the strikes were slower than normal.
"I've always had respect for Diaz," Lawler said. "He brings it every freakin’ time he gets in the ring. ... He was a fighter and put on an amazing show."
Diaz held a towel to his nose and was bleeding. Diaz had not been stopped in a fight since 2007, and was only stopped in a medical stoppage (2002). The score was tied at 19-19 by two judges, while Lawler led 20-18 when the bout was stopped.
Diaz stated that she knew she was leaking in here. "I didn’t want to make too much mess."
This was a rematch from a fight that Diaz won in 2004 against Lawler at UFC 47. Saturday's fight was at middleweight. This switch was made at Diaz's request and was scheduled for five rounds. It is not common for nontitle, nonmain event bouts.
Diaz stated, "At the very least I put on an act." "I knew it was coming. This one was stressful.
The first round was very competitive. Diaz was able to land a variety of combinations in the initial round. Lawler responded with more difficult shots in the second round and third rounds. According to UFC Stats, Diaz actually scored more important strikes (150-131). According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Diaz is the 12th UFC fighter to land 150 important strikes in a loss.
The 150 significant strikes tied for fifth in a middleweight fight and the combined 281 significant strikes tied for third in UFC Middleweight history.
Lawler, 29-15, 1 NC had lost four straight and hadn't won since his unanimous victory over Donald Cerrone in UFC214 in July 2017. From 2014 to 2016, Lawler, a Florida resident, held the UFC Welterweight title with two successful defenses. Lawler, 39, was also a former Elite Xtreme Combat midweight champion, and has been a professional fighter since 2001.
Lawler described Diaz as a "he's a fighter." It was a tough fight. He was right there in his pocket. He was taking hard shots at me. It caused a lot of damage. It was a three-round battle, if you look back at the fight. He was not going to win, so I hit him hard.
Diaz (26-21, 2 NC) was seeking his first win since 2011, when he defeated BJ Penn at UFC 137. He is a Stockton, California native and was a Strikeforce welterweight champion. He accumulated three title defenses before being invited into the UFC for the second time. Diaz, 38 is the older brother to Nate Diaz (also a popular fighter on the roster).
Lawler stated, "I spoiled some planning."