Lawler and Diaz, two getting old fighters revered for his or her basic MMA fights, went to battle once more on Saturday night time at UFC 266 at T-Cell Area. The 2 pushed a relentless tempo — particularly contemplating they’re each nearer to 40 years outdated than 30 — however ultimately, Lawler was the victor through TKO at 44 seconds of the third spherical.
“Thanks for bringing one of the best out of me,” Lawler stated he informed Diaz afterward. “I’ve a number of respect for you. Hopefully your life is gonna get collectively and good issues are going to occur to you.”
Lawler, the previous UFC welterweight champion, landed a mixture, culminating with a tough proper hand to Diaz’s nostril that dropped him. Referee Jason Herzog requested Diaz if he wished to proceed, and Diaz shook his head. Herzog waved the bout off.
“That is what I anticipated,” Lawler stated in his postfight interview. “I anticipated him to push the tempo and attempt to break me. And I did not let him.”
Diaz, a cult favourite amongst followers, had not fought since UFC 183 on Jan. 31, 2015, a unanimous choice loss to Anderson Silva that was later overturned to a no contest when Silva examined constructive for a steroid and Diaz examined constructive for hashish.
In an interview earlier this week with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Diaz expressed resentment towards the game of MMA and stated he wasn’t actually certain why he was preventing. That led to some issues within the MMA group about whether or not Diaz needs to be preventing. However when he was within the Octagon on Saturday, he confirmed he was recreation to combat, touchdown lengthy combos and his regular quantity, although the strikes got here slower than regular.
“I’ve all the time had respect for Diaz,” Lawler stated. “He brings it each freakin’ time he will get into the ring. … He got here to battle and placed on a hell of a present.”
Afterward, Diaz was holding a towel as much as his nostril, which was bleeding. He had not been completed in a combat since 2007 and was completed solely as soon as earlier than in one thing aside from a physician’s stoppage (2002). When the bout was stopped Saturday, two judges had the rating tied at 19-19 and the opposite had Lawler forward 20-18.
“I knew I used to be leaking in right here,” Diaz stated. “I did not need to depart an excessive amount of of a multitude.”
This was a rematch of a 2004 combat by which Diaz knocked out Lawler within the second spherical at UFC 47. Saturday’s bout occurred at middleweight, a change that occurred throughout combat week on the request of Diaz, and was contracted for 5 rounds, which is uncommon for nontitle, non-main occasion bouts.
“No less than I placed on a present,” Diaz stated. “I knew I had it coming. There was a number of stress coming into this one.”
The primary two rounds have been very aggressive. Diaz landed a bunch of combos within the first spherical. Lawler countered with the more durable pictures within the second and third rounds. Diaz really landed extra important strikes, 150-131, based on UFC Stats. Diaz is barely the 12th fighter in UFC historical past to land 150 important strikes in a loss — and all the opposite fights went longer than this one did in opposition to Lawler, based on ESPN Stats & Data analysis.
The 150 important strikes are tied for the fifth-most in a middleweight combat, and the 281 mixed important strikes are tied for the third-most in UFC middleweight historical past.
Lawler (29-15, 1 NC) had misplaced 4 straight coming in and had not gained since a unanimous choice over Donald Cerrone at UFC 214 in July 2017. The Florida resident held the UFC welterweight title from 2014 to 2016 with two profitable title defenses. Lawler, 39, can also be a former Elite Xtreme Fight middleweight champion and has been a professional fighter since 2001.
“He is a warrior,” Lawler stated of Diaz. “That was a tough combat. He was standing proper there within the pocket. I throw exhausting pictures, and he was taking them. It was a number of harm. If you return and watch the combat, it was a three-round conflict. I hit fairly exhausting, and it simply wasn’t his night time.”
Diaz (26-10, 2 NC) was in search of his first victory since 2011 when he beat BJ Penn at UFC 137. The Stockton, California, native is the previous Strikeforce welterweight champion, and he compiled three title defenses earlier than being introduced into the UFC for his second run with the promotion. Diaz, 38, is the older brother of fellow UFC star Nate Diaz, additionally one of the vital widespread fighters on the roster.
“I spoiled some plans,” Lawler stated.