Nate Diaz, Wrestlers, and Benson Henderson

There’s a rule of thumb with Nate Diaz (and his brother Nick as well). If he fights a wrestler, he’s going to lose. Otherwise, he’s going to win. Simple as that.

I wanted to quantify this a little bit, and to do this, I decided to turn to Fight Metric and sort Diaz’s opponents by takedowns landed per 15 minutes. Now, this doesn’t represent a spectrum of who is and who isn’t a wrestler, but it might be instructive, so let’s take a look.

(Note that this doesn’t include non-UFC fights.)

Opponent Takedowns/15 Did Diaz win?
Rory MacDonald 4.61 No
Clay Guida 3.85 No
Dong Hyun Kim 3.40 No
Manny Gamburyan 3.34 Yes
Kurt Pellegrino 2.90 Yes
Joe Stevenson 2.75 No
Gray Maynard 2.59 No
Junior Assuncao 2.43 Yes
Jim Miller 2.17 Yes
Melvin Guillard 1.97 Yes
Marcus Davis 1.60 Yes
Takanori Gomi 1.52 Yes
Donald Cerrone 1.43 Yes
Alvin Robinson 1.24 Yes
Josh Neer 1.11 Yes
Rory Markham 0.00 Yes

Against the seven fighters highest on this list, Diaz is 2-5. Against the bottom nine, Diaz is 9-0. So at first glance, there appears to be something to this. And look at the two fighters Diaz beat near the top of the list. Manny Gamburyan was likely winning when he suffered a freak shoulder injury against Diaz. Kurt Pellegrino was also likely winning when Diaz caught him in a triangle choke. If Gamburyan doesn’t get injured, and Pellegrino has tighter submission defense, Diaz could easily be 0-7 against the fighters more likely to go for takedowns.

On the flip side, some would argue that Diaz should have won decisions against Clay Guida, Gray Maynard, and Dong Hyun Kim. I’ll be the first to agree with somebody who argues that takedowns are a badly overvalued judging criteria. But if we’re looking at how likely a fighter is to win, we need to assume that the judges are going to score fights the same way they usually do – by adopting the attitude that in a round with somewhat even striking, the fighter who lands a takedown wins the round by default. (Maynard actually never landed a takedown against Diaz, and won a split decision by boxing against him.)

For his part, UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson has landed 2.96 takedowns per 15 minutes according to Fight Metric, which would place him fifth on the above list. And unlike Gamburyan and Pellegrino, Henderson is a top-notch fighter in the UFC. At the very least, Henderson is unlikely to lose by triangle choke. This is not information that bodes well for Diaz.

If Diaz wants to beat Henderson, he will likely have to do it by landing so many more strikes than Henderson that whatever takedowns Henderson lands aren’t enough to win rounds in the eyes of the judges. I won’t count Diaz out of this fight, but I will argue the odds are against him.

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