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LAS VEGAS — The last time Nick Diaz stepped into the Octagon, Barack Obama was president, gas was $2.11 a gallon and Tom Brady only had three Super Bowl rings.
Much has changed in the six-plus years since Diaz fought Anderson Silva at UFC 183 on Jan. 31, 2015.
There were rumors throughout the time that Diaz was away that he would return, but as the years piled up, it seemed that he’d never be back.
But lo and behold, he’ll fight Robbie Lawler on Saturday on the main card of UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena in a rematch of a bout that took place on April 2, 2004. By fight night, that will have been 17 years, five months and 24 days ago (or 209 months). Chase Hooper was just 4 years old at the time, and now has four UFC bouts on his record.
Diaz won by second-round KO, but nothing that happened in that fight really matters now.
At BetMGM, each man is -110, but if I had to guess, I’d bet that the line will move toward Diaz as fight week progresses and fans begin to arrive in Las Vegas for the fight.
It’s impossible to know with certainty what happens when Diaz has been out so long. But Diaz trains maniacally even when he doesn’t have a fight coming up, and so it’s a pretty much a given that he’ll be in great condition.
And more importantly, his body hasn’t taken the kind of abuse that Lawler’s has in that time. Since Diaz last fought, Lawler is 3-5 and has taken tons of abuse. He was knocked out by Tyron Woodley and beaten badly over five rounds by Colby Covington.
He doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the same guy he once was and his chin is suspect.
We know that Diaz has a good and consistent jab and that he’ll be able to keep up a high pace. I think there is a better-than-average chance Diaz finishes Lawler, who has been finished eight times in his career.
But given that Diaz’s time off may mess with his timing, I’ll stay away from that.
Just on a jab and the superior conditioning, I think Diaz will win. So I’ll recommend a two-unit play on Diaz at -110.
Other plays for UFC 266
• I will take Alexander Volkanovski at -185 to win over Brian Ortega (+150) in their featherweight title fight in the main event.
• I like the women’s flyweight title fight between Valentina Shevchenko (-1200) and Lauren Murphy (+725) to go the distance. BetMGM doesn’t have props posted yet, but I’ll play that it goes the distance. There is no value in laying -1200 to bet Shevchenko.
• I will play Curtis Blaydes at -300 to win over Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+250).
• I will take Merab Dvalishvili at -275 to win over Marlon Moraes (+210).