Making the Case for Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis

When Nate Diaz submitted Jim Miller on Saturday night to cap off the UFC on Fox 3 card from New Jersey, he solidified his place at the top of the contender’s list in the lightweight division.

UFC president Dana White declared that Diaz was now in line for a shot at the winner of the upcoming fight between Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar, and if he wanted to sit out and wait, they would gladly afford him that benefit.

Diaz opted to wait and will most likely sit for the majority of 2012 awaiting Henderson and Edgar to battle again later this year, so he can face the winner with the belt on the line.

The hardest part about that whole scenario might be former WEC champion Anthony Pettis, who has been told on more than one occasion that he was getting a title shot, only to have the rug pulled out from under him.

When Pettis defeated Benson Henderson to win the WEC lightweight title prior to the promotion being merged with the UFC, he was expected to face the winner of a title fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. Little did Pettis know at the time that Edgar and Maynard would fight to a draw, and have to do it all over again later that year.

Instead of sitting and waiting, Pettis opted to take another fight and ended up losing a close decision to Clay Guida, which knocked him down the ladder a bit, but not very far as it turns out.

Edgar and Maynard settled their rivalry 10 months after their initial battle in January 2011, but then Edgar went on to lose in a close contest to Benson Henderson.

Henderson won a unanimous decision on the scorecards, but many in attendance and scoring at home believed it was Edgar who should have walked out of that fight with the gold belt around his waist. Either way, following the fight, it was believed that Pettis, who also won on the same card, would get the first crack at Henderson seeing as he was the last man to defeat him while in the WEC.

Well, that was not meant to be either as Edgar was given an immediate rematch instead. Pettis went back on the shelf, and is still waiting  for his title shot to happen.

Fast forward to Saturday night and after Diaz’s win. It seemed all too perfect for Pettis to face the Stockton, Calif., native later this year with the winner then getting the victor in the rematch between Henderson and Edgar.

“Nate Diaz thinks he’s the No. 1 contender. I think I’m the No. 1 contender. So let’s figure out who’s the real No. 1 contender,” Pettis said after Diaz’s win on Saturday night.

For Diaz, the choice to wait is obviously his, but waiting can also come at a steep price, just ask former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans.

Following a win over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at UFC 114, Evans was handed a title shot against then champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. The problem was Rua suffered an injury, and the fight was delayed several months.

In the process of waiting for Rua to get healthy, Evans finally got his shot at UFC 128 in March 2011. Unfortunately, this time it was Evans who suffered a last minute training injury and was forced out of the fight, and instead watched his former teammate Jon “Bones” Jones go out and defeat Rua and capture the title.

For the next year, between injuries and bad timing, Evans never got a shot at Jones or the light heavyweight title, until finally at UFC 145 in April he got his chance – nearly two years after defeating Jackson at UFC 114.

The fact is there are no guarantees when it comes to title shots or the perils that come along with waiting for them to happen. Who’s to say that Henderson and Edgar won’t fight to another razor close decision with Edgar coming out on top this time, and then Henderson asking for another shot?

Obviously injuries are a part of the sport so what happens if the winner of the fight between Henderson and Edgar aren’t ready to go again before sometime in 2013? Will Diaz miss out on multiple paydays and stay inactive for the better part of a whole year waiting?

A No. 1 contender’s match up between Diaz and Pettis just makes the most sense for both fighters. With Pettis recovered from shoulder surgery, he says he could be ready for a late summer showdown with the former Ultimate Fighter winner, even potentially on the same card as the rematch between Henderson and Edgar.

“I’m feeling good, rehab’s going great, surgery went awesome, just ready to get back in there,” said Pettis.

He even believes he has the perfect game plan set forth to go out and beat Nate Diaz, should he get the chance to face him in the Octagon.

“Carlos Condit showed the blueprint on how to beat these guys, and I think my style of striking is just like his,” Pettis explained. “It’s going to be a tough fight. It’s not an easy fight at all, but I think my style is a great match-up for him.”

If Pettis is forced to sit by the wayside, potentially looking at two more fights before even sniffing a title shot, there almost seems to be a level of injustice at work here. Nothing is Diaz’s fault of course, he was given his choice and his choice was to wait.

But knowing the fighting spirit and hunger that seems to drive all of the fighters at Team Cesar Gracie, it’s hard to believe that a month or two from now, Diaz won’t want to get back in the cage and compete again instead of sitting and watching everybody else get in there and fight.

As far as Pettis goes, he’s a company man and he’ll do whatever the UFC asks of him, but deep down inside he knows that if he’s not fighting for the title next, a bout against Diaz for the No. 1 contender’s spot is the least he should expect.

“It sucks for me. Everybody’s getting rematches. I’m just kind of stuck,” said Pettis. “I was supposed to get a title shot when I first came in, it didn’t happen. Two years later I’m still waiting for a title shot. When it happens, I’m going to be ready.”


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