12: 03 AM ET
Marc RaimondiESPN Workers Author
Lawler and Diaz, two aging fighters revered for his or her fundamental MMA fights, went to strive in opposition to again Saturday night time at UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena. The 2 pushed a relentless meander — particularly brooding about they are each and each nearer to 40 years feeble than 30 — nonetheless within the tip, Lawler modified into as soon as the victor by skill of TKO at 44 seconds of the third round.
“Thanks for bringing the handiest out of me,” Lawler acknowledged he told Diaz later on. “I even admire loads of admire for you. Hopefully your life is gonna salvage together and appropriate issues are going to occur to you.”
Lawler, the venerable UFC welterweight champion, landed a combination, culminating with a exhausting moral hand to Diaz’s nose that dropped him. Referee Jason Herzog requested Diaz if he wished to proceed, and Diaz shook his head. Herzog waved the bout off.
“That’s what I anticipated,” Lawler acknowledged in his postfight interview. “I anticipated him to push the meander and strive to ruin me. And I didn’t let him.”
Diaz, a cult popular amongst followers, had no longer fought since UFC 183 on Jan. 31, 2015, a unanimous risk loss to Anderson Silva that modified into as soon as later overturned to a no contest when Silva tested meander for a steroid and Diaz tested meander for cannabis.
In an interview earlier this week with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Diaz expressed resentment in direction of the sport of MMA and acknowledged he wasn’t in actuality meander why he modified into as soon as combating. That ended in a couple concerns within the MMA neighborhood about whether or no longer Diaz have to collected be combating. Nonetheless when he modified into as soon as within the Octagon on Saturday, he confirmed he modified into as soon as sport, touchdown prolonged combinations and his popular quantity, though the strikes got here slower than popular.
“I’ve constantly had admire for Diaz,” Lawler acknowledged. “He brings it each and each freakin’ time he will get into the ring. … He got here to strive in opposition to and placed on a hell of a inform.”
Afterward, Diaz modified into as soon as retaining a towel as much as his nose, which modified into as soon as bleeding. He had no longer been carried out in a strive in opposition to since 2007 and modified into as soon as carried out handiest as soon as earlier than in one thing a quantity of than a health care provider’s stoppage (2002). When the bout modified into as soon as stopped Saturday, two judges had the ranking tied at 19-19 and the a quantity of had Lawler forward 20-18.
“I knew I modified into as soon as leaking in here,” Diaz acknowledged. “I didn’t want to crawl away too grand of a mess.”
This modified into as soon as a rematch of a 2004 strive in opposition to in which Diaz knocked out Lawler within the 2nd round at UFC 47. Saturday’s bout took acquire at middleweight, a swap that took acquire at some level of strive in opposition to week on the set up a question to of Diaz, and modified into as soon as lowered in dimension for five rounds, which is unfamiliar for nontitle, non-predominant tournament bouts.
“As a minimum I placed on a inform,” Diaz acknowledged. “I knew I had it coming. There modified into as soon as loads of stress coming into this one.”
The predominant two rounds had been very competitive. Diaz landed a bunch of combinations within the first round. Lawler countered with the extra tough shots within the 2nd and third rounds. Diaz in actuality landed extra critical strikes, 150-131, based on UFC Stats. Diaz is handiest the 12th fighter in UFC historical previous to land 150 critical strikes in a loss — and your whole a quantity of fights went longer than this one, based on ESPN Stats & Records.
The 150 critical strikes are tied for the fifth-most in a middleweight strive in opposition to, and the 281 combined critical strikes are tied for the third-most in UFC middleweight historical previous.
Lawler (29-15, 1 NC) had lost four straight coming in and had no longer won since a unanimous risk over Donald Cerrone at UFC 214 in July 2017. The Florida resident held the UFC welterweight title from 2014 to 2016 with two worthwhile title defenses. Lawler, 39, is a venerable Elite Xtreme Strive in opposition to middleweight champion and has been a talented fighter since 2001.
“He’s a warrior,” Lawler acknowledged of Diaz. “That modified into as soon as a rough strive in opposition to. He modified into as soon as standing moral there within the pocket. I throw exhausting shots, and he modified into as soon as taking them. It modified into as soon as loads of ache. If you occur to crawl relief and search for the strive in opposition to, it modified into as soon as a three-round warfare. I hit aesthetic exhausting, and it intellectual wasn’t his night time.”
Diaz (26-10, 2 NC) modified into as soon as purchasing for his first victory since 2011, when he beat BJ Penn at UFC 137. The Stockton, California, native is the venerable Strikeforce welterweight champion, and he compiled three title defenses earlier than being introduced into UFC for his 2nd speed with the promotion. Diaz, 38, is the older brother of fellow UFC huge title Nate Diaz, also likely the most smartly-most standard fighters on the roster.
“I execrable some plans,” Lawler acknowledged.