The career trajectory for Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal, has sky rocked over the last year. The American Top Team mainstay has become a perennial contender at welterweight, and one of the most popular mixed-martial-artists worldwide today.
Masvidal, who is arguably the most technically proficient boxer the UFC roster has to offer, headlines UFC 244 tomorrow night in New York City, as he meets Stockton fan-favourite Nate Diaz, for the BMF championship. Both Masvidal and Diaz are two of the most fan appealing strikers in the sport, and in a once off affair, they will meet to determine the Baddest Motherf**ker in the game. Masvidal’s stock is white hot ever since his record setting victory over Ben Askren in July, solidified by his cool demeanor and sheer entertainment value.
The Florida based striker previously matched with fellow UFC 244 feature Darren Till in March, dispatching the Liverpudlian Muay Thai practitioner via a devastating combination. Afterwards, whilst back stage, Masvidal was involved in an altercation with fellow top contender, Leon Edwards. During the exchange, Masvidal threw several strikes at Edwards before the Birmingham native and his team was corralled by security. Afterwards, Masvidal would christen the combination, a “three piece and a soda“. Masvidal was then booked to square off with recent signing Ben Askren who had finished Robbie Lawler, albeit controversially, on his promotional bow.
Ahead of the meeting, the animosity of the pair was reaching fever pitch, with Masvidal tormented by Askren week by week on social media. Come fight night, we were about to witness one of the most shocking moments the Octagon has ever played venue to. As UFC commentator Jon Anik exclaimed, “These guys, just flapping gums at each other any chance they get“. The hostilities were well known.
With his casual lean against the Octagon fence and both hands clasped behind his back, Masvidal circled to his right and met Askren in the centre of the Octagon with a brutal flying-knee, stiffening the Iowa native in a record-beating five seconds. After two more right hands from the Floridian, Jason Herzog peeled Masvidal off. In the words of UFC colour-commentator, Joe Rogan, “(Jorge) Masvidal just made a statement“. Welterweights, take notice. The following couple of days, American Top Team head coach Mike Brown released a video of Masvidal drilling that precise flying-knee before the bout. Incredible.
By the time UFC 241 rolled into California, Nate Diaz had spoke of his reluctance to share the Octagon with the likes of Kamaru Usman and Khabib Nurmagomedov, in favour of clashes with Conor McGregor, event opponent, Anthony Pettis and Masvidal himself. By the time Diaz had finished his battering of Pettis, Masvidal vs. Diaz was a formality. “Jorge Masvidal had a good last fight. My man’s a gangster but he ain’t no West coast gangster“. It would be a calling for East versus West, an old school pairing of two dogged, rugged strikers who’s roots intertwined on the streets of Florida and Stockton respectively.
Two of the company’s most charismatic and storied strikers, have yet to claim Octagon gold, but have some of the most entertaining career’s in the sports history. The history is deep with these two. In Masvidal’s Strikeforce title challenge, he matched with then lightweight champion, Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez. Melendez, who along with talented Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player Jack Shields, and Nick and Nate Diaz, form the ‘Scrap Pack.’
That December in 2011, Melendez comfortably lodged a title defense against Masvidal, who would go on to sign with the UFC two years later. To think both Diaz and Masvidal shared the lightweight limit for a considerable amount of time during their early Octagon stints, makes it somewhat bizarre that a meeting of the two takes place in 2019. Although, in my opinion, there doesn’t seem to be a better time to pair both up than right now, the iron is hotter than ever.
When it comes to how both men match up in terms of ability and skill set, Masvidal takes the edge in the striking department, while Diaz holds the trump card on the mat. Masvidal, though well traversed in wrestling and holds a D’Arce victory over the slick Michael Chiesa, isn’t a grappler that comes to mind when you envision the elites. Diaz on the other side of the equation, is a long, slinky boxer with a sharp one-two combination and drowning pressure, but also, absolutely wicked off his back.
This fight has been billed around both men’s sheer grit, don’t expect many scrambles. While Diaz has his prolonged jab-straight, Masvidal has cleaner setups and tools, especially compared to his counterpart. Case in point, his stoppage of Donald Cerrone, Jake Ellenberger and even Darren Till earlier this year. The animosity between these two is non-existent as both men vie for the BMF championship, a real change from Masvidal vs. Askren and Diaz vs. McGregor I or II. There’s a real mutual respect floating around for this one.