Diaz can't be considered a top welterweight without fighting the best
I've got a question for you.
Is it possible for a hockey player who plays outside of the NHL to be considered one of the top 5 players in the world?
Can a player who is lighting up the American Hockey League really be considered one of the best despite the fact that he's dominating second-tier talent?
Of course not, and that is the same reason why Nick Diaz cannot possibly be considered a Top 5 Welterweight.
Before you go arguing that MMA and team sports shouldn't be compared, just go with it and focus on what is being proposed.
Following his win over Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos on Saturday night, many social media users, both MMA industry members and non-members alike, were trumpeting Diaz's place as one of the five best 170-pound fighters on the planet. Some went as far as to claim he was a top three talent, a stretch that is beyond ridiculous to me.
Don't get me wrong: the Strikeforce champion is on a nine-fight winning streak and has proven to be one of the best welterweights competing outside of the UFC, but a top 5 talent he is not.
For starters, The Ric Flair Rule certainly applies here.
"To be the man, you've gotta beat the man," is what "The Nature Boy" has always told us, and looking over Diaz's list of conquests, I don't see a single fighter who would be considered "The Man" amongst his opposition. None of the men he's beaten over his extended run of success reside in the Top 25 of their respective divisions right now, and just one (Marius Zaromskis) did at the time he faced Diaz.
The best win of his career to date is his victory over Takanori Gomi. Despite the decision to overturn the result and deem the fight a no contest due to Diaz's testing positive for marijuana, it was still a tremendous performance. It is also the only time Diaz has faced and defeated a Top 5 opponent in his career. Beyond "The Fireball Kid," his best win came against Robbie Lawler back in 2004, and I fail to see how a win six years ago makes Diaz a Top 5 welterweight today.
Shouldn't you have to beat someone within the Top 25 to be considered one of the five best fighters in your weight class?
Fighting for Strikeforce certainly limits Diaz's options, but it also underlines the improbable element of arguing his Top 5 ranking. If you're not competing on the biggest stage, against the best in the world, how can you possibly be ranked higher than guys who are?
Some will say that you have to look at Diaz's entire body of work, but examination of his pre-Strikeforce/EliteXC days doesn't provide evidence to justify a Top 5 rank either.
At this point I anticipate someone bringing up Fedor Emelianenko, so allow me to defuse that bomb right now.
Yes, Fedor hadn't been facing the very best the heavyweight division had to offer during his final four fights in Japan and his clash with Matt Lindland under the BodogFight banner. Prior to that, however, he earned wins over elite heavyweights like Mirko Cro Cop and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and his wins over Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers are at least on par with anything Diaz has done in recent years, if not greater. There is that whole "eight years without a loss" thing too.
In Diaz's case, he doesn't have the illustrious history of Emelianenko on his side, nor the impressive performances prior to his extended run against some middle-of-the-pack competition; he's just got the middle-of-the-pack competition part to rely on as of now.
Humor me for a minute, if you will.
Georges St-Pierre is the unquestioned king of the welterweights.
Jake Shields and Jon Fitch are generally assumed to be safe calls at two and three, regardless of who comes first.
From there things open up for discussion a little, but I still don't think you can put Diaz in the mix.
Thiago Alves has lost three times in the last five years, twice to Fitch and once to GSP. In that time, "The Pitbull" demolished former champion Matt Hughes and recent #1 contender Josh Koscheck.
Speaking of Koscheck, he has to be considered at this point too, having just faced St-Pierre and coming off wins over Paul Daley and Anthony Johnson, while boasting 13 wins in the Octagon to date.
An argument can be made for Carlos Condit's inclusion as well, since the former WEC welterweight champion has won three-straight after dropping a razor-thin split decision in his UFC debut. He just knocked out Dan Hardy, the last man to face GSP prior to Koscheck.
If we look at overall resumes, B.J. Penn begs to be considered as well, since "The Prodigy" is a former welterweight champion fresh off a first-round knockout of Matt Hughes. Should he beat Fitch next month in Australia, you'd have to put Penn ahead of Diaz, if you don't do so already.
I would say that all seven of those welterweights should be ranked ahead of Diaz at this point, and would argue that Dan Hardy and Martin Kampmann could be as well. Before you scoff at the notion, hear me out.
While we all agree that Hardy got fast-tracked to his title shot opposite GSP last March, the winning streak he amassed to get there is at least on par with Diaz's current run of success; a four-fight winning streak of Akihiro Gono, Rory Markham, Marcus Davis and Mike Swick carries about as much weight as Diaz's last four wins, if not more. The same can be said of Kampmann's success in the Octagon as well.
Though he's just 3-2 since dropping to the welterweight division, one of those losses came against Shields, and the other came against Paul Daley, a guy who falls inside everyone's top 15. In addition to beating Jacob Volkmann, "The Hitman" has beaten Condit and Paulo Thiago, who was a top 10 fighter at the time. Diaz cannot say the same about any of his recent opponents.
Make no mistake about it, Diaz is one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport today and has put together an impressive winning streak. He's dominating his opposition every time out and is clearly a cut above the welterweight class in Strikeforce.
But none of that makes him a top 5 welterweight.
If you think otherwise, I'd really like to hear how you get there.