Commentary

Diaz scores narrow win over Neer

At 23, "The Ultimate Fighter" Season 5 winner Nathan Diaz continues to grow inside the cage. Diaz made it five wins in a row by edging Josh Neer via split decision in the main event of "UFC FIght Night" on Wednesday.

Originally Published: September 18, 2008
By Joe Hall | Sherdog.com

Nathan Diaz edged out Josh Neer on a split decision Wednesday in the main event of UFC Fight Night at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha, Neb.

The back-and-forth bout came down to two 29-28 scores for Diaz and one for Neer.

Neer, 25, fighting out of the Miletich camp in Bettendorf, Iowa, had thrown Diaz around early. He slammed the winner of "The Ultimate Fighter 5" twice in the first round.

Perhaps the best takedown, however, was the throw Diaz used to toss Neer to his back with a minute to go in the first. Diaz, a 23-year-old from Stockton, Calif., also rallied on his opponent with short rights and lefts while standing against the cage, which didn't seem to hurt Neer but may have impressed the judges.

Neer got another takedown early in the second round, but it only served to let Diaz, crafty as ever on the ground, to reverse. From his back, Neer kicked effectively and later stood to slam Diaz again. He also took the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter's back, but Diaz wouldn't be choked.

Diaz won the takedown battle to start the last round. He couldn't hurt Neer from the top, though he did take his back halfway through the period after defending a single-leg. Neer escaped quickly and returned to an active game from his back, which included several submission attempts that weren't close but did prevent Diaz from punching.

[+] EnlargeNate Diaz
Jon Kopaloff/Getty ImagesWith a split-decision win over Josh Neer, Nathan Diaz has won five consecutive bouts.
With seconds remaining, Diaz threw Neer again and finished the entertaining, hard-to-score lightweight affair from the top.

"Josh Neer, he ain't no black belt in jiu-jitsu like the other guys I've been fighting," said Diaz, now 10-2. "This mother------, this dude right here can fight."

Although the defeat was a narrow one, it dropped Neer's record to 24-7-1.

Also at 155 pounds, Clay Guida hustled to another workmanlike win by outpointing Mac Danzig over three rounds for a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).

The fighters exchanged early with Danzig showing the more complete standup game. Following a punch-kick combination from Danzig, however, Guida found an opening for the first of numerous takedowns.

Danzig got up, which only allowed Guida to slam him harder the second time. Danzig got up again, and again Guida slammed him hard back to the ground.

The second and third rounds played out similarly. Danzig, 28, fighting out of Los Angeles, tried to keep the fight standing but couldn't. He connected occasionally with his hands and also with two good leg kicks, though Guida could always wrestle him to the mat before much damage was done.

Guida, 26, didn't damage Danzig either. He did push the pace, however, keeping his head buried in Danzig's midsection and only stopping his pursuit of takedowns after he had just finished one. By the end of the fight, Danzig was gassed and Guida was still all over him.

"He hit me pretty hard a couple of times, and I knew I could take him down off the transitions," said Guida, who improved to 4-3 in the UFC with his victory over the winner of "The Ultimate Fighter 6."

In a middleweight bout, Alan Belcher improved to 4-3 in the UFC by winning a split decision over Ed Herman (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Belcher, 24, fighting out of Biloxi, Miss., carried his hands at his waist for much of the fight and threw a variety of strikes at Herman, who boxed more conventionally and mixed in takedowns. The first round seemed to belong to Belcher on the strength of his leg kicks until Herman dumped him to the canvas late with two takedowns.

In the second period, Herman, 27, landed a good left hook to the body. Belcher retaliated with two of his own body shots, then went high with a straight right that sent Herman stumbling back into the cage. Belcher also connected with a left hook to the jaw and with leg kicks during the round, but Herman again scored a takedown late and worked from the top position.

Belcher stopped Herman's takedowns for much of the final round. He picked his shots on the feet, throwing one punch at a time rather than combinations, though his left-hook and straight-right leads often caught Herman off guard.

Herman, fighting out of Team Quest in Portland, Ore., rallied yet again. He put Belcher on his back with a double-leg, then punched from the top and even moved to the mount before time ran out.

"It was a very close fight," Belcher said. "I don't disagree with the judges at all. Could have went either way."

Eric Schafer submitted Houston Alexander with just seven seconds left in the first round of their light heavyweight bout.

Alexander defended Schafer's opening takedown attempt and drove home a knee to the body. More takedown attempts followed, and the 36-year-old Alexander, who was backed by his vocal hometown crowd in Omaha, staved off each effort from Schafer until about halfway through the round.

That's when Schafer finally grounded Alexander and began to outclass him. Fighting out of Milwaukee, Schafer, 30, instantly passed to side control. Alexander rolled out but was caught in a deep guillotine choke. He escaped the choke but then found himself mounted.

At that point Schafer teed off with elbows and punches. Alexander, who had been mounted and finished by Thiago Silva last November, looked no more skilled from his back than he had in that first UFC loss. It did look, however, as though he would survive the round.

Time was ticking down when Schafer wisely slipped to side control and finished the fight with an arm-triangle choke. The win evened his UFC record to 2-2 and handed Alexander his third consecutive loss in the Octagon.

"I actually heard their corner yell, 'A minute left.' I was grounding and pounding him, and he didn't seem to be hurt at all," Schafer said. "So I'm like, 'I better get moving and go for a submission while there's a little bit of time left.'

"That's my signature move," Schafer said of the choke. "I squeezed it with all I had."

Recent American Top Team addition Alessio Sakara did much to rejuvenate his standing in the UFC's middleweight division with a highlight-worthy knockout of Octagon newcomer Joe Vedepo to cap off a UFC Fight Night preliminary card filled with explosive finishes.

Sakara, a native of Rome, Italy, has been criticized for his inconsistency and his chin, as the slugger has been stopped by punches in three of his eight previous UFC bouts. Bucking the trend with an aggressive game plan and a torrent of strikes, Sakara (13-7, 1 NC) set the pace early with two head kicks that narrowly missed their target. Following a failed shot from Vedepo (7-2), Sakara seized the much-needed win by slamming a right-legged head kick into the face of the Team Extreme brawler.

Referee Yves Lavigne watched closely as a heavy punch rained down on the fallen Vedepo, which prompted the thirdd man in the cage to call an end to the contest at just 1:27 of the first.

ATT product Wilson Gouveia made good on his 185-pound debut, securing an armbar submission of Ryan Jensen after dropping the first round on the Sherdog.com scorecard.

Gouveia (11-5) was a step behind Jensen (13-5) in the opening frame, giving way to the Nebraska native's wrestling and control. After shaking off an unintentional kick to the groin in the first minute of round two, Gouveia gave up a takedown, which played right into his game. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt moved his hips in search of an armbar and forced a tapout from the painful technique at the 2:04 mark.

"The Ultimate Fighter" season five cast member Joe Lauzon rallied from an early scare to stop Kyle Bradley with punches at 1:34 of the second stanza.

Bradley (13-6, 1 NC) buckled the lightweight's knees with a hard right hook early in the opening round. Lauzon recovered quickly and peppered Bradley with one-two punching combinations and a stiff knee to the midsection.

In the second stage, Lauzon took control with a fast trip takedown and side-control. The Massachusetts-based fighter, now 17-4 with the win, moved effortlessly to the mount and back of Bradley, where he landed punches to the head until referee Josh Arney stepped in to save the punished fighter.

Hometown favorite Jason Brilz overwhelmed Aussie Brad Morris en route to a technical knockout stoppage in the second round of their light heavyweight tilt. The Nebraskan dominated the action throughout in his big-show premiere, striking often from side-control and moving to his opponent's back with both hooks.

"I love that position right there," said Brilz (16-1-1) of the advantageous spot that had set up the finish with punches.

Morris, now 9-4, is 0-2 in the UFC with both losses coming by way of TKO.

Mike Massenzio claimed victory in his UFC debut with a first-round submission of hard-hitting middleweight Drew McFedries. Massenzio, 11-2, secured a kimura on the heels of a scramble at the 1:28 mark. McFedries dropped to 7-4 with the loss.

In the evening's opening bout, IFL middleweight champion Dan Miller (9-1, 1 NC) easily submitted Rob Kimmons (21-4) with a rear-naked choke at 1:27 of the first.

Joe Hall is a contributor to Sherdog.com.