UFC 263 Odds, Picks & Predictions: Edwards vs. Diaz
Main Card - Welterweight (170lbs) 5 Round Bout – Approx. Start Time: 11:15 p.m. EST.
- Leon Edwards is on an 8-fight win steak (with 1 No Contest), that’s the second longest amongst active welterweights, only topped by the current champion, and last person to beat Edwards, Kamaru Usman (14) (per StatLeaders.UFC.com).
- Nate Diaz is a career lightweight, and he only holds 4 wins at welterweight whilst competing in the UFC, 2 of which came over a decade ago, the other 2 came against Conor McGregor and Anthony Pettis, who are also career lightweight fighters.
This is some of the most bizarre matchmaking I’ve ever seen from the UFC, and strangely that’s not even got anything to do with it being a non-title fight or main event, that’s scheduled for 5 rounds.
On one side, you’ve got Nate Diaz, a fan favorite who was thrust into the mainstream limelight following his victory, and subsequent rematch defeat to Conor McGregor, back in 2016. Since then, he’s only fought two times, despite previously being recognized as one of the most active and game-ready fighters on the UFC roster. Diaz, now 36-years-old, finds himself in a difficult spot. He’s on the back stretch of his career, and in need of a high-profile win, or a high-ranking opponent to set him up for an unmerited title shot.
Out of all the people the UFC had to choose from in the welterweight division, they decided to go for one of the absolute worst style matchups for Diaz, whilst also delivering him someone who has extremely limited name recognition, Leon “Rocky” Edwards. The British, Edwards, is still fairly unknown to most casual MMA fans, and would be completely unfamiliar to the general public. The upside to this is that you can build Edwards’ name off a win over Nate Diaz, but realistically, this just feels like the biggest Hail Mary shot ever to get Diaz back in the win column, against a guy who is on the brink of a title shot himself.
Now time for how I see the fight playing out. As I’ve already alluded to, this is just a nightmare opponent for Diaz. Edwards is extremely well-rounded. He comes from a striking background, but with the development of his wrestling and clinch work over the years, you’d be hard pressed to pick up on that if you only watched his recent fights. He is incredibly composed, conditioned, and outstanding at implementing his gameplan on his opponents.
Despite my praise of Edwards, Diaz is still a dangerous fighter in the right instances. His cardio is phenomenal, and although I doubt it’ll be noticeably better than the Brit’s over 5 rounds, it’s still noteworthy in any Nate Diaz fight. His ground game is of course excellent. A whopping 15 of his 20 career wins have come via submission, and if, for the first time in a long time, he tries to focus on utilizing it, he could cause Edwards some issues on the ground. Ultimately, you just can’t trust Diaz to do that. He has landed just 4 takedowns over the past decade (per UFCStats.com), and he’s almost always content to battle it out on the feet, no matter how his fights are playing out.
Diaz might be able to match Edwards for volume of strikes thrown, but Diaz’s striking defense nowadays is sketchy at best. We saw him get out-landed at a near 3-to-1 ratio by Jorge Masvidal in his last fight. On top of this, Nate Diaz has a ton of scar tissue, and this can easily lead to cuts being opened, and although that might not always lead to a cut-stoppage, it does however, lead to bad optics for the judges due to the perceived damaged caused by his opponents (pictured below).
I see this being a bit of a beatdown for Diaz. In his fight with Masvidal he looked off-the-pace, and although that could have just been a bad night for him, over 18 months has elapsed since then, and that’s not going to be doing the aging veteran any favors. On his good days, he can land at a high-volume, but with Edwards’ point-perfect distance striking, and 2-inch height advantage (6' 2" vs. 6' 0"), I find it hard to see how Diaz has anywhere near the amount of success as he did against smaller opponents, when he formerly competed at lightweight.
When in clinch situations, I see him getting rag dolled, pushed up against the cage, and landed on with Edwards’ diverse range of elbow strikes and short shots from unique angles. Diaz’s 42% takedown defense (per UFCStats.com) is extremely weak for someone who has competed at the top level for this long, and facing someone with Edwards’ relentless grappling style, it should make for easy takedowns. The only positive for Diaz with this, is that he can then use his jiu-jitsu to try and catch Edwards in a submission. I don’t see him being able to do so, considering Edwards has an unbelievably good top game, but it is one of his best paths to victory still.
All in all, I see Diaz getting at least matched in strikes landed, whilst also being the recipient of the harder, more impactful blows, out muscled in the clinch and on the ground, and generally beaten wherever the fight takes place. He’s never been a one-hitter quitter type fighter, and even if he was, Leon Edwards has never really been compromised in a fight due to strikes. Virtually his only chance is to land the absolute perfect shot, pull off a crazy submission, or put on the best performance of his career, whilst being at an advanced age, coming off a long layoff. For this reason, I’ve got to make a play on Leon Edwards. It’s hardly a tough pick with Edwards being a -450 favorite (best price), but with all the public money that will be blindly coming in on Diaz, it’s undoubtably the value side.
In spots like this I can often look to get tricky and also take a prop depending upon how I see the big favorite winning, but this is a tough one to call. Edwards has never been a perennial finisher, and even when he could have the option to put away his opponents, he’s often reluctant to chase it, due to his risk-adverse style. Diaz is also notoriously durable, which leads me to think that Edwards via decision is the more likely outcome, but after getting dropped 5 times in just his last 3 fights, you have to wonder if he can take the punishment Edwards is going to put on him.
My pick is, of course, Leon Edwards, and I do lean to him getting a stoppage in this one, but I personally will solely be betting his moneyline, as he could easily take this with a lopsided decision win.
The Pick: Leon Edwards Moneyline @ -450 (Great as a Parlay Piece)