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Should Nick Diaz's return to the UFC be against Jorge Masvidal?

Nick Diaz has not fought since facing Anderson Silva in 2015. The bout was ruled a "no contest" after Silva tested positive for drostanolone and androsterone. Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Nick Diaz is unquestionably one of the most entertaining fighters in UFC history. The former Strikeforce welterweight champion just brings it inside the Octagon and out of it. He -- similar to his brother, Nate -- is must-watch from the moment a fight is announced. Diaz has been out since January 2015, and the UFC reportedly will welcome him back in March against welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal.

Is this the correct first fight back for Diaz after nearly four years away from the sport? ESPN's MMA team members -- Brett Okamoto, Jeff Wagenheim, Chamatkar Sandhu, Phil Murphy and Max Bretos -- give their takes.


Okamoto: I like it, yeah. Nick Diaz hasn't fought in nearly four years. When you're out that long, there are plenty of potential opponents waiting when you return. Masvidal makes a lot of sense, though. I can certainly understand why he rose to the top of the list.

For one, Masvidal is the kind of fighter Diaz respects. And when you're talking about booking a Diaz fight, just finding someone he's willing to accept is half the battle. Masvidal is not a points fighter. He's got an old-school mentality. It's a fan-favorite matchup. The buildup will be fun. It checks all the boxes.

The last four years, Diaz has seemed pretty content not fighting. If he does end up signing up for this, I hope he's all-in on the comeback. Because even though Masvidal is coming off back-to-back losses, he's a dangerous man to face if Diaz's heart isn't in it.


Wagenheim: Last time we saw Nick Diaz, nearly four years ago, he was booked in a delectably illogical matchup with Anderson Silva. While Diaz didn't get his hand raised -- that hasn't happened since 2011 -- he did deliver an enduring and endearing MMA meme by lying down in the middle of the cage and inviting "The Spider" to ... who knows what? To add to the madness, both guys ended up failing their drug tests, although Silva popped for two anabolic steroids while Diaz simply tested positive for marijuana (shocking, I know).

It would have been fun to see Diaz return to a tangle with UFC newbie Ben Askren, in the Octagon and at the prefight promotional events, but "Funky" is matched up with Robbie Lawler -- another fighter who would have been an appealing dance partner for Diaz, based on their firefight back in 2004. Beyond that, I don't much care who is across the cage from Nick this time. Make it a handicap match against Cheech & Chong, whatever, just get Diaz back in there. The sport misses his bizarrely badass presence.

I will say, though, that I breathed a sigh of relief upon learning the opponent is Jorge Masvidal, not welterweight champion Tyron Woodley or some on-the-verge-of-a-title-shot contender. Diaz is highly entertaining but, having not won a fight in over seven years, has no place anywhere near the championship picture. (That should go without saying, but UFC matchmakers sometimes need reminding, right Brock?) As for Masvidal, he's a no-nonsense aggressor who also talks a good game. He'll meet Diaz where he lives. He'll welcome the homie home.


Sandhu: Don't call it a comeback; he's been here for years. How can you not get excited about the return of Nick Diaz? He's one of the most unusual, interesting, entertaining and polarizing fighters in the history of our sport. He wants to fight again? I'm in.

Now, if you look at the UFC roster and want to find someone who, stylistically, is a great matchup for Diaz, a fighter who will go toe to toe, exchange in the pocket and trade with the former Strikeforce welterweight champion, look no further than Jorge Masvidal.

He'll bring out the best in Diaz. It'll be a fan-friendly fight, action packed. In short, you'll get your money's worth with these two.

If Diaz wins, he would've shaken the cobwebs and gotten some much-needed cage time with a top-10 welterweight, not to mention his first win since defeating BJ Penn at UFC 137 way back in October 2011 (2011!). For Masvidal, the upside is massive. A win over one of the biggest names in the sport would only do great things for "Gamebred."


Murphy: Jorge Masvidal isn't a bad opponent for Nick Diaz. Masvidal has in him maybe one last run at a belt; the 34-year-old is fresh off two losses in a deep division. Giving "Gamebred" someone whose marketability far exceeds his current fighting ability is smart matchmaking. It's why everyone is lining up to face Anderson Silva.

But I'd have preferred the elder Diaz's return to be a rematch against Georges St-Pierre. GSP wants high paydays with low risk. Diaz hasn't won a fight in more than seven years. A GSP booking would grab casual fans' interest, even without any bearing on a belt. It's the easiest fight to promote this side of featuring a Notorious Irishman.

Bring on the wolf tickets.


Bretos: Let me start by saying that Nick Diaz is my favorite fighter ever. I remember being this excited for his last fight when we at ESPN traveled to Las Vegas to watch the Anderson Silva bout. He looked slow and less than engaged then. My guess is that will only get worse now that he is 35, but that will not diminish my excitement. At least not right now.

As for his opponent, Jorge Masvidal is close to perfect. Robbie Lawler would be interesting, but he is too highly ranked to take this fight. Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio are other strong candidates, but they have their dance card filled against each other this weekend. Perhaps a rematch with Anderson Silva, but I don't think we need to see that again. So it's Masvidal, a top-10 fighter who can throw, with the street fighter mentality. Perhaps better than the fight will be the buildup between the two. I expect things to get ugly ... in the best possible sense.