UFC 263: Liddell, Krause, and Palmer answer burning questions about Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Every fight has key elements that will have a major effect on how the result is determined. We want to know who has advantages where and which fighter’s unique attributes could sway the battle their way. Nate Diaz versus Leon Edwards at UFC 263 is no different. However, as a special attraction five-round fight between one of the best welterweights in the world and as popular a fighter as the Ultimate Fighting Championship has ever had, this booking certainly has serious relevancy.

With that in mind, I sought out a few experts in the fight game to get unique perspectives on important facets of the matchup. Mixed martial arts luminaries like UFC hall-of-famer, and former light heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell. Two-time Professional Fighters League featherweight champion Lance Palmer. And active UFC welterweight and fast-rising head coach James Krause. All three had much to offer on the deciding factors in ‘Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards.’

Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards: Stockton Pressure vs English Technique

When it comes to any fight that includes Nate Diaz, him employing his patented Diaz Bros. output and pressure is always a key story in the bout. It’s a skill set few can mirror, and even gifted fighters sometimes have trouble dealing with it. Palmer has known Nick and Nate Diaz for nearly ten years and trained with them closely as Nick prepared for his UFC 158 bout with welterweight great Georges St-Pierre. In that time, he’s seen firsthand how their incomparable striking style and fighting mindset is second to none.

“The in your face pressure, and the mentality that they have, it can’t really be taught. I think it’s just something they’ve had instilled in them,” Palmer told MixedMartialArts.com.

It’s why he thinks the Stockton, California native has a good chance to come out victorious on Saturday night, despite being a notable betting underdog. Although he readily admits Edwards offers serious dangers, in his mind, as long as his former training partner can make it through the early rounds, the fight leans in his favor the longer it goes.

“He’s not as fast as Leon, and he may get caught with some fast powerful shots but we know he can take a punch. He’s taken punches from the best of them and kept fighting through it. I think the speed and power may be the only thing that Leon brings that could give Nate trouble. I’m sure Leon Edwards is ready to be in a fight, but I don’t think he’s fought anybody like Nate Diaz,” he said.

“The timing on his boxing is not super explosive or fast, but it doesn’t stop. Always in your face, always pressuring. What they do well, they do very well. In a five-round fight, Nate’s definitely got the ability to take him into deep water and beat him. The only time I think he can get hurt is early in the fight.”

On the flip side of the equation, Liddell, one of the greatest strikers in UFC light heavyweight history, offered some insight on what the Englishman needs to do technically to manage that onslaught of pressure-boxing that Diaz brings to bear.

“He needs to be accurate,” Liddell told MixedMartialArts.com. “Throw sharp punches and combinations, and make him pay for coming at you. Don’t let him keep walking you down. Pivot off, make him turn corners [and] make him really chase you. Don’t walk straight back. Make a few sharp turns and [throw] some counters in there and make him pay for chasing you.”

The MMA legend also is a believer in the old fight adage of earning an opponent’s respect early with a strike that has a serious thump behind it. Recalling how it was something his long-time head coach John Hackleman emphasized early in his pre-MMA days.

“Early on in my career, especially when I was kickboxing, John would say go out there, first thing you do, I want you to throw a big right hand as hard as you can,” Liddell remembered. “I don’t care if you hit him in the arm, shoulder, anywhere, I want him to know how hard that’s coming at him. What that does is it gives you an extra six inches and it makes them think a little bit more every time they come in, when they know how hard you hit. “

Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards: Grappling with the big boys

If “Rocky” is able to successfully manage his foe’s boxing and pressure, then the next option for Diaz would be to try and take the fight to the mat where he can use his elite-level jiu-jitsu. However, a welterweight Diaz has some differences from his more optimal lightweight version. In the past, he has had trouble getting 170-pound opponents to the ground. Krause, a man who has competed in the UFC at both 155 and 170 pounds, understands the strength differences between the two divisions. He sees Diaz having some difficulty when grappling with Edwards. Especially in the clinch, where in previous fights Diaz often has an advantage.

Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards
Credit: Paul Miller-USA TODAY Sports

“At 170, the guys are heavier. They’re bigger [and] harder to takedown. Nate’s not known for his wrestling to begin with. I think that’s the biggest thing, he has a hard time getting guys down at 170,” Krause told MixedMartialArts.com. “The biggest difference between [lightweight and welterweight] is the speed versus the weight.”

“I’ve stood next to Leon, I don’t think he’s going to be any bigger than Nate. [Diaz] is not one of those guys that just wears on you. He doesn’t put his body on you. Diaz is putting volume on guys, and he’s able to clinch some because his jiu-jitsu is so good. But Leon has good volume, and I think where the biggest difference is, is Leon’s going to be able to control the clinch and the range,” he says.

Nate Diaz vs Leon Edwards: Is this a bad stylistic matchup for Diaz?

All our experts felt Edwards would have speed and power advantages. There was also a sense among them that the gap between the two in MMA grappling is not a game-changer advantage for Diaz. Currently, Edwards is the biggest favorite on the card and Krause seems to think it’s a fair assessment. Because he feels the 29-year-old has far more checks on his side of the skills list when comparing the two.

“At one point [Edwards] was maybe the most underrated fighter in the UFC. And that’s because he’s not super sexy. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but man he’s consistent through 25 minutes. Have you ever seen him tired? His volume is always high. He doesn’t finish a bunch of people, but his grappling is amazing. He out grappled Gunnar Nelson. He outstruck guys like [Donald Cerrone]. Before the eye poke [against Belal Muhammad] in my opinion, the book was already being written [for that fight result],” said Krause.

“I think Leon is a faster more athletic version of Nate. I just don’t see how Nate’s going to win this fight. I think Nate has his hands full. Leon is just better everywhere. I will bet almost anything that you’ll see Leon land some really nice elbows from the clinch. He’s got some of the best elbows from the break in the industry,” he said.

However, because of Diaz’s iron will and chin, and his past of overcoming opponents that seemed better on paper, Liddell views Diaz as a very live underdog. And even suggests dropping some greenbacks on him before fight night might be worth some fan’s while.

“I think Leon Edwards is a big favorite in that fight, but those odds betting wise, I might throw some money down on Diaz,” said Liddell.

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