Fan favorite Nate Diaz returned to the octagon for the first time since 2016 on Saturday in the UFC 241 co-main event against former lightweight champion in a welterweight bout. The California native had the crowd on their feet inside the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Diaz pressured Pettis throughout the fight. In the opening round, his forward movement was met with right hands, but Diaz continued to step forward. He landed front kicks to the body while Pettis delivered leg kicks. In the closing moments of the frame, Diaz looked for a takedown and Pettis worked to locked up a guillotine choke. Diaz defended the submission attempt and took Pettis' back as the round came to a close.
In the second frame, Pettis came out landing. Diaz closed this distance and secured a takedown. Pettis scrambled to his feet but Diaz kept the pressure on. Inside the clinch, Diaz delivered short punches and elbows. The round ended with Diaz unleashing a series of punches.
In the final round, Diaz continued to pressure Pettis. He crowded the former champion and didn't allow him the space to effectively put together strikes. Diaz landed knees to the head of Pettis causing Pettis to drop to the ground to avoid getting hit with another.
On the ground, Diaz took Pettis' back but Pettis reversed the position. Diaz delivered knees from the bottom. They scrambled for position and the round ended with Daiz looking to set up a triangle choke. After fifteen minutes of fighting, all three judges scored the fight for Diaz by unanimous decision.
"The reason why I was off (for three years) was because everybody sucks. There was nobody to fight," said Diaz after the win.
With his successful return, Diaz is back and called out who he'd like to fight next. The Stockton native wants to face Jorge Masvidal in his next outing.
"With this belt, I want to defend it against - Jorge Masvidal had a good last fight," he said. "All respect to the man, but there ain't no gangsters in this game anymore. There ain't nobody that done it right but me and him. I know my man's a gangster, but he ain't no West Coast gangster."