Nate and Karo had some "issues" in the Team Pulver locker room after Manny won his fight. Karo was complaining to the Team Pulver corner that they pissed him off because they should have been quiet, so he could yell instructions to Manny from the audience in Armenian. Thats pretty ballsy to complain to Manny’s corner that they should keep their mouths shut so he can yell instructions from the side. Diaz jokingly says "You’re the new guy here" and played it off being cool. Karo started on Diaz and kept giving him a hard time talking down to him and putting his hands all over him. If I had to some up Nate in one sentence, it would be: "I ain’t no bitch". Nate wasn’t happy about Karo’s persistence and was 100% ready to throw down. Who does Karo think he is? "Who are you? Do you even know me? Do you know who I am?" When someone is saying things like that, you know they are arrogant and need someone to reign them in. Fortunately, everything was cool between Manny and Nate regardless of what happened with Karo. From the Team Penn dressing room, we could hear something was going on between Karo and Diaz, and we figured it had something to do with how Nate’s brother had lost a real close decision to Karo. I guess that wasn’t the start of the problems, but Karo was bringing it up saying things like "Go ask your brother what happens when you try to fight me".
After one of my fights Karo starting giving me a hard time too. He came over and yelled across the mat something like "hey nice fight" and I just said "thanks". He starts saying "Oh is that all you have to say to me? Thanks? Speak up and say a little more next time." What more do you say though when someone congratulates you without coming off as cocky? "Oh yeah, I’m the man. I just won my fight with ease and killed that guy. I rule". The incident with me happened before the problems had with Karo, but I could see where Diaz was coming from on Karo. I don’t think Karo had any problems with me, its just his attitude and how he comes off.
Semi final fights were decided at the beginning of this weeks show. We had talked amongst ourselves, and we would rather keep the team intact and not be forced to have me fight Gray. Its just a much better situation fighting someone that you haven’t been training with twice a day everyday for 5 weeks. We thought Gray matched up better with Diaz while I matched up better with Manny. Manny was actually the guy I had requested in the second round, so I kind of figured that would be taken into account when they decided fights and it apparently was. Jens and BJ had a conference call with Dana and everyone all around liked those pairings, so thats how it was decided. I was just happy that training could remain the same and we wouldnt have to deal with splitting up the team or working different practices or any of the other stuff that Team Pulver had to deal with when Diaz fought Corey.
I was looking forward to this week show more than any other, because I am always looking to improve, and this fight showed all kinds of ways I could improve. Manny beat me by decision after 3 rounds. I knew going into the fight, that it was going to be a war with Manny. I could see the trouble that Manny gave Wiman in their fight, and there were a number of things I was concerned with, but I thought I could come up with an answer for each of them.
I was smart enough in the beginning of the show, to take notes on every fight. As soon as each fight was over, I had a rough play by play of the fight, and I made notes on what each guy did well, not so well, and what they did often. For Manny, I didn’t have a lot to go off based on his fight with Noah. His fight with Wiman showed me a lot more, and confirmed some of the things I had seen in the first fight.
The first issue was his overhand right. Manny absolutely loves to come up and swing for the fences and bomb that overhand right to close the distance. He dropped Noah with it, and he caught Wiman with it a few times as well. I had to be careful of it, but I had a lot or reach and did a good job at keeping him away, so it never really played into our fight so much. It was something to watch out for, but I didn’t see it as a real problem.
The next thing was his height. Manny is super short and we jokingly referred to him as the "bad elf". We were training for the fight and we would be doing ground and pound and BJ would have be yelling "Bad elf! Bad elf!" as I threw punched. It was kind of funny, but its really accurate. Manny is built like a tank, and while his reach is short, his upper body is enormous. I knew I didn’t want to get into any kind of clinch with him because he is so thick and I was worried he would throw me on my head coming from such a strong judo background. We worked in stuffing his shots in practice and working the front headlock, but come fight time I just couldnt get it done to the point I wanted. Manny was great at closing the distance and taking me down.
The next thing was his grappling and scrambling. I stuffed some of Manny’s takedowns, but I could never capitalize and get on top. He was really good at scrambling. It seemed like whenever I would make space or create an opening, he would either close it down right away or he would beat me to wherever I was trying to go. I have a very explosive style which makes for exciting fights, but I have trouble sometimes with someone thats just trying to slow the pace and grind the fight down to a crawl.
Manny did a great job of staying safe and controlling. Like Wiman had said about his own fight, I didn’t feel like Manny did a lot of damage to me. I had a swollen lip which I think might have been from a head butt, but I felt like I didn’t really get all that much. Aside from my lip, I don’t think I had a mark on my face. I did a good job on bottom of staying safe and not taking damage, but I couldn’t get up or get anything going so it wasn’t enough. Manny has short arms and no neck with a huge upper body, so I had a hell of a time trying to create any openings. Manny controlled the fight and did everything he needed in order to win the fight.
I think I was too patient in the fight and it hurt me in the long run. There have been times in the past where I have been over aggressive and taken chances I maybe shouldn’t have. Sometimes they work out beautifully and other times they get me in trouble (shooting in too quickly on Cole at the beginning of round 1 is a good example). I allowed Manny to control because I didn’t take enough chances for the first two rounds. In the third round I swept Manny with a sweep that I like a lot from the bottom of half guard. I was able to pass his guard, take side mount, then mount and finally take his back. I got VERY close with the choke. So close it makes me almost sick to my stomach watching the tape and knowing how close I got before falling short. Manny has no neck and a huge upper body, so while I got under his chin and had the choke in deep, he was able to pop my elbow off and I lost back control. From there, the fight was over.
I honestly think the sweep was there the whole fight, but I was paranoid about going for it. Going for that particular sweep can leave you open to elbows and punches if it doesn’t work and you get stuck… so I wanted to try other options first. In hindsight, I wish I had gone for it in round 1 because I would have had more time to work and maybe changed the rhythm of the fight. Hindsight is always 20/20 though, so I will remember it for next time and not cry over it now.
I try to take something positive from every fight, especially when I lose. I had said that there was never a point when Wiman was in danger of losing the fight, and I felt the same way about my fight with Manny. He controlled the fight and 100% deserved the win and its something I will have to deal with. Could I have maybe changed the path of the fight had I gone for that sweep? Maybe. Or maybe I would have hit the sweep and Manny would have been fresher and scrambled and I never would have gotten his back, or gotten close with the choke. I was frustrated to put everything I had into winning and then fall short at the very end, but it happens and I’m not bitter about it. I said from the moment I decided to go on the show that it would be great to win, but the training experience would be the real benefit. I said something like "All for nothing" to BJ after I had lost, but I don’t really feel like that. That was just a low point of "Wow this sucks" and I was fine 10 minutes later. I do feel like I grew tremendously as a fighter and had my eyes opened to a lot of things, so hopefully I will do BJ proud and show off some more things that I learned on the show with a little more refinement.
The food fight that was shown on the show really didn’t do that battle justice. We came home from training and the Pulver guys were still there because they were taking their afternoon practice off. I walk out the back door and see a piece of orange land at my feet, and Nate is standing there with a banana in hand waiting to throw it at Brian who is in the pool house. I ask whats going on, and Nate is like "Uh…. not much. Just killing some time" and he whips a banana at the door. For a bunch of guys that have been bored out of their mind for 5 weeks, this was the best thing ever. We ran inside looking for any kind of fruit or food that could be thrown. The goldmine though, was when I found a few bags of potatoes. We loaded up, and helped with the assault. I think there were around 5 or 6 outside of the pool house attacking Cole and Brian who were inside. We had the number and were braver, so we were trying to break in through the front door which they would look. Then they set up the ping pong table and used it as a shield. Gray and I decided to go Navy Seal style and attack through the side window. We started out throwing things through but when I saw an opening I dove through the window and unleashed potatoe hell on Brian and Cole who were cowering in the corner. Cole ran for the bathroom while Brian just took the beating. Eventually he joined Cole in the bathroom, and I laid blocking the door to make sure they couldn’t get out. Meanwhile, someone **cough cough Emerson cought cough** threw a pot through the window and sent glass everywhere. And that concluded the fruit war.
Looking at Diaz as a fighter, he will give you problems no matter where the fight is. He is a southpaw with a lot of reach on most people, and has tight boxing and doesn’t over commit. He will hit you all day from his feet and has all kinds of tricks he uses. For example, one thing he did very well was using his lead hand to grab Emerson’s fingers and throw punches from there. Little things like that can really cause problems for you in a fight. On the ground, he is just as dangerous if not more dangerous. Nate has very tight Jiu-Jitsu and uses his long arms and legs well. He is constantly transitioning from one thing to the next and everything he does it solid.
Gray on the other hand is a great wrestler with hands that complement his wrestling well. He doesn’t have the best Jiu-Jitsu but he has enough to stay out of most submissions and lay a beating on you. Gray is much stronger than Diaz, but strength isnt everything.
The fight between Gray and Diaz was great. Gray controlled and was getting the takedowns and was winning from the top, landing big shots all over and even cutting Nate. Nate held strong though and kept working submissions. Nate could take some big shots, but if he caught Gray in a submission it was over. Nate got really close to some submissions throughout the first. but Gray just powered out of everything and kept landing shots. Round 1 ended and it was looking like Gray was going to take it. Round 2 starts off and before long Gray is mounted on Nate and working a guillotine. Nate gets back on top and its looking bad for Gray. As Gray fights to get back to his feet and work a takedown, Nate locks in a guillotine.
I am very impressed with Nate, who won all 3 of his fights by submission. He finished Rob with a rear naked, Corey with a guillotine and then Gray with a guillotine. Nate was constantly moving and even when the fight wasn’t going his way, he stayed strong and kept composure and came back to win. Nate DIaz is a complete badass… end of story.
I can’t wait for the finale between Nate and Manny. I think this was the best season so far and we all did a good job of representing the lightweight division. I’m not even going to pick a winner, because I don’t want to doubt either guy. I am just going to sit back and enjoy the fight like everyone else.