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Musing on the implications of GSP-Diaz

Thursday's announcement of an October pay-per-view headliner between UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and Strikeforce welterweight king Nick Diaz raises many interesting questions.

Here are five that immediately jumped into my head:

1. What does GSP-Diaz signal about the Showtime/Strikeforce/UFC relationship?

For MMA business insiders, this is probably the most important question.

What role Showtime played in Diaz's negotiations with Zuffa is unclear. We know for certain that reports suggesting the network nixed Diaz's fight with GSP -- like they actually had that power to do so -- were totally wrong. Cesar Gracie, Diaz's manager, confirmed that Showtime had no contractual hold over Diaz as it does Fedor Emelianenko, who must fight on the network. Diaz's shredded deal with Explosion Entertainment (Strikeforce) didn't include provisions guaranteeing his bouts on the premium network. And his new Zuffa deal won't, either.

Through a representative, Showtime declined to comment about Wednesday's news. The network has remained silent on all things MMA since March, when Zuffa purchased the Strikeforce brand and its assets outright.

Sources off the record confirmed Showtime has the option to renew its agreement broadcasting Strikeforce bouts in 2012 and beyond. Would the incentive to re-up take a serious hit if Zuffa makes a habit of poaching the network's biggest stars -- and Diaz is unquestionably among Showtime's best draws -- to the UFC? It's hard to imagine at this point that Diaz, should he pull off the upset, would return to Strikeforce and Showtime as UFC champion -- even if his new contract allows for that.

2. Where's the good news for Showtime?

Conventional wisdom holds that Zuffa will fold Strikeforce as soon as contractual obligations allow them to. Remember, UFC is the brand that matters in MMA. What's the point of sinking resources into another brand, especially if its top fighters are going to end up in UFC anyhow?

Unless both sides were actively involved in the Diaz talks -- again, while it seems highly unlikely, we don't know -- that would indicate Zuffa has little interest in continuing its relationship with Showtime.

Add that to the following:

Showtime was left in the dark about Strikeforce's sale in March to Zuffa. And, always in the background, UFC president Dana White's admitted contentious relationship with Showtime Sports head Ken Hershman.

In the end, the most basic question might shed the most light: Does anyone actually think White wants to be in business and make money for Hershman? (That's how the Vegas contingent will view the dynamic of their relationship.) I don't.

3. Should we expect Zuffa to make fights between other Strikeforce/UFC champions right away?

Hey, Zuffa just tore up a long-term deal obligating one fighter to Strikeforce, enacted a new contract, and made business happen. Easy, peasy.

So ... Gilbert Melendez against the winner between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard; Ronaldo Souza matched with Anderson Silva (or, ahem, Yushin Okami); Dan Henderson versus Jon Jones; and, tantalizing as it is, Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix winner challenging the UFC heavyweight champion for the sport's lineal title.

Make it happen, Zuffa. Well, not so fast.

GSP-Diaz is a special-circumstances kind of fight. First, the fans demanded it. Second, Diaz actually possessed leverage over Zuffa in the form of his ability to box in 2011 -- a very real option thanks to the weight of signed papers. (Other Strikeforce champions don't have any kind of bazooka in their pocket.) Third, outside of Tyron Woodley, who probably isn't ready for Diaz and is largely unrecognizable to most casual MMA fans, there are limited options for contenders in the Strikeforce welterweight division.

Melendez, ranked No. 3 at lightweight by ESPN.com, is the Strikeforce champ outside of Diaz that fans have spent time thinking about taking on UFC's best. The postponement of UFC's 155-title fight means there's a long line ahead of "El Nino." Also, Strikeforce isn't bare-boned at lightweight like it is at 170. The plan sounds like Melendez would get either the winner between K.J. Noons and Jorge Masvidal, or Justin Wilcox and Gesias Cavalcante. So need need to rush this one.

As for the others, "Jacare" Souza is a tremendous middleweight -- yet few fans are aware of him.

Henderson was in the UFC not long ago. He had his shot at the UFC light heavyweight and middleweight titles. And the nature of his business relationship with Zuffa isn't the best -- the promotion banned Henderson's clothing company, Clinch Gear, as a UFC sponsor when he left last year for the Scott Coker-led Strikeforce. Anyhow, are people really clamoring to see him fight Jones? Maybe if he beats Fedor Emelianenko this July.

We won't know who the best heavyweight in Strikeforce is until the end of the year, at which point this conversation could be moot based on ongoing TV negotiations.

4. What happened to Diaz's boxing aspirations?

On hold for now. Diaz's new contract with Zuffa does not include language that allows him to box. Jeff Lacy, et al, will have to wait.

As an aside, Cesar Gracie deserves quite a lot of credit for positioning Diaz with enough leverage to initiate these negotiations and get something done. Diaz was serious about boxing and then stars aligned. Proof positive that a competent manager with some vision can serve his or her client well -- even in a Zuffa-dominated marketplace.

5. Who do fans expect to win?

A highly informal, unscientific poll of my twitter followers paints the following picture:

Georges St. Pierre: 56

Nick Diaz: 20

How will the fight go down?

The thing that excites me most about about St. Pierre-Diaz centers on the Strikeforce champ's propensity to draw opponents into wars. It's fun to kick around the idea of Diaz forcing GSP into wild flurries, but let's be real here. St. Pierre fights how he wants. He dictates the pace and place of the fight. He essentially dominates range against everyone, and refuses to get caught in bad positions.

Diaz is the better boxer, but not by as much as you think. He gets hit a ton and St. Pierre owns one of the best jabs in the business. Still, considering what Jake Shields managed to accomplish against St. Pierre in April (notwithstanding his awkward striking),, it lends credibility to the idea that Diaz's peppering combinations and relentless punch count could seriously trouble the UFC champ.

St. Pierre is unquestionably a better wrestler, though he must be judicious -- as he always is -- in the way he attempts to put Diaz on the canvas. Poor timing or an off-angle shot leaves him open to be submitted, and Diaz can catch anyone from anywhere. Diaz is also terrific from the bottom. How he manages his guard against one of the most efficient top-games in MMA could determine the final outcome.

I agree with the fans for these reasons:

1. St. Pierre is arguably the best athlete in MMA. He's as fast, if not faster, than any opponent Diaz has ever faced. There's no way to downplay St. Pierre's physical advantages.

2. Wrestling. Quick, name the best wrestler Diaz fought since leaving the UFC in 2006? ... Need a few more seconds? During his previous UFC stint, Diaz had trouble against physical types. He hasn't been tasked with beating a wrestler since, well, 2007 -- if you want to consider Takanori Gomi a good one. Otherwise, not since a difficult bout against Sean Sherk. Diaz is in for a reality check on that front against St. Pierre.

3. Battle tested. Yes, that's correct, St. Pierre is far more battle tested over the past three years than Diaz. Don't take that as any kind of statement about the 27-year-old's will to fight. Diaz, a native of Stockton, Calif., always shows up -- which is why fans love him so. The point is, St. Pierre is a veteran of megafights on the biggest stages against the toughest opposition, and he tends to walkway unscathed.

I'll take Georges St. Pierre to decision Nick Diaz.